Thursday, March 31, 2011

DV Picks Yankees to Win AL East

This is 40% rabble-rousing, 60% rational thought.  As Brandon Meriweather would say, I'm acting like little females.  Whatever.  Here are my predictions.

AL East:
1.  Yankees
2.  Red Sox
3.  Rays
4.  Orioles
5.  Blue Jays

I'll work from the bottom up.  The Blue Jays have been torched by a couple of bouts of bad luck, including some pitchers who didn't pan out (remember Gustavo Chacin) and bad contracts (Vernon Wells is on the top echelon of the worst of all time, and you can't really blame the Jays for that one too much, either).  If I wanted to be especially controversial, or if I want to remember the 2008 Rays, I'd pick Baltimore to finish third, but will Buck Showalter really inspire all the "young" guys on that team?  Sorry, are Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, my boy Luke Scott, and Jeremy Guthrie still that young?  Nope.  I think a hangover year is in the works for the Rays.

And in the Sox/Yanks argument, the Yankees' questions are Burnett and their 4/5 guys.  Okay.  They got production out of a bunch of ragtag guys like Aaron Small over the year and won the East.  Burnett SUCKED last year and they made the playoffs.  It's not like everything went well for the Yankees last year, okay?  Their lineup is superior because they don't have Scutaro, Saltalamacchia, Ortiz, 46, and Drew/Cameron in their lineup.  Arod's off-season is still pretty close to Youkilis's on season, and Cano is better than Pedroia.  The fact that the Red Sox' rotation is just as questionable as the Yankees (and more expensive!), and the fact that they have Rivera instead of Papelbon, those abstaining from Kool-Aid chugging would see that the Yankees are just as good, if not better, than the Red Sox.  Thanks for playing.

AL Central: 
1.  Twins
2.  Tigers
3.  White Sox
4.  Indians
5.  Royals

Comment:  Twins have the most stockpiled talent, Tigers ride the momentum of the Eminem commercial, and I can't wait for more Buehrle trade rumors.

AL West: 
1.  Oakland
2.  Texas
3.  Anaheim
4.  Seattle

Comment:  The hangover/Cliff Lee effect, losing Crawford, and the spectacular failure of Moneyball II, combined with the Coco Crisp factor leave the A's the last ones standing.  The Orioles might be the fourth-best team in the AL.

NL East:
1.  Phillies
2.  Braves
3.  Marlins
4.  Nationals
5.  Mets

Comment:  Phillies will win 105 games.  The Nats are the next Orioles. 

NL Central: 
1.  Brewers
2.  Reds
3.  Cardinals
4.  Cubs
5.  Pirates
6.  Astros

Comment:  Brewers are in Now Year mode and are doing it the right way.

NL West: 
1.  Giants
2.  Rockies
3.  Dodgers
4.  Dbacks
5.  Padres

Comment:  The best moment of the entire offseason was when Tony Massarotti revealed where the Giants ranked in stolen bases and stolen base efficiency last year:  30th and 30th.

AL MVP:  A. Gonzalez (contract year)
AL CYA:  Sabathia (contract year)
AL ROY:  D. Jennings
AL MOY:  Gardenhire

NL MVP:  P. Fielder (contract year)
NL CYA:  Halladay
NL ROY:  A. Chapman
NL MOY:  Ron Roenicke

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Twenty-Seven Percent

Zooming out a little bit from the team vs. team analysis tonight because I got a chance to listen to the radio a lot today. Apparently in Boston, the sky is falling because the Celtics are playing themselves out of the second seed. The reasons for it can be debated (and I'm sure I can take a break from commenting tomorrow because it probably will be), but one of the arguments is that this team is coasting and resting their bodies for the playoffs, where they can flip the proverbial switch. This can only happen in baseball rarely, and while I don't like to give Commissioner Selig much credit for anything except for the strike and the steroid problem, it is hard to kill him for the way the playoffs are set up. Of course, Selig and his fellow money-grubbing owners are thinking of messing this equilibrium up with the addition of extra wild-card play-in games. But the playoff format of the last sixteen (should be seventeen - nice work, Bud) seasons very well might be the best in sports.

Just under 27% of the teams starting a baseball season end up in the playoffs. I'd like to contrast this to the NBA and the NHL, where, respectively, 50% and 53% of the teams get in. Talk about rewarding mediocrity. I haven't seen anything like this since I read the class notes in Colby Magazine or the last time I ran a half-marathon. In hockey, you can be WORSE THAN AVERAGE and still go to the playoffs. Look at Montreal a few years ago - they made it far in the playoffs despite being worse than average. You can complain all you want about the St. Louis Cardinals a few years back, but at least they won more games than they lost. In basketball, there are all these teams who get in but have no shot at winning anything. Is that anything short of a waste of time? In these two leagues, too many undeserving teams make it in. I'll come out and say that this applies in football as well. Pete Carroll coached more than 16 this year. In baseball, bad teams rarely have a chance to play for a title. And while this stinks by the time August comes around for fans in Pittsburgh, fans of good teams are rewarded by exciting playoff races, because good teams can also be left out. That's dramatic (no sarcasm).

Because of the dilution of playoff eligibility in these sports, the postseason goes on forever. It's going to snow in a few days, there are only nine basketball games left, and the NBA Finals will last until the summer solstice. Twenty percent of a calendar year features the NBA playoffs. Is there anything special about this season? I can't keep my compete level that high to stay pumped up as a spectator. Baseball's playoffs, despite the fact that Bud Selig defers to reruns of The Steve Harvey Show and So You Think You Can Dance, still carry a novelty, as they only consume 8% of the calendar year. The point I want to get to (and I should put this up higher so that people short on time don't skim this article and miss it) is the fact that there are basketball teams that are coasting big-time, and have been coasting for a month. The playoff prerequisites are so soft that teams can dog it 1/3 of the year and still put themselves in a good position. That stinks.

Imagine if you went to a game last year when the Celtics or Bruins didn't show up to play and therefore laid an egg. Sorry Lavar Arrington, you're not getting your money back. This might happen in 1-2 games in the NFL, and it happens for a month tops for only the elite of the elite baseball teams. Right now, a quarter of basketball teams and more than a quarter of hockey teams are just coasting. While in baseball, you see the bad teams coasting at this point of the season and giving the young players a chance to play. After all, minor-league pitchers pitching in September are why Red Sox fans think 46 is a good baseball player. But there are, what, six teams in each sport who are playing at a high compete level right now? That sucks. In September baseball, a third of teams are at least thinking about the four-man rotation.

That's my point. Limiting playoff participation to 27% and making September count is one of the few bright spots of Bud Selig's career as commissioner.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

2011 Predictions

Please see DV's post below as well. I'm going to the game tomorrow, so in case there is any discussion about these picks I wanted to be able to do so today. Hopefully DV will give his picks for tomorrow as we complete our season preview.

AL EAST
1. Red Sox
2. Yankees
3. Rays
4. Orioles
5. Jays

This is the only division I'm going to elaborate on because it's the only one that we concern ourselves with on this site on a daily basis. I think the Yankees are just as talented as the Red Sox on paper, and I think they are going to get a lot better with the addition of a key piece during the season (hence my liking them to get to the World Series over the Red Sox despite not beating them out for the division). But I think the Sox will get some separation over 162 because they are going to be playing with that "new" feel. We've talked about the impact of "new" managers and players, and I think the Sox are going to have that going on this year. Especially after missing the playoffs last year, there is going to be a lot of motivation in that clubhouse. Much like the 2009 Yankees, both in terms of "new" and that same motivation. I think the Rays will be closer to the Red Sox/Yankees than they will be to the Orioles/Jays. I also think this is the year the Orioles get out of the basement. Despite picking them to finish last this year, I think the Jays are in store for a huge jump up the standings next year if things fall right and they have a good winter.

AL CENTRAL
1. Twins
2. White sox
3. Tigers
4. Indians
5. Royals

AL WEST
1. Rangers
2. A's
3. Angels
4. Mariners

NL EAST
1. Phillies
2. Braves
3. Marlins
4. Mets
5. Nationals

NL CENTRAL
1. Brewers
2. Reds
3. Cardinals
4. Cubs
5. Astros
6. Pirates

NL WEST
1. Giants
2. Rockies
3. Dodgers
4. Diamondbacks
5. Padres

AL Wild Card: Yankees
NL Wild Card: Braves

ALDS: Red sox over Rangers
Yankees over Twins

NLDS: Phillies over Giants
Brewers over Braves

ALCS: Yankees over Red Sox
NLCS: Phillies over Brewers

World Series: Phillies over Yankees

AL MVP: Adrian Gonzalez
AL Cy: David Price
AL ROY: Jeremy Hellickson
AL MOY: Bob Geren

NL MVP: Albert Pujols
NL Cy: Roy Halladay
NL ROY: Freddie Freeman
NL MOY: Ron Roenicke

Monday, March 28, 2011

Still Intense on the Mound

Is there any more fitting way to start a bullpen preview of the Red Sox and Yankees? The edge here hinges largely on whether Papelbon wants to back up being intense on the mound with being effective on the mound. If he ends up blowing somewhere between half a dozen and a dozen saves (likely), there's a problem. There's a little more to say about this stuff, but I'll get to it shortly.

An effective bullpen is important for both of these teams, as, with the exception of Sabathia, neither of these teams have guys who can consistently go longer than seven innings at a time. The bullpens will be counted on for a third of each game - more if we're talking about games started by The Bulldog, Matsuzaka, The Bad Beckett, The Bad Burnett, Garcia, and Millwood/Colon/Nova/Mitre/whoever. I can waste my time saying that this might be the year Mariano proves his human-ness, but I don't think it's appropriate to do that until halfway through the first season he shows he is not made of iron. So let's get to it. We'll work backwards.

The Yankees have Mariano, which means their ninth inning will be fine. Their eighth inning will also be fine with Rafael Soriano. Look at the numbers and the worries about him should fade away. It's not like he's been a closer who's logged a lot of innings and is due to burn out (like the Red Sox' closer and the former White Sox closer who is now a Red Sox reliever). He's been a closer for two years, and if he's needed to do it, he can succeed Mariano for at least a little while. The signing, while perhaps an inefficient use of the Yankees' money, is going to help the Yankees for the duration of the contract.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox have Papelbon, who was a disaster last year, a semi-disaster in 2009, questionable in 2008, good in 2007, and great in 2006. That trajectory would indicate that come Bastille Day, he's going to be talking about how he doesn't like to be yelled at by Johnny from Burger King and think about retirement more than setting the bar by which other closers are measured. Awesome. Pitch selection has sucked, location has sucked, power has sucked, and he pitches in such a fashion that he really thinks he's back in 2006. When he misses, it's not that he's Matsuzakaing around. He just has no idea where his pitches are going.

The Red Sox also have Bard, who threw a ton of innings last year. I personally think he should take over as the closer, but others have questioned whether he has the mental makeup to do so. If Papelbon does indeed go Foulke 2005 on us, it would be Bobby Jenks taking over. His trajectory the last couple of years has been just as suspect as Papelbon's, except none of Papelbon's superiors have ever said he's a fat man with a drinking problem. Well, at least Okajima's starting the season in Rhode Island. There are marathons being run in that state on April 17th and May 1st, so that clown will be right in his element.

I think Wheeler will be okay, and there will be a revolving door of hit-or-miss guys (I guess Matt Albers and Dennys Reyes are in as of now?). This isn't bothering me much because I don't need to learn how to spell Schoeneweis. On the Yankees' side, I can't really say I know much about Boone Logan and David Robertson except for the hype Pat has bestowed upon Robertson. Feliciano is an interesting guy to have there, because he's appeared in only five fewer games in since 2007 than 46 has - literally. He's been good in many of those games, and if he's going to be a liabililty (same with those two other guys), Pat's going to have to tell you about it.

The piece of the Yankees' bullpen that remains perplexing is the place where Joba Chamberlain's career is. He's apparently never going to be a starter if he's on a Brian Cashman team. I don't know if it's a medical thing, but it can't be strictly a baseball thing, especially seeing that two days ago, Bartolo Colon was scheduled as their fifth starter. He's now overweight and his entire career is in flux. People think that Joba, who is two years and twelve days YOUNGER than 27-year-old Red Sox outfielder 46, is already washed up and done. And maybe he is. He's not throwing the smoke he threw in 2006 anymore - nowhere close. His demise has been even less graceful than Papelbon's, and he's several years younger than that guy, too. This deserves a post in itself - and Pat would probably have to take care of that.

But the bottom line is that while bullpens are always going to be a little shaky by nature, the Yankees' are a bit less shaky than the Red Sox. Papelbon could be downright combustible this year.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

2011 Yankees/Red Sox Offensive Preview

Comparing and contrasting the Yankees' and Red Sox respective offenses has to be taken with a grain of salt, because they will likely be the 1-2 offenses in the game as they were last year. They likely won't separate themselves on the aggregate enough in terms of total runs scored to make a substantial difference in who wins more games. The more important thing to watch will be which offense can succeed when it matters, against the best pitching and the best teams.

Looking at it on the aggregate for purposes of this analysis, though, the teams' cores (Jeter/Swisher/Teixeira/Rodriguez/Cano vs. Pedroia/Crawford/Gonzalez/Youkilis/Ortiz) can be summed up very similarly to the way their rotations were, except in reverse: the Yankees have a higher ceiling and the Red Sox have a higher floor. Operating at or near maximum levels, the Red Sox offense is going to produce at All-Star levels, the Yankees offense at Hall of Fame levels. We have a massive sample size for all 10 players that tells us so. However, the Red Sox group is younger and has a lower chance of experiencing multiple underperformances. It could go either of these ways, but chances are they'll end up being more similar than they will different in terms of total 2011 production.

What gives the Yankees some separation is 6-9 in the order. Posada/Granderson/Martin-Montero/Gardner is likely to give you more than Drew/Scutaro-Lowrie/Salty/Ellsbury. On the aggregate you can wash Posada/Drew (most likely), you can wash Gardner/Ellsbury (most likely), but there is just no way around Granderson and Martin-Montero in comparison to Scutaro-Lowrie and Salty. You have to grind the Yankees' lineup all the way 1-9, the Red Sox give you 1.5-2 breaks.

And that's on the aggregate. As I mentioned earlier, if any real difference is going to be made offensively this year between these two teams, it will likely be on a more micro scale. When you look at it from this vantage point, the bottom of the Yankees order separates itself even more. Posada is a far more difficult at bat than Drew, no further analysis needed. Even if Ellsbury bounces back, Gardner lead the majors in pitches per plate appearance last year. He's one of the more annoying at bats in the game, even when you get him out. Even when Ellsbury is producing, we see a lot of give away/three pitch strikeouts (especially against lefties)/soft pop-up at bats. Then you have the aformentioned difference at the other two spots, and the Yankees are better equipped to get after elite pitching, especially in terms of getting pitch counts elevated, getting starters out of games, and getting into bullpens. You won't necessarily see this show up in total offense, but this type of thing can make a difference in the win-loss column.

I don't anticipate either team having a huge offensive advantage this year, and both teams have such an advantage over most of the rest of baseball that it really isn't overly significant. But I do think that the advantage that does exist goes to the Yankees. They are more powerful operating at their highest levels, deeper, give you few if any breaks 1-9, and have a wild card in Montero to cover for their weakest bat on paper in Martin. The Red Sox have a few more inconsistencies and question marks.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Terrible 4 and 5

I know that a lot of the readers of HYD Baseball are cranking the RSS feed instead of visiting the website, and therefore they rarely get a good taste of the comments section. Therefore, to lead this one off, I'm going to re-post my thesis on the Yankees' "terrible" 4 and 5 starters that was in a comments section earlier this week:

I agree with Pat's assessment of "The Yankees do not suck this year." Here's why.

Scenario 1: Colon or Garcia absolutely suck when the actual season starts (50% likely). They get shelled during games that count and the Yankees deem it necessary to pull the plug on them. As they are making pennies, the Yankees CAN pull the plug on them and replace them with Ivan Nova - unproven but not terrible.

Scenario 2: Colon AND Garcia BOTH suck horribly (25% likely). They turn New Yankee Stadium into a launch pad and both get jettisoned by Memorial Day. As they are making pennies, the Yankees CAN pull the plug on them and replace them with Nova and Mitre.

Consider the alternative:

Scenario 1A: Matsuzaka OR Beckett blow (50% chance) and pouts about it. They're both making a sizeable chunk of change, so unless they get hurt or "hurt," the Red Sox will just lose a bunch of games due to their lack of competence. If they get "hurt," they can get replaced by Alfredo Aceves and his reconstructed arm.

Scenario 2A: Matsuzaka AND Beckett BOTH repeat their downright-embarrassing 2010 performances (25% chance). Neither of these guys are making little enough to be in DFA danger, so the Red Sox will suck it up, say it's not a sprint but a marathon, and go .500 until Flag Day. When they come up with phantom injuries, they're replaced by Aceves and Tim Wakefield.

Where would you rather be?

Look, as far as these teams' rotations go overall, we're talking about a virtual wash with spots 1-3. I'd actually give the Red Sox a bit of an edge, but this is mostly because I think AJ Burnett is worthless (this isn't what I want to argue). Whatever, that's not where the room for debate is.

The debate is spots 4 and 5 in the rotation. The Yankees have Colon and Garcia, and the main disadvantage they have is that the calendar doesn't say "2003" on it. These guys are old and are probably worse than average. Red Sox fans have had a shot to see how bad Colon can be after a month of being half-decent. He's been 14-21 in the last six years and 0-0 in 0 games since 2009. Having Colon in your rotation is not exactly an ideal situation. This is not even debatable.

Same with Freddie Garcia. He had a good won-loss record last year, but his ERA was below league average. He's averaged 71 innings a year in the last four years (compared to Colon's 51 over the last five).

You can contrast this to Beckett and Matsuzaka. These guys have name recognition and have the slight advantages of not being 36 years old and 5 years past their primes. However, they have the disadvantage of baseball being measured in outs instead of having awesome stuff. (Burnett also has this disadvantage). We know about the walks with Matsuzaka. We know about the statistical anomaly in 2008. We know that he has the occasional flash of brilliance against bad teams. But if you look deeper into the numbers, he actually walks FEWER guys per nine innings against good teams. I was surprised, too. You could pretty much say the same thing about Beckett, except when he implodes, it's spectacular. That Friday night against the Yankees last year was like listening to Charlie Sheen on the Alex Jones show. And I've already shown that he's an average six-inning starter over the course of his career, so there's no reason to re-hash any numbers. Josh Beckett is okay, but not that good. This is not an opinion. This is a fact.

At face value, given the hypothetical condition of all four of these starters pitching a complete baseball season (not going to happen), the Red Sox have a significant competitive edge.

However, where the Yankees pull right back even with them is in the depth. If the s*** hits the fan, the Red Sox have Aceves, who just had his arm put back together, and Wakefield, who is five years away from page 20 of BizTech Magazine (just look at the picture). I feel like either of these guys could pitch for 50% of the teams in baseball. The Yankees have guys who can start for 75% of the teams in baseball in Nova and Mitre. Beyond Wakefield and Aceves, the Red Sox have Michael Bowden...or maybe Jonathan Van Every. The Yankees have Brackman.

Both teams have shaky-at-best backs of their rotations. I'm not saying that the Yankees' back of the rotation is great. But the Red Sox' 4-5 (and you could even say their 3) is only "the best in baseball" in the heads of Peter Gammons, Pete Abraham, and others who straddle the line between objective analysis and fanboyism. In reality, it's like a tower toward the end of a game of Jenga. Take away a shaky block and things might come crashing down.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Thank You Seniors

First, a great spot by DV with his post last week digging up all those St. John's quotes from this year. Really enjoyed that. Also a great job in that comments section. I tried to comment from my phone, which usually always works, but for some reason didn't last Friday. So I'll say what I was going to say now, addressing many of the points made in that post/comments section, and wrapping up St. John's season. At the very least, DV has to be thrilled he doesn't have to hear about it anymore. I picture him just shaking his head as Gunn and I went back and forth in the comments section yesterday.

The Gunn was right when he said last Friday that a lot of seeding has to do with fine, minute points, and that teams have to take control of having a good enough season to clearly avoid being on the wrong side of those close calls. SJU still has a legitimate gripe, but perhaps more important is how Gonzaga ends up at an 11. They had no business being seeded that low, there weren't many 7-10 seeds that I wouldn't rather have played than Gonzaga.

This really highlighted an important point about the NCAA tournament for me, and it ties in with what TimC said in his comment that day. The 13-16 seeds are typically winners of bad conferences, and typically get worked by 1-4 seeds. It takes a true "upset" to prevent this from happening, and it only does a few times per year. The 7-10 games are all good teams with similar resumes, and we anticipate that these are going to be good games. The 5/6 seeds typically have much stronger resumes than the 11/12 seeds, but the 11/12, as opposed to the 13-16, are typically the last "major" teams into the tournament. So as a 5/6, you are playing a team that you are better than on paper, but are really getting more of a 7-10 game than a 1-4 vs. 13-16 game. It looks like an "upset" on the bracket but isn't really an upset at all. These are the types of teams that are good enough to win on any given day, not just a 1 or 2 out of 10 like the 1-4 vs. 13-16 games. St. John's didn't get upset, they just got beat. This really emphasizes the importance of getting a 1-4 seed, and how much easier your road is when you do. It takes an upset to beat you in the first round as opposed to just getting beat to knock you out, and it is then just one game to get through to the Sweet 16.

On the game itself, SJU just got outplayed. Missing D.J. Kennedy hurt in a big way, as they looked like a team trying trying to find every and any rotation combination in order to fill the void he left. They looked like a team in November, not in March. Gonzaga played so well I'm not sure if Kennedy would have put SJU over the top, but he would have given them a chance.

Make no mistake about it, Gonzaga played really well. It's tough to beat any team who makes 9 3's at a 60% clip. They crushed St. John's on the boards and got to the line more frequently. SJU, despite not playing their best, didn't play terribly either. They shot the ball well themsevles, just not as well as Gonzaga. The difference in the game, even despite the huge Gonzaga rebounding edge, was that Gonzaga went on that one 12-0 run in the middle of the first half. They played virtually even before that, and they played virtually even after that. SJU made a few pushes but could never get it beynod that 8-12 point range. One made shot here or one bounce there and they get it to 5-6, and then you have a game. But Gonzaga was seemingly always able to answer and SJU made just enough mistakes to not get back into the game.

Even though SJU didn't do as much as I thought they would in the tournament (even without Kennedy), it's impossible to be dissapointed in this team. As DV said in the original post, they outperformed expectations by so much. As a result, it got to a point where anything they gave us was really just gravy. They were a fringe NCAA team at the beginning of the season that was a general question mark, and they proved themselves to be a legitimate Big East and National contender.

What's most impressive about their season, and what I appreciate the most, is the approach these 10 seniors took. St. John's has the #2 recruiting class in the country coming in next year. It would have been easy for that to be looked at as the start of this program's revival. Instead, these seniors took the responsibility upon themselves to be part of the revival as opposed to an afterthought. Considering all of the losing they had done their first three years, this shows a tremendous amount of character.

It is for this that they will be remembered, as the ones who started this proud program's revival. With all of their big wins over top teams, getting back into the national ranking, and packing The Garden again, they made St. John's relevant for the first time in a long time. I, as well as I'm sure all St. John's fans, am so thankful to this team - the coaches, players, and administrators - for doing so. They left their mark on this program, and it is as big a mark on this program as has been left in a while. It was bigger than just the wins and losses, it was about bringing a program back to prominence. So despite the dissapointing end, they should be more than proud of their accomplishments. I know I am.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring Training 2011

By this point, you all know my stance on the Yankees’ roster entering the 2011 season. And it’s not “BuT thEy doN’t HaVe tEh FouRth aNd FifTh sTaRterzz!!!!1!!!” They return the best offense in baseball from 2010, have arguably the best bullpen in baseball on paper entering 2011, and a Top 5 ace in the game, but don’t have proven 4th and 5th starters. The former three qualities far outweigh the last, and the performance of their 2nd and 3rd starters will be a big deciding factor in how their season goes. Basically they are stacked everywhere but the rotation, which they need to figure out. The former has been largely overlooked this winter, and the latter has been a seemingly daily focus since they missed out on Cliff Lee.

Regardless, being in Tampa for Spring Training it was difficult for both of these things not to jump out at you.

The Yankees are absolutely stacked. You know this intellectually by being a fan of the team and knowing who comprises their roster. When you are actually there and see them up close in a smaller setting, it sticks out how many star players they have. Every position player with the exception of Gardner has made an All-Star Team in the last few seasons. Then you see this kind of talent put their work in and the way they go about their business, it’s imposing how good they are. Again you know intellectually how hard they work, but when you actually see it live it gives a greater perspective on it. I said to my father on the phone afterward that we are fortunate to root for a team that despite having a lot of talented guys with a lot of money, they are true professionals in terms of dedicating themselves to maximum performance. We’re used to seeing them launch home runs during the season, but it’s a little different when you see them running wind sprints in the spring. At least it was for me anyway.

The Yankees also have important decisions to make with the back of their rotation. I have downplayed this issue for most of the winter – partly because I know (and I gave the numbers from 2009) that if the Yankees are relying on their 4th and 5th starters that means they’re in trouble, and partly because I was tired of hearing about it – but I also acknowledge that every little bit helps. You want to put the best guys in those rotation slots as possible while also being strategic about it. What I mean by being strategic is that it seems like a pretty good idea to let Garcia and Colon break camp in those spots since you’ll likely lose them if they don’t, and see if you can get anything out of them. You aren’t losing Nova, so you can stash him in AAA, let him get into the groove of the season, and then call him up when there is a need or Garcia/Colon are ineffective. To a lesser extent – because I think he will be the long/swing man – you can do the same thing with Mitre as you do with Nova.

Based on what I witnessed live last Wednesday night, however, Nova has to be making the employment of that strategy a more difficult decision. I am cautious about Spring Training stats, as well all should be, but 6 innings of no hits and no walks against an Orioles lineup that brought a lot of regulars is going to get your attention no matter when it happens. What’s more, subscribing to the traditional notion of throwing the spring stats out, Nova looked every bit the part. His fastball had easy pop and noticeable life. His slider and change-up had hitters off-balance all night, with ground ball after weak contact after strikeout up and down the order.

You can’t read too much into it, because after all it’s only one start. And it is still spring. I’ve always been intrigued by Nova, however. Something I look for when Yankees prospects are coming up is “are the stars saying anything about them?” A lot of people who evaluate talent, and there are a lot of people whose opinions I respect greatly and follow closely. But if you do enough to catch Alex Rodriguez’s or Mariano Rivera’s attention, that’s going to catch my attention too. Rodriguez commented publicly last year how impressed he was by Nova, and that factors in for me. I also like the fact that, in addition to working on his game, he took it upon himself to learn English this offseason so that he could better communicate with his coaches, catchers, and teammates, as well as the media (which is an important part of being a professional). I was always more in favor of giving Nova one of the spots unless someone pitched well enough to take it from him, but I saw the strategic appeal of going Garcia/Colon and keeping Nova at the ready in AAA. After seeing what I saw last week, in conjunction with the rest of this stuff, I’m not so sure anymore. Kid is impressive.

Friday, March 18, 2011

In Memoriam

Honestly, I don't even dislike St. John's. I don't dislike the fact that they're on their way back to prominence despite their drubbing at the hands of Gonzaga last night. I am still in the business of truth torpedoes, so as a memorial to the Johnnies' now ill-fated season, I'll re-hash some of Pat's greatest SJU moments of the season.

March 14:

"I'm not exactly going out on a limb in saying SJU got worked a little bit here at a 6 seed. WVU, Arizona, Vanderbilt, and KSU were the 5 seeds. You could make a case that none of them deserved to be seeded higher than SJU, let alone all four."

"Pretty good matchups [in Gonzaga and BYU]? Also yes, and that is what's most important."

February 28:

"The definition of mediocre [sarcastic], of course, is: a team that is 19-9, tied for 3rd place in the toughest conference in the country, is one of only two teams to beat 6 top 25 teams...has gone 8-1 in their last 9 games...and is 14th in RPI and 4th in SOS."

February 21:

"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."

January 31:

"I thought I'd come down from the win a little bit when I woke up today, but I flipped on the SportsCenter highlights for the 8th time before heading out the door to school and on my way saw that they got the back page of the Daily News. Then I was back into a frenzy, felt like I did walking out of the Garden yesterday again."

January 17:

"Another big win for the Johnnies on Sunday, knocking off then #11 nationally Notre Dame. This was a Notre Dame deam that was 14-3 and had handled SJU just the prior Saturday in South Bend...Notre Dame looked like they were on another level just eight days earlier, and the roles were reversed yesterday."

January 5:

"I have been to St. John's games and have not yet been to a Knicks game, but I don't need to...to know just how much the Garden is rocking again."

All sarcasm, gloating, and being a dbag aside, revisiting these posts, and looking at his preseason expectations of his team (started with "maybe they'll get a tournament berth if they're lucky," going to "they're a bubble team," and culminating with "they should have been a 5"), SJU had a pretty good season.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Continuation

This is a series of answers to a question that Wednesday's comments section brought up. In reality, the answer is probably a combination of all these things plus probably a slew of other things. But the question is simple:

Why has Daisuke Matsuzaka been so successful in Japan, but turned out to be inconsistent at best, bad at worst in the United States?

1. Hitters. The guys he made look foolish in Japan are guys who, for the most part, are not good enough to play in America. Some of those old "gyroball" videos, that seem as deceiving as UFO videos now, feature Karim Garcia. Who is Karim Garcia? Matsuzaka comes to America and starts facing good competition. He gets lit up. Then he starts fearing the strike zone. Result: What you've seen.

2. Workload. We talked about the "pitcher abuse points" for a long time, both on this blog and elsewhere. The guy pitched an 18-inning perfect game as a high school player. He cranked innings, both in practice and in games, before he came to America at age 26. Though he was 26, he had so few bullets left that he had the arm of a 34-year-old.

3. Training. The stuff we talked about yesterday. His training regimen has been inconsistent. It's been a poorly-constructed hybrid made from Japanese and American elements. He's never seen eye to eye with his coaches. He's either worked himself too hard (the team's view) or not worked himself hard enough (his view, which can affect your psyche, big time).

4. Complacency. I don't think Matsuzaka would have asked out of the Seibu Lions so early that an MLB team had to throw down a posting fee if he hadn't been thinking about fat American dollars a long time ago. That fantastic work in Japan? The work in the WBC? All part of a marketing campaign to attract American teams. Once he cashed in, what was there to work for? We saw some of the pictures - the guy has been chubby in various seasons. But why work hard? He's an international celebrity - and he's paid. At least he's not dancing in Rio with a ponytail*.

What do you guys think?

*In a continuous effort to achieve fairness, I just want to talk about how terrible the Brady ponytail/dancing footage was. I hammered Arod for being fed like a baby sparrow during the Super Bowl, and therefore I must hammer Brady for this. Do you think this guy is hoping for a lockout because he will have more time twinkle-toeing around at Carnival? That's friggin gross. Get a haircut. Start winning playoff games again.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Statute of Limitations

Let's talk about things that happened in 2006. Right about now in 2006, the songs we heard incessantly on the radio included the following:

Lean Wit It, Roc Wit It, Shoulder Lean, Poppin My Collar, Ridin, Chasing Cars, Bad Day, You're Beautiful, Dark Blue, Do It To It.

Cool. At what point are we going to just stand up and admit that 2006 was kind of a long time ago, and what we were doing five years ago doesn't really apply anymore? Well, it depends on who you ask.

In Red Sox world, we're still talking about Daisuke Matsuzaka's Japanese training regimen. Here's a news flash: Daisuke's last offseason in Japan was five years ago. Is it really logical, rational, or even relevant what the guy did back when he was 26 as he's now closer to 31 than 30? We get that he and undisputable omniscient genius John Farrell never really saw eye-to-eye on the player's training in between starts, and it seems like he's gotten off on the same foot with Curt Young. We know that he pitched a lot better when he was getting his Rocky IV on all winter. We also know that he was facing inferior hitters that you can throw strikes to and get outs.

I have said for a little while that the Red Sox should let the player do what he wanted to, if for nothing else, to satisfy superstition and routine. This year might have been the year to do it, to be honest. New coach, new year, new everything, two years left on the player's deal. The player can do it his way. If he sucks again (which he didn't today), do it our way. But unfortunately, this ship has sailed, as spring training started over a month ago.

Honestly, the way I feel about the player right now is that what happened five years ago no longer matters. I do think that the stuff that happened at age 26 and before has adversely affected him - in other words, that this guy might not have any bullets left. But insisting on a training regimen that is now as antiquated as "Hips Don't Lie" is foolish. It's really time for Matsuzaka to let go of the glory years and put his trust in Curt Young and the Red Sox. Without the overwhelming nostalgic aspect of it, it seems like their opinions might be more valid than his own.

It's time to drop what happened five years ago and try to figure out how to become a consistent pitcher this year and beyond. It might start with getting yourself a fresh arm.

Monday, March 14, 2011

IRON: Idiot Ruining Overall Numbers

I appreciate the work ethic of Adrian Gonzalez, and I appreciate the fact that this year Gonzalez doesn't want to take any JD days. The argument can probably be made that he had to JD out all offseason while rehabbing, so he doesn't want to JD out any further. But Gonzalez doesn't need to be a hero, here. Therefore, for the good of the team, don't be stubborn. Take some days off over the course of the season.

The longest stretch with very little JD time for the Red Sox is actually earlier in the season, as they are going to only have one day off in between April 26th and June 2nd. Due to rainouts and the fact that they play so many games against other AL East teams, there might be some similar stretches over the course of the season where these guys will be spending a lot of time on their feet and will still need to play at a high level. Granted, first base is not shortstop. It is not center field. It is not catcher. But you get beat up after a while.

I had a friend in college who had a borderline-irrational hatred for Cal Ripken, to the point that he argued that Ripken shouldn't have been a Hall of Famer. However, if you look at some of those overall numbers toward the second half of the streak, and it appeared that Ripken probably should have taken a couple of days off and let Manny Alexander play some time at shortstop. The perennial All-Star was under league average in OPS for three separate seasons during the streak. Some of his traditional numbers looked like .25x/1x/8x, which, while good for most shortstops, fall way short of the .28xs or .30xs with 20-something home runs that fans got used to over there in Baltimore.

The Red Sox - and the player - both deserve better than to accept 75% production from the guy because he's banged up but stubborn. With a bench as good as the Red Sox' (though I don't drink the Jed Lowrie Kool-Aid nearly as fervently as others), it's pigheaded and foolish to play any player on this roster any more than 150 games.

Just please, don't give everyone the same day off.

Spring Training Round 2

I had wanted to get to Yankees Spring Training for quite some time, and last year I finally got down there and had a great time. With this week marking what will likely be my last official school Spring Break, I am taking advantage and heading down to Tampa Bay for the second year in a row.

Last year, with the entire experience being new, I felt like it was kind of a blur because I wanted to make sure I saw everything. This year I'm looking forward to going and not feeling like I need to see anything, kicking back and locking in on baseball. I should see either Sabathia or Hughes/Nova start, and I'm hoping Montero will be in the lineup and that at least one of Banuelos/Brackman/Betances will pitch out of relief.

It's a night game this time around which also gives it a little extra juice for me. I'm a modernist in that I strongly prefer night baseball to day baseball. Considering this will be the first night game I've ever attended where there will be absolutely nothing on the line, I'm looking forward to soaking in some March baseball. Good to have this game back again with Opening Day barely more than two weeks away.

All of this said, clearly this game will not be my primary sports focus this week. That will be occurring Thursday at 9:45 PM when The Johnnies square off with Gonzaga in the 1st (Now 2nd? Whatever.) Round of the NCAA's. It's good to be back no matter what seed, but I'm not exactly going out on a limb in saying SJU got worked a little bit here at a 6 seed. WVU, Arizona, Vanderbilt, and KSU were the 5 seeds. You could make a case that none of them deserved to be seeded higher than SJU, let alone all four.

I understand that seeding is a very imperfect science, especially when you are dealing with seeds that are only one spot apart. I also understand that seeding mistakes are never as important as in/out mistakes, and this year was awful in that regard (UAB and VCU, seriously?). Finally, I understand that me saying this seems like sour grapes. But the difference of one seed can impact moving on versus not. So let's just look at WVU, the "top" 5 seed according to the S-curve methodology the committee employs. WVU's SOS was #3 compared to SJU's #10, certainly better but both are elite. WVU's RIP was #21 to SJU's #26, both similarly very good. SJU had one more win on the season, finished ahead of them in conference play, and had more quality wins. Even if we call that even, SJU beat them IN MORGANTOWN. I understand the slightly tougher SOS, but come on now. If two teams from the same conference have similar resumes, and one team beat the other on the road, shouldn't that team get the nod? Especially when that team also beat two different #1 seeds, the only team in America to do so?

Just wanted to get that out there. Really not the most important thing however. Bad seed? Yes. Tough location in Denver in a bracket with to West Coast teams in Gonzaga and BYU? Yes. Pretty good matchups? Also yes, and that is what's most important. The committee had them one seed to low, but did them a solid in terms of their road. These certainly aren't easy games, it's just a matter of it being relative. Gonzaga is a great team with a great coach who knows what they are doing in this tournament, but the other 11 seeds are Marquette (who beat 5 seed West Virginia last week), Missouri, and USC/VCU winner. BYU has one of, if not the best player in the country and has done a lot of winning this year, but the other 3 seeds are Syracuse, UConn, and Purdue.

St. John's is going to have their hands full with Gonzaga and they'll have their hands full with BYU if they get past Gonzaga, but they would have had their hands full with any of these teams. I think these are pretty good matchups for SJU, relatively speaking. Losing D.J. Kennedy really hurts, and your heart goes out to a guy like that who plays his tail off for four years, finally gets to the NCAA Tournament as a senior and then can't play. Hopefully the team can rally around him and make a tournament run.

Go St. John's. Everyone have a great week.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

DV: Right Again!

While my estimated 65% success rate falls way short of Charlie Sheen's 100% success rate, I feel like it's often my job to point out how right I was in those instances. For example, this week a feel-good article was brought to my attention about how the Cardinals' Trever Miller deals with grief through distance running.

Of course, this brings to mind one of the most explosive posts of HYD Baseball history, when I condemned Hideki Okajima's professionalism because after 2008 he decided to run the Honolulu Marathon instead of, well, let's call it suck prevention in his day job. I strongly suggest taking a look at the comments section - it's really the golden age.

Anyway, I'm not saying there's any kind of causation with this correlation. I'm also going to submit to the fact that he "ran" the race in over six hours, taking a nap and eating a sandwich in the middle of it. Whatever. You cannot dispute these facts:

Okajima Before Honolulu: 131 IP, 2.40 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 8.45 K/9, 0.82 HR/9
Okajima After Honolulu: 107 IP, 3.87 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 7.23 K/9, 1.17 HR/9
Difference: 1.47 ER/9IP, 0.40 WHIP, (1.22 K/9), 0.35 HR/9

Training to get yourself ready for pitching well instead of going for a jog hurts. The truth hurts more.

Enjoy yo weekend.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

League Leader in Nerve

David Ortiz has to do one of two things so that he no longer talks when he has a microphone in front of his mouth: Either continue to investigate what caused that positive test in 2003 (obviously a very-involved and emphatic investigation) or check the calendar to remind himself that baseball season starts in 23 days and therefore he should start hitting in 23 (not 83) days.

Popping his mouth off about his $12.5 million contract in an oblique way last Friday was disgusting. The player started throwing the Yankees at Joe McDonald. He has 162 (not 102) games in front of him with the Boston Red Sox and he's already considering where he might be going when he hits free agency next year. What gall. That's disgraceful. This is an ownership group that overruled the baseball operations people to keep your fat, unproductive rear end around for another year at 400% of the market value.

Check the scorecard, Santa Claus, you artificial steroid-using creator of a fraudulent team history.

Vlad Guerrero: One year/$8 million after having a much better season than you last year.
Jack Cust: One year/$2.5 million.
Jim Thome: One year/$3 million.
Hideki Matsui: One year/$4.25 million.
Manny Ramirez: One year/$2 million.
Johnny Damon: One year/$5.25 million.
You: One year/$12.5 million.

And you're crying about it because you didn't get a long-term deal? Maybe in December when none of this other stuff went down yet, you had a case for a long-term deal. But considering you're making more than Cust, Thome, Matsui, and Manny Ramirez combined this year, you should count your lucky stars.

But you're talking about how you only have one year with the Red Sox and next year it might be fun to play for the Yankees. Seriously, go away, dude. I'd rather have Mike Cameron play DH for this team.

Can Baltimore Contend?

No. But just as I answered in DV's post about Tampa Bay two days ago, it's a complimentary no. They probably aren't ready to win the division or get in the mix for a Wild Card with the Yankees and Red Sox atop the division, but like Tampa they are good enough to make it tough on both of these teams and perhaps spoil it for both of them (The combination of these two teams together could really make things interesting in terms of determining the AL East and Wild Card this year. It's going to be a very tough division once again.).

They didn't score runs at all last year, but they added Vladimir Guerrero, Derek Lee, and Mark Reynolds, which is enough to give most teams a lift. If Brian Roberts can stay healthy, it's almost like they have a brand new lineup in 2011. And they already have good to very good pieces in Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, and Luke Scott. That's not going to be a fun lineup to pitch to, and they are going to score a lot more runs than they did last year. A lot.

They got similarly poor starting pitching last year. But Matusz (in particular), Tillman, and Arrieta are youngsters with upside, they have Guthrie, and added Duchscherer. They probably won't turn this around as dramatically as they will with the offense, but this should be a better rotation.

Their bullpen was actually their highest ranked unit amongst the three last year, which isn't necessarily a good thing since they had the 24th best bullpen ERA and 30 best save percentage. Boston wasn't much better coming in at 24th and 23rd in those categories respectively. The Orioles added Kevin Gregg and the Red Sox added Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler, so I would say there is no reason for the Orioles to be any less optimistic about their bullpen than the Red Sox, but they don't have Daniel Bard and the Red Sox do. Gregg should team up with Uehara to improve the bullpen from last year, and I guess it would be tougher for them to be a lot worse. Despite being improved, on paper this does not look like a great unit. Certainly the least improved of the three.

But continuing the complimentary "no" answer to the question posed in this post, the bottom line is they have improved in all three facets of the game. Not many teams can say that. I understand it's easier to do this when you were as bad as the Orioles were last year, because there is a lot of room for improvement. But the bottom line is they used up a lot of that room. Any time you improve all three areas of the game you are going to be better. I'm a buyer on their offense bigtime if they can stay healthy, and if they can get Matusz, Guthrie, and either Duchscherer or one of the kids to offer some consistent pitching, they won't be a pushover.

Obviously there is a long way between not being a pushover and contending, and I primarily titled the post as I did to stay consistent with DV's from the other day. But I also titled it that way to point out that I think Baltimore, while they may not contend, is going to be good enough to mix it up. That's a stark departure from their recent history, as they haven't won 70 or more games since 2006, when they won exactly 70 games. I think this team is going to be very, very different from those teams.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Do the Red Sox Owe Wakefield?

I've said a lot of things about Tim Wakefield and his role on the Boston Red Sox over the years. In November 2008, I pointed out that his 2008 ERA+ was better than AJ Burnett's career mark. Before 2010, I said it was a bummer, but it was time to move on. By the time JD Drew caught that foul ball in Tampa and ended the Red Sox' 2010 season, I said Wakefield no longer had the right to complain about playing time.

Now he's Old Yeller/Mike Timlin in the last season.

With Alfredo Aceves allegedly looking like a million bucks and being a much more practical choice as the 6th starter/long reliever, the Red Sox don't have much use for Tim Wakefield other than nostalgia. He can no longer stay healthy. Most importantly, he can no longer consistently get outs.

I know that there isn't much Wakefield love among our commenters. But I was all for giving Wakefield a chance after one of his worst seasons in 2006. The Red Sox owed him in 2007, and they gave him that chance. The Red Sox owed him in 2009 after being left off of a playoff roster or two after the years, and he delivered for half of a season, earning his All-Star bid. But will the Red Sox always owe him, always giving him that roster spot because he's very rarely been a squeaky wheel?

It's time to draw the line. Unfortunately for the player, especially seeing that Adrian Gonzalez is only signed through the 2011 season, the line should be drawn here.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Can Tampa Contend?

This is perhaps the most intriguing question of the 2011 AL East race. I think many experts are going to project the Red Sox and Yankees as playoff participants, probably with the Red Sox winning the East and the Yankees winning the Wild Card. I'm not yet sure where I'm going to call it. The jury, however, is still out on a Tampa team that resembles Ireland right around 1850 - everyone emigrated away.

Let's just list it right out here: They lost their starting 1B/DH in Pena, their starting LF in Crawford, a middle-of-the-rotation starter in Garza, their closer in Soriano, their setup guy in Joaquim Benoit, two good relievers in Wheeler and Balfour, and two additional relievers with debatable value in Randy Choate and Chad Qualls.

They added Syracuse Chiefs closer Joel Peralta, and their bullpen will be led by the veteran presence of Kyle Farnsworth, who was on the Yankees during this blog's infancy and has been largely combustible despite having highly-acclaimed "stuff." The Boston Globe said that putting together a bullpen that resembles the Washington Sentinels (with Farnsy playing the role of Shane Falco), pitching coach Jim Hickey is faced with the challenge of making - Cafardo's words, not mine, "chicken salad out of chicken manure." JP Howell and Juan Cruz are two other names thrown out there, and the point was made that Tampa's bullpen was just as questionable last year as it was this year. You could actually say the same in 2008, when the bullpen looked bad on paper but killed it during the season.

I think the Rays' starting rotation might be the most predictable of the three big players in the AL East. You know what you're getting with these guys a lot more than you know what you're getting with Ivan Nova, Daisuke Matsuzaka, or John Lackey. You can give Price the wash with CC and Lester, and you can give Big Game James the wash with Burnett and Beckett. Beyond that, I trust the Rays more and I probably take the Rays.

They'll miss Crawford and a healthy Pena. But even with those guys (you know, giving Crawford the ability to be on two theoretical teams), I still like the Yankees' and Red Sox' lineups as currently constituted a lot more than the Rays'. Are the Moneyball 1.5* acquisitions of Damon and Manny going to make an impact? Moneyball 1.5 acquisitions are rolling the dice in the first place.

Don't get me wrong, I think the Yankees and Red Sox both are going to need to get a couple of breaks for things to ultimately go well for them this season. But you gotta think that both teams have stable lineups and bullpens that will at least not be catastrophic. But the Rays are going to need to work their magic on two different fronts this year in order to contend. I think for it to happen, given reasonable expectations, they'll need a little luck and one (or both) of the giants from the northeast are going to have to catch some bad breaks.

*Moneyball 1.0: OBP; Moneyball 1.5: Aging veterans who might have something less in the tank; Moneyball 2.0: Defense.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Two Smokin Hotties

The Stan Grossfeld interview of John Henry last November was edited, according to the italicized preface at the beginning of the article. If saying stuff as pompous, disconnected, and downright outrageous as the stuff we've already discussed was the stuff that made the cut, don't you wonder what DIDN'T make the cut? Well...
"Well, you know, you don't look like you're havin' a lot of fun. I'm gonna hang out with these two SMOOOOKIN hotties and fly privately around the world. You know, it might be lonely up here, but I sure like the view, Alex."
John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino are gnarly gnarlingtons and Vatican assassins. No word as to whether they regularly hang out with Lenny Dykstra and Brian Wilson.
I'm sorry - Allen Iverson, Bob Knight, Bill Parcells, and all of the other meltdowns put together could not match last week's Charlie Sheen rants from last Thursday to Monday. The only thing that's remotely close is the 20-minute Rick James interview where all that stuff from the Chappelle's Show special came from. A few more things about this:
1. For the first time, 20/20 was more intriguing than sports on television thanks to this guy.
2. I can process the "winning" concept. I really don't think he's losing his mind. He's just keeping it real more than anyone else. Isn't this the way Alex Rodriguez probably feels when Cameron Diaz is feeding him popcorn? How about when John Henry wakes up next to a thirty-year-old 8 on his private jet? This is how they all think, but Charlie Sheen just has the balls to say it. He's Dustin Pedroia minus the tongue in cheek element.
Happy Boomer Day.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Staying True to My Word

"Though I am not a purveyor of truth, instead being a facilitator of discussion, I will try my best this baseball season to crush when crushing is due, and give credit where that is due. That's right - if JD goes 4-5 on a Friday night with three home runs, I'm saying he's great. Journalists won't do it. So I will instead."

-The GM, written January 20, 2011, published January 28, 2011

Wednesday, Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira announced that he was parting ways with his long-time agent (and previously "advisor") Scott Boras. Previously, I have hammered almost any player for hiring Boras, saying things like if they do that kind of thing, they are hiring a guy who will do anything to get his commission check, including things at the expense of the game and at the expense of his own clientele. I'm not okay with biting the hand that feeds you, and therefore I think trying to undermine the MLB draft (which Boras tried to do twice with Jason Varitek and JD Drew in the 90s) and trying to upstage the World Series (2007 Arod opt-out) is simply detestable. If you hire someone like this, it says something serious about your personality. That's why the Red Sox' outfielder who played 18 games last year due to sore ribs doesn't get mentioned by name around here.

Previously, Teixeira had been a perfect Scott Boras customer (I will not say "client," as "customer" emphasizes that the agent works for the player who hires him): Very good production, consistent compliance with PR guidelines, including contrived statements, a squeaky-clean image, and a willingness to let the businesspeople accomplish their one task of maximizing salary. Everyone, even those painting the player in a positive light, said this much. Well, it took Teixeira three years after the Arod situation to figure it out:

Having "Scott Boras customer" linked to your name is bad for your image. The power of the agent and the negativity that the agent's business dealings has brought throughout his customer base (Teixeira's own negotiations, including wasting hundreds of gallons of John Henry's jet fuel just to dick him around, didn't help) the image of "aloof mercenary who measures success with one ruler - the bottom line."

Teixeira said he wanted to be "Mark Teixeira, baseball player," not "'Scott Boras [customer].'" He was unimpressed with the way Boras Corp. was handling his charitable stuff, which really shouldn't surprise you that much (although longtime Boras customer Jim Abbott did too much charitable stuff according to George Steinbrenner). But I will give the player credit. Like Charlie Sheen, he decided to clean himself up and start doing what he wanted to do instead of listening to Boras and other trolls. Every statement from here on in, at least in my eyes, seems to be a little bit less contrived and more genuine as a guy who wants to win baseball games and help the world around him instead of adding to trust funds.

And that's awesome. Good for him. Problem is, it's easy to drop a guy when you've already whored yourself out to him and used up most of his tangible value. I applaud Teixeira for having balls, but still censure him for not having balls when it counted.

IN OTHER NEWS regarding staying true to my word, my favorite player of all-time, #4 in your programs #1 in your hearts Coco Crisp, was a jackass last night. His Twitter account was talking about root canals and all that stuff in the morning. By the evening, his teeth were apparently healthy enough to have a few too many and decide he's too lazy to call a cab. Seriously, bro, you're a millionaire celebrity. You really couldn't find a ride home? It pains me to say it, but this guy, despite being the most underappreciated Red Sox player of all-time, is in the same category as Joba Chamberlain today.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Like Christmas Carols in November

This is the way the Franchise described baseball coverage during spring training. For a good month and a half, at least in Boston and New York, every newspaper, local television outlet, and sports-only television station sends multiple correspondents down to Florida to report about virtually nothing.

At the same time, there are people (myself often included) that continue to eat this crap up day after day. Pitchers and catchers reported two weeks ago and nothing has really happened except for John Lackey losing weight, Dustin Pedroia saying they were going to kick BC's ass, and Josh Beckett getting hit in the head with a fly ball.

This does not constitute an hour of television coverage. So it's filled (at least here) with journalist cross-pollination and Peter Gammons throwing softball questions at people. On NESN, they have "second-base cup," a competition where the Red Sox chip and try to get their golf balls closest to second base.

Baseball talent evaluation or the fact that both of these teams are filled with top-five talent at many positions are weeding out the arguments of who's going to win what role, unless that role is "second lefty in the bullpen." The games don't matter and nobody except for Rudy are going to give any effort beyond JD-level effort. Does Hideki Okajima getting blown up the other daymean anything? (Maybe.) Does it mean much? (No.)

As Pat said in a comment on Monday, we used to get amped about this kind of stuff. But it's no longer the case. But what's changed - is it the game? Is it the gratuitous coverage of the spring training stuff? Or is it us? When you were nine and November came along, you were okay with getting amped for Christmas once Halloween was over. But now? Gotta wait until at least Pearl Harbor Day.

Starting to feel the same way about spring training. Can't get pumped up about a truck pulling out. Can't get pumped up about Josh Beckett playing catch. Gimme some freaking games.

Preseason football, however, is still much worse.