Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Final Thoughts on Jacoby Ellsbury

As I pointed out last week, Jacoby Ellsbury died to me on December 4, 2007.  Previous to this date, it was sort of a conflicted thing for me, because he was making my favorite player Coco Crisp a redundant piece (a reason I didn't like the trade for Coco in the first place).  But he was a good player (the .353 batting average in 2007 speaks for itself) and one that seemed to like the game, enjoy playing the game, and respect the game.  As we've noted here and elsewhere before, fans seem to gravitate towards players who care about the same things that they do (i.e. winning, love for the game).

I'm also okay with players getting paid.  Being a baseball player is not an easy thing - being away from your family for six months out of the year, being hassled by the media, being accountable to millions (irony intended) for stuff you do at work, having to live like a celebrity just because you can hit a baseball hard or throw one 95 miles an hour?  If you want to be paid the premium for that, go right ahead and do that.  But I also expect gratitude, because few people have the natural skills to be able to earn that kind of money.  I expect effort being made toward winning and respect being paid to the hand that feeds you.  That's why Ellsbury died to me in three different ways.

The first was was in 2007.  When Arod opted out of his contract during the clinching game of the 2007 World Series, he and his agent made the clear statement that not even respect to the game is more important than the player's future earnings.  Slapped baseball across the face while on its biggest stage.  Arod blamed his agent on this tactic to distance himself from this atrocity.  Players revolted against Scott Boras after this, including one that has punched out a cameraman and one that was implicated in the BALCO scandal.  BALCO and assault are okay, but what Arod did was not, according to these players.  It seemed that Scott Boras may have been on his way to being mercifully eradicated from baseball at this point.

The first major league player to reverse this trend and sign Boras to represent his interests after the Arod incident was Ellsbury.  He was the first to make the statement of "Arod's opt out was okay with me.  Disrespecting baseball is okay with me."  I don't like players who disrespect baseball in the interest of future earnings.

Ellsbury's second offense was with the rib injury.  Do I believe the Red Sox' medical staff sucked at diagnosing him?  Yup, and I am all for him holding that resentment (I have not seen my primary care doctor since he poo-poohed my discomfort that landed me eventually on an operating table in 2010, so I'm on the game page as Ellsbury here).  Do I believe Ellsbury really was hurt?  Yes, I do.  Do I believe he exaggerated the injury?  You bet I do.  And do I believe he disrespected his team by going to Arizona to rehab?  Yes.  I also believe that all this took place so that he would not play a single play at less than 100%.  There was too much, in terms of his future free agent value, riding on his rate stats and ability to play center field.  Is Ellsbury going to let an injury or a managerial decision to play him in left field decrease that market value one iota?  Nope.  So he effectively went on strike for 144 games in 2010, completely disrespecting my favorite team, the Boston Red Sox.  I don't like players who disrespect the Boston Red Sox in the interest of future earnings.

Ellsbury's third offense was with that caught stealing in September.  As we have previously gone over, with a 4-2 deficit and a .300 hitter at the plate, stealing third base provides little to no tangible value toward winning that game and solidifying the Red Sox' playoff position.  The player gets a green light to steal whenever he wants to, and he decided to try unsuccessfully to steal third base here for one reason only:  To get himself closer to forty stolen bases for the year, thereby increasing his market value during his 2013 free agency campaign.  I'm sure the sabermetricians would tell you that the moment he took off for third base, Ellsbury (a league-average base-stealer in terms of percentage) probably DECREASED the changes the Red Sox won that pivotal game in the pennant race.  That's downright embarrassing and disgusting.  It was tangible evidence that this player does not give a crap about winning and only cares about earnings.  I don't like players who deemphasize winning baseball games in the interest of future earnings.

So here's a recap: 
1.  Jacoby Ellsbury cares more about making money than he does about respecting baseball.
2.  Jacoby Ellsbury cares more about making money than he does about his team.
3.  Jacoby Ellsbury cares more about making money than he does about winning baseball games.

Last time I checked, CC Sabathia did and continues to do everything right.  He's not going to be struggling to heat his mansion this winter.  Premium players and mediocre players alike are going to get the money they deserve.  The bottom line is, Ellsbury has pulled these three separate incidents for what might ultimately be the difference between $108 million and $119 million.  If you suck so much at financial management that you would spit on the game for an extra $11 million on the top of $108 million, Oregon State has failed you.  
I needed to get this off my chest, once and for all.  I'm looking forward to citing this post in all future baseball arguments I enter for the next two years, up until the inevitable day in December 2013 when everyone starts to agree with me.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Valentine Hired; Cherington Hired As Groundskeeper

Larry Lucchino 2, Ben Cherington 0.

Cherington will THINK he's mowing grass while it's actually Lucchino mowing the grass.  Meanwhile, like the 2002 Mets under DISCIPLINARIAN manager Bobby Valentine, maybe the bullpen will be SMOKING grass.  The ownership group has given the champion of "subjective" information absolutely no power, so maybe Carmine will make the decision that JD Drew's coming back.  What a bunch of smart, professional businessmen.  Maybe they'll have the professional courtesy one of these days to tell Gene Lamont that he didn't get the job.

Valentine is not a stupid baseball manager.  Not smart, but not nearly as dumb as many others who currently hold major league jobs.  I do, however, think many of his opinions are full of crap.  I also think that Lucchino's decision to tell the baseball people to F themselves are emblematic of the fact that this team cares more about what happens during the postgame show than what happens during the duringgame show.  Well, except for Ben Affleck, Ernie Boch Junior, Jay Peterman (who IS funny), Lenny Clarke (who is NOT funny), and John Kerry appearances with Remy and Orsillo.

It is also possible if not probable that one of the following exchanges takes place:

Bobby: Stop swinging at the first pitch with a man on base.
Gonzalez: F*** you, old man, it was God's will.  Plus, I was tired because it's Sunday night and I wasn't concentrating.

Bobby:  If you dare trying to steal third base with two outs and a .300 hitter at the plate, you will be either benched or banished to the Arizona Fall League.  We're trying to win baseball games.
46:  F*** you, old man, I'm not trying to win baseball games, I'm trying to get that paper.

Bobby:  Find a salad bar.
Beckett:  F*** you, old man, I do what I want.

Bobby:  Shut the f*** up and play base--
Ortiz:  Bobby, I'mma let you finish, but that was supposed to be an RBI! 

Yeah, this is a bonus post, and I didn't want to look forward.  But isn't that the point of this blog in the first place?

Greatest Hits (4 of 4)

My final selection of twelve posts that deserve a second look.  Especially looking back on these posts while trying to find the greatest hits, it's put into context that How Youz Doin has remained a significant part of my life for a long time.  What started as a daily update of OkayTUNA14's AOL Instant Messenger profile became something a lot bigger.  I'm glad Pat talked me into it, and I'm glad we got people reading this stuff for so long.

July 2010:  "Overmatched."  As DV goes under the knife for surgery, Pat sends him an unfriendly memo.  The one-hour special involving a narcissistic basketball player is discussed in great detail.
July 2010:  "$4,125,000."  Facing off over AJ Burnett and the debate regarding "value" and "winning," the authors and commenters get a little testy.
August 2010:  "A Madman, Your Honor."  In an indictment of 46's on-field actions, DV channels Fletcher Reede and Ross Kaplan questions Pat's whereabouts in an office-wall-worthy comment.
August 2010:  "No."  Johnny Damon-to-the-Sox rumors swirl, DV kills the NESCAC in general.
September 2010:  "How Wrong Was He?"  Pat claims victory in the Battle of Mark Teixeira.
October 2010:  "Clueless."  As the Yankees are eliminated, Pat provides a cocktail of anger and insight in a way that only he can pull off.
December 2010:  "There Isn't a 48% Tax in Soccer."  DV's response to John Henry's "Neither Will Your Readers" interview and questions whether the Red Sox ownership cares about winning at all.  If people are looking, maybe for a research paper, how Red Sox fans view George Steinbrenner, this might be a good counter-argument.
January 2011:  "Texts From Last Night."  Sort of a collaborative post between the two authors, the Eric Ortiz article about the 2011 Red Sox challenging the 1927 Yankees as the best team in baseball history is dissected line by line.
May 2011:  "It's Not the Losing that Bothers Me."  It's the fact that Youkilis and Pedroia only hit the Yankees, explains Pat.  Angry Pat is really the most entertaining version of Pat.
July 2011:  "Great Game."  I assume that by the time of this article's publication, Bobby Valentine will be the new manager of the Red Sox.  In the wake of Bobby V criticizing Adrian Gonzalez for about five innings straight during an ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game (insert punch line here), this is a more interesting post in hindsight.
July 2011:  "DJ3K."  In one of our most read articles ever, Pat waxes poetic about Derek Jeter.
September 2011:  "Hang Fifty."  The Red Sox deserve to lose, argues DV. 
September 2011:  "Terry Francona, Fat Little Girlfriend."  Francona deserves to lose his job, win or lose, argues DV.  After about a month, most of these statement prove to be correct.

This is it, guys.  Depending on my willingness to contribute one more bonus post, we should be done with this project by the end of the week or next Monday at the very latest.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Greatest Hits (Part 3)

Continuing to record the best posts we've done.  As always, we welcome comments, either to look back or to call attention to other posts if there are any glaring ones we've missed.  I understand it's comical to list fifty posts as the best ever, but when you're weeding through over 1,600 posts, it's hard to leave some out.

February 2009:  "Your Words In Italics."  Dan Shaughnessy writes a stupid article about JD Drew.  DV responds.  DV's girlfriend drops by in the comments section under the gender-unspecific name "Beau."  It was not until 2011 that I found out that was her. 
March 2009:  "2009 Rivalry Matchups:  Bullpen."  A major point of contention was surrounding the 2009 Yankee bullpen, consisting of "a bunch of guys from SWB."  DV drops the infamous line first here.
May 2009:  "Who Wants To Win Baseball Games?  Not Brett Gardner."  The "Brett Gardner is a legitimate baseball player" versus "No he's not" argument really reaches a boiling point when Pat flips out.
August 2009:  "Who Wants To Sweep?  Not Francona."  Playing off of the previous title, DV writes another post about Francona's unwillingness to manage some games like sprints.
August 2009:  "Just Go Home."  Francona questions JD Drew's willingness to play baseball after the outfielder asks out of a game during which Clay Buchholz comes in as a pinch runner due to the team's array of injuries.  DV responds, Pat leaves a "DV-level analysis" in the comments section that still hangs in DV's office.
October 2009:  "F These Guys."  For the first time in many years, DV's natural hatred for individuals wearing pinstripes comes out as the Yankees close in on their 27th World Series.
November 2009:  "Perfect Attendance."  DV pays homage to Hideki Matsui, but as the Yankees clinch the Series, the comments section becomes the place for the New Yorkers to voice their pleasure.  Pat writes a poem the next morning.

February 2010:  "Come At Me Bro.  Come At Me Bud."  Allan "Bud" Selig, MLB commissioner, is compared to William "Bro" Adams, Colby College president.  Neither character is painted in a favorable light.
February 2010:  "In Defense of the Run Batted In."  The evolution of HYD's sabermetric odyssey continues.
March 2010:  "Earthshattering Run Prevention Breakthroughs!"  A look at defensive metrics and "run prevention" that later proves to be downright prophetic.
May 2010:  "USC vs. Notre Dame."  Similar to USC under Pete Carroll, the Yankees get outmanaged but beat the Bridge Year team due to the significant talent disparity.
June 2010:  "The Anti-Red Sox."  The likability of the 2009-2010 Celtics is juxtaposed with the dislikability of the 2010 Red Sox.  A basketball argument springs up.  "Marino" makes an appearance.

This seems like a good transition point, as the next "Greatest Hit" was when "The Decision" sent shockwaves throughout sports and How Youz Doin.  Also coming Monday night, PF and DV trade barbs, John Henry's "plane talk" gets ripped apart, Eric Ortiz of NESN writes a stupid article, PF vents his frustration about the fact that Youkilis and Pedroia only hit against New York, the Red Sox collapse, and a little bit of forgotten Bobby Valentine analysis appears.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Greatest Hits (Part 2)

A continuation of Tuesday's post...

August 2007:  "Now People in the Metropolitan Area Do Need A Helmet."  Forgot this one yesterday, but ti's another classic Pat F post written between 12:30 and 3 in the morning.  Also, Bandi trolls From the Bronx about Phil Rizzuto. 
October 2007:  "Lots of Consecutive Professional At-Bats."  Red Sox win World Series, Matt busts DV's balls about the Beckett/Lowell trade he hated so much.
October 2007:  The A-Rod opt-out fall out occupies How Youz Doin for pretty much the rest of the month. 
"Teeing Off on the Former Third Baseman."
"More on the Selfish Mutant."
"Red Sox Fans:  Will You Quit?"

April 2008:  "Fans, Gunn, and THE Waterville House of Pizza."  As DV compares pre-pink hat Red Sox fans to "townies," The Gunn offers his own perspective as a townie from Waterville.
June 2008:  "Stop Drinking Protein Shakes You Meathead."  The second most visited post in our history, Pat blows up at the Yankees' new manager.  In the comments section, he said that four Yankee relievers literally suck.
December 2008:  "I Am A Professional Athlete."  DV does not like the fact that Hideki Okajima decided to run the Honolulu Marathon.  Instead of training for a marathon he should have trained for baseball so he would not be a disaster in 2009 and 2010 or out of the majors in 2011.  Check out the splits here.

Uh-oh.  Here comes the Mark Teixeira stuff.

October 2008:  "Tex Education."  DV starts calling Teixeira a role player.
November 2008:  "No Tex, No Problem."  DV uses word play to call Teixeira a bad fit for Boston. 
December 2008:  "Teixeira is a Yankee."  Teixeira ruins Gunn's Christmas.
December 2008:  "Step Out [sic] From That Ledge My Friend." The battleground continues in a 36-comment post.

Lots more, including more Teixeira battles, barbs being thrown about New Yankee Stadium, Brett Gardner, and other stuff. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Greatest Hits

It's an extremely difficult task to isolate the greatest hits we've come up with here on How Youz Doin.  I've tried and I've probably failed.  In no particular order, I have a few links to the posts I consider the best.  I'll try my best to give a little explanation of why these posts are particularly good.

April 2007:  "Wanted."  Pat blows up on the Yankees' relief pitching core, Gunn takes Pat to task for saying that bad things only happened to the Yankees.
May 2007:  "Too Bad Dave Winfield Retired."  DV references Dan Johnson as "The Second Coming of Ted Williams," a reference to a 2005 Michael Urban mailbag.  Of course, in the next few years, things got more interesting regarding this guy.
Days earlier, in "Surprise of the Season So Far," Mets fan The Big Ticket hammers, among other things, Steve Phillips. Phillips also took heat over our time for saying that Julio Lugo had "pop" in his bat and for saying that the 2008 Tigers were going to have the "best offense in the history of baseball."
May 28, 2007:  "The State of the Yankees."  The debut of "From The Bronx."  This guy is one of very few commenters here whom don't know Pat and I personally, but he stuck around for nearly three years, bringing some of that Bronx bravado, keen baseball insight, and constant headaches for Pat F.
June 27, 2007:  "What do the New York Yankees need?  Me."  Pat completely combusts, taking it out especially on Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano.
September 19, 2007:  "Save Him for Later."  Though the Red Sox won the World Series this year, the words about saving Papelbon for later instead of bringing him into the game when he's needed most run just as true four years later.  This one's a classic DV blowup.
December 2007:  "Yo Quiero Mas Dinero."  Jacoby Ellsbury dies to DV, DV's friend Jared reveals that he would fit right in on a Bobby Valentine team.

April 4, 2008:  "We Could Be That Mistake."  A quintessential DV post, praising Coco Crisp for some inane reason, criticizing JD Drew after Drew homers, gets a comment at 7:11 AM on a Saturday morning, gets criticism for overemphasizing spring training stats.  A bit of foreshadowing.
April 8, 2008:  "Hurricane Katrina is Good for Profit Margins."  A DV rip job of Red Sox ownership and its "Red Sox Nation" fan club heirarchy, perhaps calling out "Vice President" Rob Crawford.  Gets a comment from "Vice President" Rob Crawford!

Also on April 8 (we actually had a really good week), DV posted the blog's 506th post, "A Good Negotiation to Win" and got a pretty special troll comment: 

I'm sorry, i cant resist. I know you guys are doing this all in fun and what-not, so power to you, and i hope you all have fun with it.....BUT The smugness and pretentious odor that you oozes off these blogs is ridiculous. I've never seen such a display arrogance [sic] and stroking of eachothers [sic] and of course your own egos. i'm sure ill get blasted for this and have no interest in some sort of cyber fight. Basically, get over yourselves.....its real easy to blast evryone [sic] and everything sitting in ur damn chinos and cartigans [sic] at your desk. my guess is none of you have played baseball since the glory days of little league......act like it

Arrogant, smug, pretentious:  Sure, guilty as charged.  After all, a lot of us, including both of us with administrative privileges, went to Colby College.  My Little League days weren't even glory days, although the only kid I ever faced who ended up playing professional baseball, I have a 1.000 on-base percentage against.  But at this point, the entire comments section did blow up at this tough guy, and that was greatly appreciated.  It was probably here that I realized that Pat and I had not only a following of readers that enjoyed our writing, but a following of readers that would stick up for us.  I appreciate loyalty, respect, and retaliation, although it may have just been in words.  And, to follow up on Pat's reason we're calling it quits after five years, I think if we didn't have you guys, we would have gone on with the rest of our lives a lot sooner than now.  The theme of "Chinos and Cartigans" did re-surface several times over the subsequent 1100+ posts on How Youz Doin Baseball over the next few years. 

I also like to think that I was adequately critical of myself when it comes to my own performance as a high-level athlete.  I hold myself to the same standards as the baseball players I criticize.  More on this in the comments section, perhaps.

I hope you guys get a chance to click through some if not all of these links today.  There will be more coming throughout the week.  I anticipate that we'll be done for good by the first weekend of December.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Final Thoughts on Sabermetrics

"I thought you were gonna ask me about JD Drew having the second-highest OPS of all AL outfielders."

With that, it was over for me.  Over the course of our five years at the helm of How Youz Doin Baseball, Pat and I (and all of you, I'm sure) have had a complicated relationship with sabermetrics, their value, and how important they are when trying to put together, evaluate, and manage a baseball team.  I think somewhere around 2009, when Theo Epstein said the line above to justify another painfully mediocre season by JD Drew that you had to start calling everything into question.  I'm gonna try to boil an intricate argument into a few bullet points.

1.  There is value in sabermetrics and in the stuff contained within the book Moneyball.  I still fully support the Moneyball philosophy of preferring college players in the draft because their statistics are more reliable than high school statistics because you know how good the competition is in college whereas high school competition has many other variables.  It also provides value within managing games:  At times, when it's a toss-up, go with the numbers.  Proving the indisputable correlation between getting on base and scoring runs (which is intuitive without looking at the numbers) definitely enabled managers to abandon some "cute" tactics that really didn't provide much value.  It's also very interesting to see what happens on the aggregate level. 

I also do believe strongly in some of the pitching metrics.  FIP is a great statistic in particular.  The offensive equivalent, BABIP (I know they're not perfect mirror images, go back under your bridge), is not really as valuable in my book, but I am impressed with the intuitive nature of FIP and the important stories it tells.

2.  The problem I have with a lot of statistics, including BABIP many aggregate stats (including Pythagorean winning percentage, and virtually every defensive metric ever invented, is that they force you into a ceteris paribus (all else being equal) assumption.  They make you do this stuff in economics classes and science classes alike.  The experiments you read about in a textbook are performed in a vacuum, and UZR150 doesn't take anything into consideration, such as where a guy is positioned, what the situational strategy is, whether there's a shift on a lefty hitter, or anything like that.  We're told in economics class or science class that in real life a feather and a bowling ball won't fall off the Leaning Tower of Pisa at the same speed or that markets are never actually 100% perfectly competitive.  In sabermetrics class, we are not told that a lot of these statistics are only scientific in a vacuum.

2.5.  As I wrote in a previous post, OBP was the last frontier of labor market inefficiencies in baseball.  Trying to find it in flawed vacuum stats like the defensive ones results in failure.  Several Oakland teams, the 2010 Mariners, the 2010 Red Sox.  Period.  Run prevention does not work.

3.  Closely related, these statistics come from a very high volume of data played out over a 162-game season (lest you summons the Sample Size Police).  However, baseball is a situational game.  It is foolish to play the same style of station-to-station baseball at all situations throughout the game.  I always cite the same situation of Drew drawing a walk with a runner on third, one out, and Varitek on deck.  On the aggregate, the walk makes sense.  In this very specific situation, it does not.  While formulating this post in my head, I was consdering the shunning of the bunt.  But if you have Mark Reynolds up, say he's hitting .250, hits a lot of home runs, strikes out 1/3 of the time, and you have a guy on second, no outs, and a fly ball hitter at the plate.  You gotta think about bunting him.  You're taking the bat out of his hands, but he might do the most inefficient thing you could possibly do in baseball, and that's strike out.

4.  Some of the math is fuzzy.  I have read more books than I care to admit about sabermetrics and the value of a player in a situation.  There have been interesting situations about the value of a win, the marginal value of a win, and so forth.  Vince Gennaro and JC Bradbury especially write some interesting stuff about it.  But (as much as it's a punch line regarding certain terrible catchers with extra letters on their jerseys) intangibles do count, both on the field (sorry, I believe in clutch) and to fans.  Even if Jeter hits .260 in his final season in New York, losing him would subtract value from the Yankee franchise.  And this is something that cannot be calculated in a lab.

5.  Closely related to point #4, it's a human game.  We're not playing on the Strat-O-Matic machine, and we're not even playing Baseball Mogul here.  Sometimes you need the scouts "selling jeans" (a Moneyball term) to see that despite his high OBP, a player does not give an F about playing the game.  Either that or you look at the way that player is viewed by former managers, former players, and each fan base he's ever played for (and one he spurned, of course).  Sometimes you need someone selling jeans to tell you that a reliever vomits on the mound during high-leverage situations.  Sometimes you need to look at traditional statistics, such as RBIs or wins, to see the way a player actually goes about playing the game.  As much as I hate 46, he was aggressive in all the right times (except for one particular Saturday afternoon), and his RBI total reflected that.  Spreadsheets do not indicate whether a player has balls.

In closing, I treat hard-core sabermetricians like sky-is-falling global warming advocates.  Just because they have a high volume of data they've never had available before, they cannot accept the fact that some of the data is exaggerated, imperfect, or just plain irrelevant.  To justify their existence on Planet Earth, they have to exaggerate the importance of the data they have and make a big story about it.  As I said earlier, sabermetric statistics have their place in baseball, and when used responsibly they give a club an edge over a team that completely disregards statistics.  They also help explain a lot about the nature of the game we watch.  However, as Pat and I (and long-lost commenter Craig) have proven over the past five years, if you dig deep enough, you can use a statistic to support any argument. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Laughingstock of Baseball

This was the blog post tag assigned to the Best Team Ever by legendary baseball blog  But the embarrassing behavior coming from the Best Team Ever's organization will not stop.  I thought the thirteen-post rampage I went on throughout the month of October was going to put closure to this.  But the continued moves being made by clearly Larry Lucchino and to a lesser extent John Henry and Tom Werner is further solidification of the Best Team Ever's current position of the laughingstock of baseball.

Today, the following broke:

1.  Despite a second interview with Dale Sveum, the Best Team Ever sat with their thumbs up their rear ends instead of offering the managerial candidate a job.  Sveum took the job with the Cubs.
2.  Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports wrote that Sveum was the overwhelming choice of the baseball operations people, but was vetoed by ownership.  What a great way to usher in your new general manager than to have him screen out potential hires for one of the most important positions in the organization, then tell him to go and get his shine box.  Good job, Larry.  If this guy had any balls, he would bust out the gorilla suit immediately.  If you like justice, you would hope Cherington tells Lucchino to find another GM as well.  After all, Lucchino has John Henry, so he'll never walk alone.

The Rosenthal article said in as many words that Lebron, Liverpool, Fitzy, and Associates kicked Francona's ass out the door, made working conditions so unpleasant that the GM from Brookline ran out of the job not once but twice, and now, in the new GM's FIRST managerial decision, decides to not listen to him.  I don't understand why Roush Fenway Racing would so something like that.  Then again, NEITHER WILL MY READERS.

3.  The Sons of Maverick Carter have not only vetoed Cherington's first recommendation, virtually stripping him of all power, but have already spoken with Bobby Valentine.  The same cat who vehemently crushed their coaching staff for their handling of the Gyroball Kid and the same guy who more or less treated the Mets' on-field product like Joe Torre treated the arms of Scott Proctor, Tom Gordon, and Tanyon Sturtze:  Drove them right into the ground.

4.  Cherington and most of the baseball people are going to the Dominican Republic.  Therefore, the Disciples of Carmine very well may re-interview Valentine and, who knows, offer him a freaking job without the general manager actually in the room, region, or country!  I have a feeling the private jet only charters flights to Liverpool and Mark Teixeira's house only and doesn't stop by any countries where the primary language is anything but the Queen's English. 

The fact that these major baseball-related decisions are being made without the input of the baseball people is just further evidence that this ownership group prioritizes winning baseball games far lower than membership cards, concourse bricks, Sweet Caroline, Pocket Money, Sox Appeal, college GPAs approaching a gillion, income approaching 20% higher than the year before, Liverpool, lower luxury taxes overseas, NASCAR racing, the holes in Carl Edwards's car, Charlie Moore, Ernie Boch Jr. doing play-by-play, Maverick Carter, Phish concerts, rugby games, and at least the first three quarters of certain NBA playoff games.  I feel like this group values winning baseball games slightly more than it values performance in the fourth quarter of certain NBA games, because that has not seemed to be a priority either judging by the way #6 plays.  Talk all you want about George Steinbrenner; his meddling was borne from an intense desire to win.  John Henry, Larry Lucchino, and Tom Werner care about profit.

Speaking of which, Valentine is most certainly a Werner thing.  He provides dubious value at all when it comes to managing a baseball team (perhaps a bit of a hyperbole), but his real value corresponds with him being an animated character who will enhance the ratings of post-game press conferences on NESN!  Who cares what happens between 7:00 and 10:00 on game nights, it's all about what happens between 10:00 and 11:00.  Apparently the team will be in the market to hire a new booth babe with Heidi Watney moving on as well.  Great news for the 11th guy on the Lakers' bench.

5.  Sources tell Boston radio show hosts Andy Gresh and Scott Zolak that the source of the Bob Hohler article material was none other than Theo Epstein.  Interesting, especially considering that the article was reasonably critical of the former general manager and as recently as a few days ago said that the 2011 team was a bunch of "choir boys" compared to the beloved 2004 team, something counterintuitive to anything written in that article.  This is clearly Lucchino leaking the information to the Globe in the first place, saying that "there were a lot of articles in the Globe" in a smug, snarky way, denying it, and now throwing Theo under the bus for one very last final time.

6.  Sean McAdam and Peter Gammons have also started going after the Lebron Group for undermining the general manager and the Francona smear campaign (respectively).

I was thinking about the following when all this went down on this fine Thursday:  The Best Team Ever was a freaking mess when the idea for this blog came about in 2006.  They are in far, far worse shape now than they were five years ago.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

December 31, 2006

You don't need Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones to tell you so to know that baseball (or sports in general) intertwines with your lives.  I remember writing about "the next Maury Wills" in sixth grade the day after a shortstop named Nomar Garciaparra hit his first home run, I remember a relationship with a baseball-noncompliant girlfriend falling apart the day Nomar hit three home runs on his birthday, and I remember a party at loyal commenter Jason's house the day he was traded for two .246 hitters.  I hit my first 100 mile running week when the Red Sox lost a 19-inning game to Chicago, and I remember the Patriots getting blown out by Denver on MNF when my grandfather died.  Most recently, I got engaged with the unintentional backdrop of the epic Game 6 (the 8th inning, to be exact) of the 2011 World Series. 

Opinions are formed by your own experiences, which is why, as a marginal professional athlete, I hate steroids and why, as someone who suffered from a sports hernia in 2010, had empathy toward Mike Cameron's situation in 2010.  No incident shaped an unpopular opinion, however, more than what happened on December 31, 2006.  The following story is 100% true.

I was a senior in college, Hanley Ramirez had just won the Rookie of the Year while Josh Beckett gave up 36 home runs, and the Red Sox had an underachieving center fielder.  There were preliminary talks about starting a blog with this basketball player with whom I shared a freshman year class, hours in the gym, and an unbridled passion for baseball.  I had already been writing prolifically about baseball in my AIM profile, including some choice words about the Red Sox' new center fielder Coco Crisp, whom I thought was a terrible acquisition.  Makes no sense to bring in (and extend) a fragile leadoff hitter who had a career OBP worse than the league average, I argued, and I was absolutely correct.  However, this night I was to celebrate the New Year with my new girlfriend in her hometown, a reasonably tightly-knit community in which now I also reside. 

She was a freshman and shortly before acquiring me, she had let go of her last boyfriend.  All indications pointed to the fact that this kid was a terrific boyfriend, and they had parted ways shortly after she went to college.  As the replacement boyfriend who was brought into this situation shortly after the previous break-up, I had big shoes to fill and probably unreasonable expectations.  I could be a decent to good boyfriend and still be compared unfavorably to the guy who came before me.  Whatever, I just did the best I could, including not objecting to the illegality of the Captain Morgan in her trunk while my girlfriend and I stopped at the local convenience store for some Coca-Colas.

We walk into the store together and, inevitably, she knew the kid working behind the counter.  Inconveniently for me, my predecessor had also worked at this convenience store, so my girlfriend knew the entire staff, including this poor kid.  The first question from this kid to the Franchise was something along the lines of how school was going.  The second question was asking how my predecessor was doing.  The third question was whether she had seen my predecessor during Christmas break.  The fourth question was whether she was spending New Year's with my predecessor.  There I was, standing there with the Drew Bledsoe Face on (wow, a Bill Simmons reference!), with all this going on. 

At this point, I realized something.  I was Coco Crisp.  It didn't matter how much trash this guy talked on his way out (there was quite a bit).  It didn't matter whom he ended up with in the aftermath of this breakup.  It didn't matter if I did the equivalent of hitting .310, stole 40 bases (and didn't get thrown out at third base at an inane point trying to get to 40 bases), and scored a hundred runs.  I would seemingly forever be the guy after this guy.  There was already a bench mark that was seemingly attainable.  If I screwed up or worked on my blog all night instead of hanging out, it was a story of how I sucked and my predecessor was so much better.  If I did something good, it was a story of how I was cool but my predecessor did it this way.  It could never be a story of I sucked, period, or a story of how I was great, period. 

Just like Coco Crisp never, ever got a chance in this town to just suck without being worse than Johnny Damon.  He never got a chance to make a catch without being compared to Johnny Damon.  He couldn't work a 10-pitch season-saving at-bat in the ALCS after being benched the night before without it being compared to the way Johnny Damon worked at-bats.

The way I saw it after that night, Coco Crisp couldn't walk into a convenience store and buy a self-endorsed gallon of Hood milk without fielding questions about the guy who ran his mouth and went to New York.  He never got to suck independently of the guy who came before him.  He never got to save the 2008 season independently of the guy who came before him.  Yup, Johnny Damon may have been the best to ever fill that role.  Good for him.  But Coco Crisp never got a chance.

Despite the fact that he wasn't a great player and certainly wasn't a cerebral player, after December 31, 2006, Coco Crisp got a chance from me.  When that blog (this blog) started a month and a half later, Coco Crisp was defended mercilessly against a legion of people who thought he sucked and Johnny Damon was so much better.  When Crisp was hitting .220 during Senior Week 2007 (as Pat, the Franchise, and many others know), I may have been mid-meltdown, but I continued to plead for this guy getting the chance he deserved.

Coco Crisp was a good player in Boston, and he was certainly underappreciated.  Due to the events of December 31, 2006, I was able to appreciate his contributions, his work ethic, and the true magnitude of his 2008 ALCS at-bat.  So thanks, Coco Crisp, for doing what you could about an unfair situation and inspiring me to do the same thing.  You deserved the chance to come into your own.  You deserved the chance I had.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why We're Stopping HYD At 5 Seasons

This is probably my second to last post. DV has a bunch of other stuff he wants to tie up, and I hope he takes as long as he needs to do that. The more of his work I get to read, the better. But I've said pretty much everything I want to say. After this I'll have one more post to wrap some things up, but that's about it.

Not that we are remotely serious enough that anyone would expect an explanation as to why we are shutting down - I think everyone understands this particular project has just run its course for us - but I figured I'd offer one up anyway. After all, most of our readers have been with us since the very first day, and are every bit a part of this as we are (more on that in the last post). So before we stop talking baseball here, I think DV and I can at least briefly offer some insight into why.

There's not a whole lot more to it than what I mentioned above - authoring HYD has run its course for both of us. I won't speak for DV beyond that, as I'm sure he'll want to say some things of his own. But for me, that's really what this is about. I have no interest in continuing. Not because I dislike it, but just because I don't like it as much as I used to.

There are a number of reasons for this. When we first started this site, we were in college. There was a lot more time to research and post on all sorts of topics. As there became less and less time to devote to this after college, I found myself posting less frequently and more narrowly regarding subject matter. When we first started, I would post on the Yankees, but also other teams, prospects, and a lot of analysis - both statistical and from a scouting perspective - on individual players on the Yankees and other teams alike. And I would sometimes post 2-3 times per day. As time went on I posted less and increasingly about just the Yankees. More specifically, I was posting more and more about the hot topics surrounding the Yankees, and barely more.

I don't think I had anticipated that I wouldn't like doing this, I just know that once it started I knew I didn't like it. Not because I didn't like talking about the Yankees; obviously, that was the main purpose of starting this site. I just felt like the proportion of time spent talking about the "buzz" topics as opposed to getting more creative discussions was not where I wanted it to be. Obviously, I had complete control of this. But again, when time becomes an issue it's easier to talk about what's right in front of you as opposed to going out and finding new stuff. Further, it's not that I didn't want to talk about the "buzz" stuff. Again, that was a part of the enjoyment of doing it too. It's just that that wasn't the only thing I wanted to be doing. Largely because of time, that became the case.

The time issue also got us into a very structured process here. When we first started posting was fluid. DV and I each went through various periods where we were more and less busy, and we posted accordingly. But between the two of us, we had a lot of posts going up. Sometimes there would be 4-5 in a day, sometimes there would be zero. In all, there was a lot more than 5 per week going up, and it was great because that was happening purely as a result of us posting when we wanted to and when we could. But as time went on we could really only realistically get one post up every day Monday through Friday, and even that was a struggle at times. While I am very proud of the consistency with which we were able to do this for the last few years, the structure of it became somewhat of a chore. Instead of posting when we wanted to, we were sometimes posting just because that's the way it was set up. And that just isn't as fun.

The comments section was the part I continued to and still continue to enjoy. I liked debating the content of the posts as well as different topics that were brought up. But the posting part just wasn't, and isn't, realistic anymore. Which is fine. Things change and this certainly is not a very serious one. I'll miss the comments, but I won't miss putting the time into posting.

That said, just because things have changed, and we're shutting things down, doesn't take anything away from how much I've enjoyed this for the last nearly 5 years. I'll touch on that point more in my final post, but suffice to say I've enjoyed it immensely. Otherwise I wouldn't have done it as long as I did. This is just the right time to stop, and I'm content with that too.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

One Less Accountable Guy

I feel bad for whoever's going to be the Red Sox' manager next year, especially if it's Sandy Alomar, Jr. who thinks this team can police itself.  By my calculations at the end of the season - when I was melting down to the same extent that the Red Sox were melting down - there were exactly five players on the 2011 roster (Aceves, Scutaro, Pedroia, Saltalamacchia, Papelbon) that I want to ever see in a Boston uniform again. 

Contrary to a lot of stuff I have said over the five years on HYD, Papelbon was one of those five guys.  So now there are only four left that I ever want to see again.  This guy, and this is a theory that was first developed by Tony Massarotti (unlike David Ortiz, I will cite my sources), was one of the few people on this team who were accountable when they screwed up.  Papelbon will go out there and say he f***ed up or sucked out there.  He won't blame the ballpark like Lester.  He won't blame the official scorer like Ortiz.  He won't blame the rain like Ortiz, Lackey, Francona, or many others.  He won't blame God or the ESPN schedule like Adrian Gonzalez.  He'll take ownership for his own actions.

And he'll take that ownership, accountability, and his talents to Philadelphia.  That stuff I mentioned in the last paragraph is, in Cherington's words, subjective stuff.  And it's very troubling that the guy who is valuing subjective stuff instead of looking at spreadsheets and listening to Carmine like Theo Epstein did, has also inherited Theo's inability to negotiate poorly when it comes to free agency.

One quick note on the future:  Papelbon very well may struggle in Philadelphia because in that stadium, those warning-track fly balls might not be warning-track fly balls. 

I may be in the minority on this, but I'm one of the people who would have matched Philadelphia's four-year offer.  Sorry, the market for closers was not set by Papelbon, though that was his goal.  It was set a week ago with the Phillies and Ryan Madson with the deal that almost fell through.  Second-tier closers, as well as first-tier closers, are getting four years now.  So why not give four years and pay a premium for someone who has proven over the course of six seasons that he can get the job done?  Now Boston will get a guy who pees down the side of his leg in high-pressure situations (remember Toronto and the Wakefield game?), a fat drunk slob who spent more time on the DL than the field, a guy with an elbow that was partially created in 2010, or a guy with exactly 1.3 years of major league closing experience.

I really am trying to wrap things up here, but the core of what we do is discuss current baseball events.  Feel free to use this space to talk about your Papelbon memories.  I think the 2006-7 utter dominance, wondering if he'll ever give up a run, and putting a case of beer on his head will significantly trump the less favorable memories of bad car commercials, an occasional stupid comment, a few blown saves or extra-inning home runs.  Papelbon won me back this year, and it's a shame to see him leave.

I'm still on vacation, y'all have a great Monday.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Big Mouth, Big Performance

The first post of substance (and something that I had actually written for another blog three months before Pat and I signed up for this gig) on How Youz Doin Baseball was about Johnny Damon.  I wrote that Damon's four-year contract with the Yankees (signed in December 2005) was paying double for two years' performance and two years of crap.  I compared paying a premium for Damon, which the Yankees did, with paying a premium for a Slurpee at 7-Eleven, which I do with some sort of regularity.  I was happy the Red Sox didn't sign him, because I was convinced that after being in the majors since age 21 and after never having played less than 145 games since age 22, Damon was going to crap out sooner than most.

I was wrong.

Damon played for New York at the ages of 32, 33, 34, and 35, and he did a really good job.  I will continue to generally crush him for his overall demeanor regarding a business decision the Red Sox made, jumping at a series of microphones nonstop for the past six years so he could talk about how much he was disrespected.  But I cannot crush him for performance.  Formulating a criticism of the Red Sox' acquisition of Carl Crawford in 2010, I researched a lot of players who featured speed and/or stolen bases as a major part of their game.  While most players really fell off a cliff after age 31 (including Rickey Henderson, by the way), Damon wasn't like that.  He stole 95 bases with New York after having stolen only three more in four years with Boston.  He developed more power, which was certainly helped by the stadium he was in, but posted arguably his best offensive season in 2009.  Gotta give it to him.

You also gotta give it to him after the way his 2007 season started.  At that point, I was riding high on my brand new blog, talking about how smart I was and how dumb Brian Cashman was and how much Damon sucked in the work ethic department (he got fat, ate cheeseburgers, and contemplated retirement all winter).  In the second half of that season and in the entirety of the next two, he came back.  He never played less than 141 as a Yankee, which is particularly amazing considering the way he plays baseball.  Let's not make him out to be an Aaron Rowand or Kevin Youkilis, playing so hard that he breaks himself every year.  But he's not exactly 46 or JD Drew out there either.  Guy plays hard but still manages to stay on the field.  Even this year, his seventeenth in the majors, he played over 140 games for the sixteenth straight year.  He now seems like a lock to be in the 3,000 hit club before the age of forty.

A final thing I want to say about this player is that, contrary to what you'd think about a tried-and-true Scott Boras guy, he's a team guy.  He's big into the clubhouse thing, he's big into developing relationships with his teammates instead of his private bankers, and (I hate this word) he does have some kind of intangible, veteran value.  You saw it in Boston, New York, to an extent in Detroit, and especially this year in Tampa.  Tampa was supposed to have the dream die this year, but that didn't happen.  And that's not all Joe Maddon's doing.

So here we are, heading into the 2012 season, and while Damon is certainly becoming the icy, crummy matrix of what he used to be, even if this year is indeed the beginning of the end, it's coming four years and 600 (!) games after I - and the Red Sox organization - expected.

The Best Arguments in HYD History

Note:  This one is coming from Pat F through the email.  I probably would have added the topics of Joe Girardi, particularly when it came to his intake of protein shakes and bullpen management, whether Kyle Farnsworth deserves to breathe air that other people can breathe, and the Red Sox ownership treating their entity like a minor league team.  I decided also to attached "The Yankees' Former Third Baseman" as a label.  Here we go...

DV's excellent post recapping our debates about steroids over the last five years got me thinking about some of the other big topics that were much discussed on this site. If steroids wasn't the biggest topic, it was one of them. But there are certainly others, and thinking back to generate this list was rather entertaining. There were some that I completely forgot about that are downright hysterical when you consider how much time we devoted to them and how ultimately meaningless they were in terms of actually impacting baseball.

Here are the highlights:
- Josh Beckett as an effective pitcher, period.
- Roger Clemens as an effective October pitcher.
- Robinson Cano v. Dustin Pedroia
- Hideki Okajima, real deal v. will get figured out.
- Alex Rodriguez's on-field contributions, specifically big numbers and coming up short in the clutch pre-2009.
- Alex Rodriguez's off-field happenings.
- Chien-Ming Wang, ace or unsustainable style of pitching.
- Phil Hughes/Joba Chamberlain/Ian Kennedy as question marks pre-2008 season.
- Coco Crisp.
- Jacoby Ellsbury.
- Coco Crisp v. Jacoby Ellsbury.
- Jonathan Papelbon's on-field decline.
- Jonathan Papelbon's off-field commentary in media.
- Mark Teixiera as an impact player.
- The legitimacy of Dustin Pedroia's 2008 MVP.
- A.J. Burnett's 2009 Postseason as a pass for the rest of his tenure in pinstripes.
- J.D. Drew, generally.
- Is Pat F. writing too much about NBA and college basketball and not enough about baseball, 2010 offseason.
- Is DV writing too much about Coco Crisp and J.D. Drew, entire tenure of HYD Baseball.
- Does DV have any grasp on reality when it comes to Coco Crisp.
- The New Yankee Stadium, a real baseball park v. a joke.
- The 2009 (World Series Champion, I might add) Yankees bullpen, real depth v. a bunch of guys from SWB (this one still really makes me smile).
- Melky Cabrera.
- Brett Gardner.
- Melky Cabrera v. Brett Gardner.
- Being very careful with pitchers' workloads while they develop v. pushing them.
- 2011 Curtis Granderson v. 2011 Jacoby Ellsbury (Not that the player's vote has any huge meaning because it can be swayed by things like who they like more personally, but Granderson won the AL Most Outstanding Player on the player's ballot. Then again, the writer's vote doesn't carry much weight with me either, so the more data the better.)
- And finally, one of the biggest debates in HYD history, a buzz-name so controversial that any time it was merely mentioned on the blog the comments section went nuts and people we hadn't heard from in weeks if not months would come back to chime in...
Manny Delcarmen.

What were some of the great debates/arguments that we've had that I missed on this list (and I know there are a lot as this list was mostly off the top of my head)?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Last Word on Steroids

I'm going to try to make this quick, because I think over the past five years we've talked about it pretty much to the point of exhaustion.  We all have differing opinions on it, and I think when it comes to the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, there's a spectrum of opinions on which all of us fall a little differently.  As we're wrapping it up, I just want to summarize opinions that come from many different places:  As a professional athlete in a dirty sport, as a purist who enjoys what historical baseball statistics used to be, and as one who is not blind to the fact that people respond to incentives.  Here we go.

1.  The steroid era in baseball is largely over.  It will never be completely over until the disincentive to use is greater than the incentive to use.  As the players and owners continue to BS around about an HGH test, the disincentive (between probability of being caught and the punishment that comes when you are caught) is still lower than the incentive to use for some.  However, public outcry has probably influenced prospective PED users to be more scared to do it or more scared to actually do the math and say "what's fifty games?"

2.  The players were not the ones to blame.  Think about this:  Darnell McDonald got busted for steroids in 2005.  Can you blame him?  By juicing (or by being in an organization with a center fielder who wanted to take a year off due to sore ribs), he might get his cup of coffee in the major leagues.  You know, maybe make a couple million dollars.  By not juicing, he stays in the minors, rides buses until he's 32, and gets a real job.  If you were him, would you do it?  This is why I find it amazing that Lou Merloni, in his new Boston sports media gigs, doesn't flip out about it.  Merloni (who has admitted to doing amphetamines), was one of the guys who probably wouldn't have had so many trips between Boston and Pawtucket either if he had used himself or if nobody else did. 

The people to blame are Bud Selig and Donald Fehr, who let it happen.  And I care because in my sport, I am Lou Merloni and guys like Alene Reta, a guy who shows up to races with big money and no testing, are Manny Ramirez.

3.  Fehr and Selig deserve this on their conscience.  I hope the record books remain unchanged, as the fact that many of the record holders were in the 1990s and 2000s can be a footnote of an era of heinous, borderline-criminal mismanagement.  Cross-referencing the record books with the Hall of Fame and trying to figure out where Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa are, is further historical confirmation that these guys sucked at their jobs, particularly Fehr, because if these guys start dropping dead at 60, it's clear that he didn't work in the best interest in his constituents.

4.  The Mitchell Report was crap.  Imagine writing a term paper with one source?  Imagine being paid millions of dollars to write a term paper and only get one source?  Maybe you'd get an A at George Mitchell's alma mater, Bowdoin.  The bottom line is that Mitchell decided to tell a stupid story about the tip of the iceberg instead of either actually investigating with any kind of depth or delving into this issue.  The issue was and continues to be economic at the very core, and this very obvious fact completely glosses over the root of the problems.

This is now the seventy-sixth, and probably final, post about steroids on How Youz Doin Baseball.  I feel that we covered more ground and made more progress than almost anywhere else.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The More Things Change

The more they stay the same.

As we wind down our fifth and final year on HYD, I've been thinking a lot about how things were for the Yankees and Red Sox the year we started this site. While some things have undoubtedly changed, it's interesting how many things haven't. Let's take a look.

The Red Sox missed the playoffs in 2006, and again in 2011. The Yankees made the playoffs both years.

The Yankees are still getting (varying degrees of) high level production from Rivera and Jeter.

The Red Sox are still looking for a replacement for Trot Nixon.

The Red Sox are still looking for a replacement for Nomar Garciaparra. I know they've had some guys do some good things in short spurts (including Scutaro this year), but it's amazing how unable they have been to fill such a key position for so long.

An intriguing Japanese starting pitcher was posted in 2006 in Daisuke Matsuzaka. It wasn't the first time this had happened, but it was the first time it created that kind of frenzy. The second time such a frenzy will be created is if Yu Darvish is posted this winter.

In 2006 the Yankees were trying to find a #2 pitcher to pitch behind Chien-Ming Wang. In 2011 the Yankees are trying to find a #2 pitcher to pitch behind C.C. Sabathia. I hope they are as successful in that quest as they were finding Andy Pettitte five years ago.

The Yankees, for all their regular seasons dominance (And it has been dominant, Cashman's .605 winning percentage since 1998 is the highest of any GM with at least 5 seasons in one organization since 1950. Think about playing .600+ ball as an organization for 14 years!) are still trying to figure out a way to dominate the playoffs in the same fashion. Unfortunately, it just doesn't seem t work that way. Which is part of what makes baseball beautiful. Once October starts, all bets are off. The Tigers eliminiated the Yankees in 2006, and again in 2011 despite being inferior regular season teams both times.

Alex Rodriguez stuggled in the postseason in 2006, and again in 2011. This is about the things that have stayed the same, but his postseason struggles have gotten so much attention over the course of this site it is worth noting two major changes to subcategories of this "stayed the same". 1. He has company now in Mark Teixeira, who is nearly as high profile and has struggled just as mightily for three straight postseasons now. 2. And much, much, much more importantly is that any postseason struggles are no longer a big deal. And that is because he put together one of the best individual Octobers in the history of this game, leading the Yankees to the one World Series they won during this site's tenure.

The Yankees were excited about Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy in 2006. They are excited about Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances now.

Jacoby Ellsbury was a prospect in 2006. He's somehow maintained prospect status five years later.

All of the stuff we've covered, discussed, and argued about the last five years has been a lot of fun. It's good to see, as we shut things down, that many of those same things are still there to cover, discuss, and argue about.

What else stayed the same from when we started this site until now?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

This Still Counts As Looking Back

At this pace, we will never shut down the way we are supposed to.  Although my vacation between this upcoming Friday and the following Wednesday might not coincide with my posting the most important final posts, so it's not necessarily a bad thing.

With Dan Duquette landing a job in Baltimore, it is necessary to look back at his time in Boston, even though it also pre-dates the How Youz Doin era.  Might also be something that we all want to talk about on a Monday.  Especially given that Duquette, one of the more polarizing figures in Boston sports since most of our readers were old enough to follow sports, just got a three-year job as the general manager of the Baltimore Orioles.

I have a couple of interesting connections to Duquette.  A lot of my former co-workers later worked for him, and he's also friends with my godfather.  I'm not interested in protecting people though; as I have been for the last five years, I'm interested in rabblerousing across the internet.  However, being as objective as possible here, I can't hammer Dan Duquette, but on the other end, I'm not part of that camp who is so anti-Theo that they're crediting the 2004 and 2007 World Series to Duquette or protecting Duquette.

The way I see it, Duquette was average, no more, no less.  He's not as good as Theo Epstein.  He's not as good as Andrew Friedman.  He's better than Brian Sabean, Omar Minaya, or Steve Phillips.  The few times I've met him, he did not seem to be the prickly character he's made out to be; just a socially-awkward guy who could very easily rub people the wrong way.  Definitely not the kind of guy who could easily go toe to toe with Scott Boras.  The grown-up version of that ultra-nerd in middle school who knew all those baseball stats, got picked on a lot, but didn't know how to talk to anyone.  You know, but didn't grow up to find a moderate amount of talent in distance running and didn't have the kind of writing acumen or passion to create a 1600-post baseball blog with a classmate from college. 

When we talk about trading for Pedro Martinez and signing Manny Ramirez, the following criticism is something that people criticized Theo Epstein for.  It DOES NOT TAKE ANY SHREWDNESS to look at the guy with the best stats of everyone either on the trade or free agent market and throw the world at him.  There's no skill involved in writing $200 million checks.  Beyond that, his best acquisitions were not in Boston; they were in Montreal.  Finding Ramon Martinez's little brother and trading Delino DeShields was smart, but trading for Ramon's little brother a second time was a little more obvious.  He did turn the Red Sox from their 1992-1993 disaster mode to the 1995 AL East champions pretty quickly, and this high is really something that the Red Sox have not come back down from.  Tim Wakefield and Tom Gordon were good aquisitions; Jose Offerman's on-base percentage was not.  Bringing in Heathcliff Slocumb was good; getting rid of him after riding the hot hand was fantastic because what they got back were two minor leaguers named Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek.  Troy O'Leary wasn't exactly David Ortiz, but you could still argue that his impact was better than Coco Crisp's.

At the same time, the 1996 team was pretty mediocre.  The 1997 team was borderline bad (when Tim C once gave me a quiz of "name the Opening Day rosters," I scored the worst on the 1997 team, but Shane Mack and Bill Haselman might not register as household names).  And the 2000 and 2001 teams were just not compatible with each other, which was a symptom of about 50 years of Boston teams, the mid-2000s Yankees teams, and the 2009-2011 Red Sox as well.

His player development:  Also not stellar.  Obviously you can cite Nomar, Youkilis, Hanley Ramirez, and Freddy Sanchez, and you can also throw in Carl Pavano and Adam Everett.  But to Theo Epstein's credit, he put through more similar-impact players in half the time (and we're yet to see the fruits of his later labor).  But for every Youkilis or Pavano, you have about five Wilton Verases and Brian Roses.  Guys Theo would call "fake prospects."  Although, to his credit, the 1994 Expos, many of which were "his" players, were on top when Donald Fehr and Bud Selig "f***ed everything up" (wow, an NBA strike reference?).

You can't talk about Duquette, however, without mentioning four notable tactical F-ups:  Kevin Kennedy, Roger Clemens, Mo Vaughn, and More Days in First Place.  I actually didn't know about Kennedy until reading the paper this morning, but the GM and manager were at each other's throats.  Clemens being in the "twilight of his career" pissed off the player and killed those negotations.  Sorry, Tom Gordon didn't fill that gap, and Clemens went "closer to home" by crossing a border into the most inconvenient place to play in the American League.  Mo Vaughn was not entirely Duquette's fault (nobody in their right mind would give a big fat guy the money Anaheim gave him), but saying that signing Jose Offerman (who could no longer steal bases) to "replace his on-base percentage" was perhaps the first time the sabermetric school of thinking was used inappropriately and condescendingly.  Saying the Red Sox had more days in first place than the Yankees was glorifying early performance and discounting a full 162, which is what really matters:  Perhaps Dave "Mr. May" Winfield had more days atop the AL leaderboard when playing for New York in the 80s.

Look, the Baltimore Orioles have some problems:  Being in the AL East, having an idiot as an owner, having a power-hungry manager.  The idiot owner, however, is willing to spend a couple of bucks.  He also has a good core of players, though they're starting to near those arbitration and free-agency years.  Duquette is a few moves and a little bit of player development away from making the O's respectable.  Even in their previous configuration, they were in the right direction.  It's up to him to not drive them off the road.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Keith Foulke Appreciation Post

I've had the Internet as my platform for the past five years, and as you all know, we are stepping away in a few weeks.  We started doing this a little while after Keith Foulke threw his last pitch in Boston, so I never really got to broadcast this opinion when it was pertinent.  So before I sign off, I have to put it out there:  Keith Foulke deserves your adulation.

I will never forget the infamous "Johnny from Burger King" game on June 28th because I was there.  After a really disheartening, deflating game that was really, for all intents and purposes, the end of Keith Foulke's career in Boston, I got some disheartening girl-related news on a bus ride home with a large group.  Let's say it was tantamount to Jose Contreras signing somewhere else, minus the creepy parallel of renting out every other room in his hotel room.  This news pretty much reinforced the way I already felt after the game.  It was not enfuriating.  It was not maddening.  It was just a deflating, disappointing, disheartening game.  They had a commanding lead over a crappy Indians team, not mailing it in after being down 3-0 and 4-3 to go up 8-5 in the sixth.  Then Timlin coughed up some runs, then Foulke blew the save, and then Foulke gave up a grand slam to Travis Hafner.  After ending the inning, Foulke was booed off the field, while I was in a minority who was just flat-out upset.

The pitcher took offense to it and said, after the game, that he didn't think he deserved to get booed by "Johnny from Burger King."  Unlike Youkilis, he didn't complain about his privacy.  Unlike Ortiz, he didn't complain about his contract.  Unlike Adrian Gonzalez, he didn't blame ESPN's Sunday Night schedule.  He was just frustrated.  Unlike JD Drew, he actually cared about playing well on the field, and unlike 46, he actually gave a crap that he let his team down.  Honestly, the infamous "Johnny from Burger King" comment sounded more like Jonathan "The Only Accountable Red Sox" Papelbon than anything else.  He had pitched the entire season injured, and had two knee surgeries after the season.

I thought Keith Foulke deserved a little better than what he got that night, considering (especially looking back on it) he sacrificed his career to win the 2004 World Series. 

Say what you want about pink hats - and I have - but this was returning to pre-2004 vitriol from Red Sox fans.  And it was just plain not justified, because he left his arm and his legs in 2004.  It was evident by May 2005 that he had little to anything left, and we had just watched the ERA creep up and up and up until the June 28th implosion.  Eight months earlier, Foulke threw literally 250 maximum-leverage pitches in three weeks (did John Lackey do that at all this year?) from a frame the size of Rheal Cormier's.  Daniel Bard would have balked during half of these situations just so he could vomit on the side of the mound. 

Foulke also got the job done both before his Red Sox career and during the 2004 regular season.  He was key in stabilizing Chicago's bullpen, and he was one of the original Moneyball guys when he went to Oakland in 2003.  He was effective, and he provided stability in that bullpen after Theo Epstein and Bill James's "Bullpen By Committee" experiment, Byung-Hyun Kim, and not a hint of stability since (another undersized guy) Tom Gordon blew his arm out against the Atlanta Braves.  He absolutely should have won 2004 World Series MVP as a culmination of his postseason performance that very well may stack up (if you're into comparing apples and oranges) of any single Derek Jeter postseason.

I understand the hate of Johnny Damon, although I think a lot of it is misdirected (more on that later on).  But there's no reason Keith Foulke should have gotten the same treatment.  For Foulke, it was one comment.  And he gave you his career.

Foulke was also a success story because he sort of was the Dustin Pedroia of relief pitchers.  He was completely undersized, his fastball may have hit 90 at the peak of his career, but he just somehow found a way to get guys out.  Your guess is as good as mine had he stayed healthy - whether he'd continue to do what he did or whether he'd get "figured out" a la Okajima.  But he didn't because he sacrificed his career in October, 2004.  He did it for his teammates.  He did it for the World Series.  And yes, Johnny from Burger King, he did it for you.

So Keith Foulke, from one fan out in Section 31 that night who was more upset than inclined to hammer you (and if I had a blog back then, I'd probably feel the same way), I just want to say thanks.  It may be a small place on the Internet, but your accomplishments, your attitude, your passion toward your job, your career-long body of work, and - most importantly, your sacrifice - are appreciated.

CC and Yankees Do The Right Thing

Note:  Pat wrote this one on Monday night.  Sorry for the delay.

The agreement that C.C. Sabathia and the Yankees came to really could not have worked out much better. It was one of those rare situations in sports negotiations these days where each side gave a little monetarily to get what they really wanted. The Yankees wanted Sabathia to stay, and Sabathia wanted to stay. As a result, the Yankees gave Sabathia more money, but not nearly as much as he likely would have gotten - from them or someone else - had he opted out.

Proceeding in this fashion speaks well of both Sabathia and the Yankees, as both spared themselves the drama that comes with a player opting out and free agency in general. The Yankees didn't take a hard line stance on the remainder of the contract, daring Sabathia to find more on the open market, and potentially straining relations. Rather, they recognized both the importance of Sabathia to the team and the fact that opting out - and getting more money - was his contractual right. It made a lot of sense to give him that money before he hit the open market, because he was going to get it no matter what. In addition to retaining Sabathia, they likely saved themsleves a good deal of money by going this route as well.

Sabathia's actions in this process were just further proof that he is one of the true class acts in this game today. He's long had this reputation on (his September with Milwaukee, carring the Yankees in the 2009 playoffs, etc.) and off (his extremely generous work giving back to the community, his presence in the clubhouse as a leader and a unifier) the field. And this only added to it. This opt out was his contractual right. It was written into his contract for a reason. He had no obligation to do anything but what was best for him. He pitched his tail off for the Yankees for three years and won a ring, and if he watned to test what else was out there and seek top dollar good for him. I don't care how much money you have, when you are talking about an extra $10 or $20 or $30 million that's something most anybody would consider. Athletes are not barred from being capitalists, after all.

But C.C. was happy to meet in the middle. He knew his value was beyond the 4 years and $92 million remaining on his contract, but finding out what his maximum value is wasn't most important to him. He clearly likes it in New York, and he clearly cares about the opportunity to win every year. He didn't have any interest in free agent drama in search of the last dollar. He cares about his family being happy, his teammates, and winning. He doesn't have time for all that other stuff, as long as he's getting something close to reflective of what he's worth.

That's what this deal represents. With all the things we complain about in this game in terms of people seeking money over team, it was refreshing to get a different result here. Much like it was when Rivera's extension went so smoothly last winter. Especially from two guys who are truly two of the elite performers in the game, and could have had teams clamoring for their services on the open market. It's a relative analysis, because both players still got a lot of money. But within the relativity of the amount of money elite baseball players make, C.C., like Rivera, made a showing of loyalty with how he conducted himself. That he cares about being here and about winning. As a fan, that's what you want.

The Yankees showed him loyalty in return. They know how important he is to them and they wanted to make it clear how much they wanted him to stay here. It's fitting, at least for me, that this is likely the last deal I will cover for HYD. This site was born, in part, out of DV's and my complaining about the moves our teams made in the early-middle part of this decade. Deals that were, really, the opposite of how this one went down. Drama-filled, not as mutually beneficial, over-spending on players that weren't worth it, etc. This deal really is phenomenal, and is just another reason why C.C. Sabathia is one of my five favorite Yankees of All-Time, a spot he earned before he was two months into his first regular season with the Yankees. He has that "it" factor, that extra level of compete that separates him from most of the field, that leadership, and that talent. It's awesome having him on the Yankees, and I'm thrilled he's back.