Joe Torre was on Mike’d Up with Mike Francesa this afternoon discussing his book, The Yankee Years. The interview itself wasn’t all that engaging, to be honest. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I miss Chris Russo. Here’s the link if anyone’s interested: Podcast of Torre Interview.
Because Mike Francesa was on WFAN doing his Super Bowl quiz to give away two free tickets to the game and he was then going into regurgitated stories of Presidential Inaugurations past—-complete with the required embellishments to stories that may or may not be anywhere close to accurate—-I flipped onto The Michael Kay Show on ESPN Radio. The story of the day on that end of the dial was the upcoming Kirk Ramomski interview with Jeremy Schapp on Sunday. Radomski is beginning a publicity tour for a book that he has attached to his name regarding baseball’s performance enhancing drug scandal. Kay took this opportunity to go into a rant about Brian McNamee and Roger Clemens.
In Kay’s obtuse mind, Radomski is one of the main culprits of the introduction to steroids and HGH in the world of baseball. The fractured logic that Kay uses seems to imply that if Radomski hadn’t been in the Mets clubhouse, then there wouldn’t have been the number of players using the drugs. This is ridiculous on so many levels that it’s not even worth refuting, but the crux of the matter is that, like any drug dealer (or arms dealer or whatever dealer), they’re operating a business just like anyone else; that business relies on customers; if the businessman (in this case, Radomski) isn’t there, the clientele is going to find another source for his goods. Are you going to sit there and tell me that if Radomski wasn’t a provider of the goods that these major league players wouldn’t have been able to find a quacking, starstruck doctor to write them prescriptions for whatever they needed and formulate a series of canned symptoms to justify the use of the drugs if asked? It’s like blaming a gun for shooting someone; or McDonalds for a guy gaining 50 pounds after eating the food three times a week.
Then, Kay started in on Brian McNamee. While mentioning that he thinks Roger Clemens is lying and how he wished it weren’t so, Kay began a fictional account of what the participants were thinking in justifying their actions after the scandal came out. Regarding the Debbie Clemens issue of having been the one (according to Roger) to use HGH, Kay said that had that been him and McNamee was in the Clemens bedroom injecting (the double entiendre was part of the rant, intentionally or not) his wife, he would’ve “ripped McNamee’s head off”. Then after the investigators went to McNamee, Kay’s yarn extended to McNamee “wanting Clemens dead” for bringing McNamee’s son’s illness into the public eye and trying to discredit McNamee with the recorded conversation that was designed to prop up Clemens’s account, but actually made Clemens look worse.
No one can know what’s really going through the mind of Brian McNamee during this whole mess. If I were to come up with a scenario that’s more realistic and less melodramatic than that of Michael Kay, it would go something like this: McNamee was a flunky for Roger Clemens; he worked for him; did his bidding and got to make a good amount of money and use the relationship to further his own personal dealings. It was a cycle. McNamee worked with Clemens and Andy Pettitte, therefore McNamee was a training “expert” because he wouldn’t be working with such highly compensated athletes if he didn’t know what he was doing. Doing Clemens’s bidding meant acquiring the drugs that rejuvenated Clemens’s faltering career. When the investigators came to McNamee with the questions and evidence of Clemens’s complicity in the scandal, McNamee protected him until he was threatened with jail time if he didn’t come clean, and he did what he needed to do rather than continue to protect a guy who was more of a convenient business associate than friend.
The idea that Clemens was going to rip anyone’s head off is ignoring the way Clemens behaved throughout his career. Does anyone remember Clemens being a participant in one of the bench clearing fights that he started with his proclivity to throw the beanball? Whenever something happened Clemens was the epitome of the guy who starts a fight and is either hidden by a wall of teammates as he screamed over their heads at the other team, or if a fight did start, Clemens was crawling out from under the pile and heading for the nearest exit. Everything with Kay ends with him talking about how he grew up in a tough neighborhood and his resolution to any conflict is physical violence, but guys like Clemens who act like a tough cowboy but deep down have the constitution of wet toilet paper are always the strong, silent John Wayne-style tough guy until confronted with someone who’s ready to drop the gloves and throw their hands in the air, then the real Roger Clemens comes out.
People always wondered what would’ve happened had Mike Piazza charged Clemens in the World Series after Clemens heaved the broken bat toward Piazza; had Piazza not thought about the team and that they needed him in the game rather than getting ejected for getting into a fight. After the way Clemens has humiliated himself hiding behind his wife, lying, blaming everyone other than himself for his predicament, does anyone really wonder what would’ve happened? Clemens would’ve turned tail and ran because that’s what Roger Clemens does.
Kay’s fictional stories—-formulated while the actors in his play are distracted by their own issues—-is silly by itself, but when you wonder what Kay would say if these people were sitting in front of him, it becomes even more embarrassing. It’s easy to unload on someone when they’re nowhere near you and will probably never be anywhere near you, but what would be the reaction if there were ever a confrontation between the two? Would Kay pull a Chris Russo—-(Remember him? He used to be on the radio.)—-and hem, haw and provide alibis for his unwillingness to make his comments to the person directly?*
Russo was well-known for his cheap shots when he was safe in his studio, but when interviewing those people, he cowered in the corner and received well-earned ridicule. Last year’s Super Bowl was a prime example of this when he unleashed on Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson for not playing in the AFC Championship Game and proceeded to bury his face in Tomlinson’s butt during the interview and not even ask about the Championship Game. When called on it by callers regarding the matter, Russo acknowldged that he’d done a “bad job”, but added the embarrassingly nonsensical caveat that Tomlinson had a bodyguard behind him and Russo wasn’t sure if said bodyguard was armed. So he thought that he was going to get shot if he asked a couple of tough questions and stood by what he said when he was in his studio?
It’s not easy to make these courageous, opinionated statements when the object of those statements is standing in front of you—-I don’t know how I’d react if I were in that situation, but nor do I take cheap shots as Russo did—-but if you want to have any credibility and stand by your convictions, you have to engage these people directly rather than using the studio as a protective cloak.
This whole episode is absurd. Everyone knows that Roger Clemens is desperately trying to save his place in history and fighting a losing battle. McNamee—-a squirrelly, hunched and furtive-looking character—-is easy to question. He’s had various character issues for years, but Clemens isn’t exactly this bastion of character himself as has been proven by the dirty laundry that’s been aired since this whole thing started; and his reactions to the entire mess has diminished to nothing the sense of honor he tried to portray throughout his career even if his teammates snickered at the hypocrisy of the public face (and in Clemens’s defense, his teammates have always loved him and considered him a good teammate).
The idea that these fictional accounts created by the likes of Michael Kay as a way of defending Clemens and promulgating Kay’s self-created rough-and-tumble image are in any way accurate is similar to a young boy formulating a cover story for a broken window to protect a friend, except most boys grow out of the storytelling stage and take things as they are (if they have any form of intelligence), unfortunately Kay hasn’t gotten to that point yet and if history is a judge, presumably never will.
Clemens made his own mess and no amount of bad fiction is going to repair it because he’s been caught; he’s cornered and he’s still not man enough to admit what he did; the idea that he has convinced himself that he didn’t do anything wrong is an O.J. Simpson-style defense of “it’s not my fault”; Clemens knows what he did; he perjured himself; he dragged his wife into this; he ruined his reputation not by using the drugs (as most everyone else in baseball evidently was), but by lying; no matter how shady McNamee, Radomski and whoever else is involved in this is, nothing’s going to change that and that’s no story; that’s fact.
- The buffoon strikes without warning:
While driving yesterday, I flipped onto ESPN Radio for a moment and tuned in just in time to hear Michael Kay ridiculing the Mets signing of Tim Redding (more on this momentarily) by engaging with a Mets fan he has as one of his cohorts. Kay’s reaction was a (justifiable) shrug of the impact a journeyman like Redding’s going to have for a team like the Mets; but then you can hear the underlying arrogance of an individual who seems to think he’s part of the Yankees front office or a member of their fan club rather than an “impartial” observer.
With Kay, John Sterling, Suzyn Waldman, George King of the NY Post and the other Yankees flag wavers and apologists, there’s an open mocking of other teams who make moves based on their own budgetary parameters rather than throwing boatloads of money at their problems and see it as smart personnel decisions. It’s very easy to fill one’s holes when spending a half billion dollars in guaranteed money; and the Yankees did make two very strong signings in C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira—-players from whom they can reasonably predict what kind of results they’re going to get. One cannot say the same about the rolling of the dice with A.J. Burnett, paying him $82 million in the faint hope that he’s suddenly going to stay healthy at ages 32-37.
After finally getting out from under the financial albatross of Carl Pavano, they threw more money at an even bigger question mark with an even more pockmarked physical history. Given the massive mistakes that the Yankees have made with other big name free agent pitchers, signing Burnett has a much bigger likelihood of being another Pavano than he does of being the 18-game winner he was in 2008. None of this is relevant to the initial premise of Michael Kay’s partisanship. There’s an undertone of “we” in his analysis as he gloats over what the Yankees have “accomplished” in the off-season in comparison to the Mets and it’s like fingernails on the chalkboard every…single…year.
I hate getting into these partisan back-and-forths because they’re a slippery slope and a waste of time. I’ve mentioned before the imbecile who called up Mike and the Mad Dog and tried to draw comparisons to the charity work the Yankees did to that of the Mets after 9/11; it’s like when Sean Hannity talked about the number of democrats who were looking at adult material on congressional computers in comparison to that of republicans. Hannity’s argument was that the republicans may have been looking at it (I just typed a Freudian slip when using the word “it” that I had to correct, but you can pretty much guess what it was) as well, just not as much. In short, it’s pointless, but like Michael Corleone in Godfather III, just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!
- Mets sign Tim Redding to 1-year, $2.25 million contract:
“Um, that’s….great?” Paul said with an indifferent, whatever shrug and bewildered countenance.
- Another addition to the department of “Uh, why?”:
Royals sign Willie Bloomquist to a 2-year contract: The Royals are well on their way to becoming permanent residents of this department (located in the basement next to the cubicle of Milton Waddams and his red stapler). Just like a girl that one meets in a bar that either looks good after two Long Island Iced Teas or is in the category of “after 1 AM whatever comes along”, I’ve bailed on Royals GM Dayton Moore like he was the Hindenburg.
Rob Neyer ripped this signing on his blog and I have to agree completely. Not only is Bloomquist a guy you can find as a non-roster invitee on a minor league contract, but the Royals gave him a 2-year, $3.1 million contract. WHY?!?
This is after Moore traded two useful relievers for other players you can find cheaply in Mike Jacobs and Coco Crisp; and he gave two years and nearly $10 million to Kyle Farnsworth and $2 million to Horacio Ramirez. It’s starting to look like Moore is the mediocre journeyman player agent’s dream; the guy to go to after everything else falls through and getting a deal that the agent and player could equate with winning the lottery.
The reasons presented by Moore for signing him are as follows (along with rebuttals from me):
“He’ll create competition on the field, which is a good thing,”
Competition is only a good thing if the players are, well, good.
“He’s an on-base guy, a speed-type player and a hustler,” Moore said.
“He’s a Craig Counsell-type who really plays hard, hustles and knows
how to play.”
Last season was the only year of his career that Bloomquist’s on base percentage was over .321 with a .377 posting, but that was in 190 plate appearances. It’s nice that he hustles, but don’t they have some guys in the minors who hustle as well who’d cost, y’know, the league minimum? And if Bloomquist decided not to hustle, it’d be the equivalent of deciding he didn’t want to play baseball anymore because he wouldn’t have a job.
“He’s never really been an everyday player, but he’s always had good
people ahead of him like [center fielder Mike] Cameron, [shortstop
Yuniesky] Betancourt and [second baseman] Jose Lopez,” Moore said.
Bloomquist has never been an everyday player because he’s never been good enough to warrant being an everyday player, not because of the players in front of him.
“He’s a winner, he has versatility and he’s a very good offensive player,” Moore said.
Maybe he’s versatile, but a winner? A “very good offensive player”? The guy’s had 58 extra base hits out of his 330 career hits and only 6 homers; this is a “very good offensive player”?
The Royals aren’t just going backwards from their somewhat promising 2008, they’re plummeting; and these signings are going to create a team that’s closer to the Pirates than the Rays. These decisions aren’t just bewildering, they’re inexplicable and Moore’s well on his way to losing his job, deservedly so. If I were a conspiracy theorist-type, I’d investigate a Major League -style backroom deal to formulate a team that would finish dead last so the Royals could get out of their stadium lease and move the franchise to the Cayman Islands; short of that, I can’t see any reason for the moves they’ve made; they look eerily similar to that fictional Cleveland Indians team from the 1989 movie, but I wouldn’t expect a similar Hollywood result.
- Don’t blame me, I didn’t do it!
A kind soul linked my blog during a series of comments on ESPN.com about Xavier Nady. This is a note to point out the fact that, to quote Krusty the Klown: “Don’t blame me, I didn’t do it!”
- Red Sox about to sign John Smoltz:
Let’s see if I understand the way the Braves are thinking: they offer a load of money for the completely unreliable A.J. Burnett and whiff; they try and trade for Jake Peavy, whose motion is one of these days going to cause his arm to go flying off his shoulder along with the ball; they’re seriously considering bringing back a shot Tom Glavine; they tried desperately to sign Rafael Furcal, when they need pitching (starters and relievers) far more than they need another bat (and wasted an extraordinary amount of energy throwing a justified tantrum after they were seemingly used by the Furcal camp); have expressed little-to-no interest in the productive Derek Lowe; and now they’re letting their longtime playoff hero and loyal Brave John Smoltz leave for the Red Sox—-MLB.com Story—-for a $5.5 million base and reachable incentives that would push it to a very affordable (especially for a pitcher of Smoltz’s stature and with his history), $10 million.
Is that about right?
The Braves are running their team backwards. Even with Smoltz’s arm surgery and questionable return, there are two ways of looking at this: the Braves don’t think Smoltz will be able to come back; or they were asleep at the switch under the assumption that Smoltz wouldn’t really leave and let the Red Sox swoop in with a better chance to win and a more enthusiastic pursuit and lost him.
With most pitchers, the wear-and-tear on the arm of Smoltz and repeated surgeries would make his departure a business decision; but Smoltz isn’t most pitchers. He’s one of the best overall athletes to ever pull on a baseball uniform (just ask him); he’s come back many times from arm injuries to return to the form that made him both a top starter and a top closer (just ask him); and his courage and determination make him a solid bet to not only come back as a decent starter, but as the same pitcher he was from 2005-2007 when he returned to the rotation from the bullpen and logged 666 innings and won 44 games (just ask him).
For the Braves, Smoltz would’ve been the number two starter; for the Red Sox—-with their lineup and bullpen—-he’ll be a veteran at the back of the rotation and could possibly win 16-18 games while being a viable starter for games 1, 2 or 3 of a playoff series. Along with Brad Penny, this is the second brilliant, short-term signing the Red Sox have made in the past week and will counteract the Yankees half-a-billion dollar spending spree and more. Maybe the Braves didn’t think Smoltz would leave; maybe they were too busy stewing over what happened with Furcal; or maybe Smoltz saw the writing on the wall with the Braves and that the creme-de-la-creme of organizations that the Braves once were is no longer as such. With all the money, the Braves were throwing at Burnett, they couldn’t match the Red Sox offer for Smoltz, who might in fact have taken less to stay in Atlanta?
The disastrous off-season continues for the Braves and much of it is of their own making. They were hoping they’d be able to challenge the Marlins, Mets and Phillies in the NL East, but at this rate, they’ll be lucky to hold off the Nationals, and I doubt that’s what they had in mind when the season ended.
- Harold Reynolds is becoming the studio version of Joe Morgan:
Very few broadcasters have the ability to make me stop what I’m doing as I’m half-listening to what they’re saying, crumple up my forehead, look around in bewilderment and go, “What?!?”, as Joe Morgan does, but Harold Reynolds is well on his way to proving that the more things you say, the more likely you are to say something stupid.
As Reynolds, Al Leiter and the other guys were discussing the Athletics signing of Jason Giambi, Reynolds went on about how A’s boss Billy Beane has had to change with the times and adjust the way the Athletics are running their club; he mentioned the way they were categorized in Moneyball as drafting “only” college players and eschewing high schoolers for the older and closer to physically mature college athletes. Reynolds then said that the college players are (I’m paraphrasing from memory) “closer to arbitration eligibility, making them more expensive and closer to free agency”. The premise of what he was saying was wrong on so many levels and it seemed like he’d stopped thinking about what he was saying in the midst of saying it.
The first mistake that people make is believing that everything portrayed in Moneyball is sacrosanct and irrefutably accurate. The second is (if I’m not mistaken about the contract rules) is that the clock doesn’t start ticking on the free agency/arbitration eligibility until they’re on the 40-man roster. Whether they were drafted out of high school or college has nothing to do with anything. Then the physical maturity factor is taken so far out of context that it’s absurd. How many high schoolers make it to the big leagues at age 19 or 20? Usually it’s either a kid who was signed when he was 16 from the Dominican Republic, or a top draft pick for a team like the Diamondbacks or Marlins that’s willing to give those young players a chance to play in the majors at a young age.
A college player is usually closer to big league ready because most of his physical skills are apparent and developed; they just need to be tweaked to adjust to pro ball. A high schooler is a long-term proposition. The main reason Beane was said to prefer the college players is that they were more readily available to help the big league club more quickly and their physical development was complete. Reynolds’s entire theory made no sense and he just kept on with it as if there’s been some radical departure from what Beane supposedly believed in the first place and that’s just not the case because Moneyball itself was inaccurate.
The MLB Network had better cut back on Reynolds’s time in front of the camera or have him formulate his thoughts in a more organized fashion before saying them because if he’s heading into the realm of Joe Morgan, it’s the last place he wants to go if he still wants people to listen attentively to what he’s saying at all.
I have no doubt that the Giants would like to bring Manny Ramirez in to play left field and add his power bat to their anemic lineup while simultaneously taking him away from the Dodgers, but there are lots of things I’d like to do that are unfeasible for one reason or another (many of which because I’m engaged). The big question is whether Manny’s demands for money and a long-term contract will go low enough for the Giants to be able to afford to bring him aboard.
Even though the Giants aren’t cheap on the level of the Padres or Marlins (it’d probably be more accurate to call the Marlins “frugal”), they don’t they spend the money that teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets and Tigers do. If there’s a player they want and they feel it’s a good idea at the time, the Giants step up to the plate and open up their checkbook. The Barry Zito signing was an example; it hasn’t worked out so far, but they did jump to the front of the line to get the player they felt would ensure a smooth transition from the Barry Bonds-era.
At the beginning of the 2008 season, the Giants payroll was $76 million, which placed them 17th in the majors. The departures of Omar Vizquel and Rich Aurilia have already been mitigated and more by the signings of Randy Johnson, Edgar Renteria and Jeremy Affeldt; Barry Zito’s salary jumps $4 million in 2009; and they could save a few bucks by dealing a Bengie Molina to the Mets (for example) for Brian Schneider. Then, if they’re willing to raise payroll into the $90+ million range, they might be able to slide Manny in for a couple of years; but for the four years that Manny wants? I can’t see it.
There’s been discussion that part of the reason that teams are unwilling to give Manny such a long term deal is because his defense is going to decline as he gets older; I can’t believe that a team like the Giants is going to worry about Manny’s defense in left field if he hits 40 homers and drives in 130 runs; they lived with the statue named Bonds out there for so long, who by the end was so bulky and his lower body was so decayed that he was barely able to bend over to pick up a base hit; and when Manny has it in his head to play defense (as rare as that is), he’s actually quite serviceable. The big problem is money.
If the Giants were in a similar position as they were when they signed Zito, then I’d say they’d be all in with Manny and give him the four years he wants; but they’re not. If they’re sitting there and hoping that the Dodgers wait too long and Manny gets irritated and impatient enough to say that he’s going to the Giants to get the most money he can and stick it to the Dodgers as he stuck it to the Red Sox as retribution for whatever happened in Manny’s addled mind, then they’re going to be out of luck; with the Dodgers agreeing to restructure Andruw Jones’s contract as a precursor to a parting of the ways between the parties, they’ll have the money to get Manny back and that’s what I expect to happen, the Giants “interest” notwithstanding.
- Speaking of Andruw Jones:
Here’s something that’s forgotten amidst all the talk of Andruw Jones’s decline from MVP candidate and future Hall of Famer into a guy who didn’t hit much better than I could’ve last season—-he’s only going to be 32-years-old in April.
The idea that Jones is completely finished at that age is silly. If he shows up in shape; makes a commitment to being ready to play and getting himself another big contract, then he absolutely can make a comeback.
It’s highly unlikely—-for one reason or another*—-that Jones is ever going to be the player that he was in 2005 and 2006 when he hit 92 homers, but if he gets back to fighting weight, he’ll again be the ballhawk in center field that was quite possibly the best defensive center fielder we’ve ever seen; he’ll hit his 25 or so homers and be a good player for a good team. I’m not ready to say that Andruw Jones is finished.
Once he and the Dodgers sever ties, Jones affordability will lead to some interesting scenarios. Will he wind up with a previously mentioned team that doesn’t want to spend any money like the Padres or Marlins? Will the Cardinals want to take a chance on him? Or perhaps two teams that could use a bat and a center fielder might want to roll the dice on him; I’m specifically referring to the Red Sox and Yankees. If both want to take a chance on Jones, that could set-up a potentially interesting bidding war, which would be unprecedented for a guy who hit .158 last season.
I don’t think the Red Sox are all that thrilled with the power production from Jacoby Ellsbury last season and having traded Coco Crisp and whiffed on Mark Teixeira, they could absolutely be interested in bringing Jones in on the cheap and hoping that he’s motivated to replenish his image. Ellsb
ury, despite his sweet swing, may never be anything more than a slightly more heralded version of Jason Tyner and that’s not going to cut it. Even if they decide to sign a guy like Jones as a fourth outfielder, the injury history of J.D. Drew would give Jones at least 175 at bats as a backup right fielder.
The Red Sox may not have had any intention of trading from their supposed “surplus” had they nabbed Teixeira. The Teixeira signing might have resulted in the moving of Drew to center field and Kevin Youkilis to right. With Teixeira going to the Yankees, a rejuvenated Jones would be a defensive ace in center field and hit with the power the Red Sox feel they need at the position.
As for the Yankees, they were after Mike Cameron, but didn’t get him and the only member of the organization that is anything but lukewarm to the prospect of Brett Gardner as the everyday center fielder seems to be manager Joe Girardi, and his say-so isn’t that high on the Yankee-ometer at this point. I’m just not buying that they’re going to go into the season with Gardner as their center fielder. Much as they stated the intentions of going with Bubba Crosby in center field in 2005-2006 and Mike Lamb at third base in 2004, they turned around and made some splashy acquisitions to fill those holes that they insisted didn’t exist when they signed Johnny Damon and traded for Alex Rodriguez. Jim Edmonds would be a low-cost alternative, but the idea of Andruw Jones, with his defense and price, would also be something in which the Yankees might have interest.
After the back-and-forth with Teixeira, it’d be pretty funny to see the factions fighting over Andruw Jones.
- Under-reported reasons to like Mitch Williams:
It’s occasionally the most surprising guys who become very good, insightful broadcasters. Whereas there are the Boomer Esiasons of the world who were laying the foundation for their post-career move to the booth while still in college and are so self-centered and narcissistic that they tell you how good they are without having any actual skills to back it up…*
*I was in the car last April and was listening to Boomer interviewing New Jersey Devils coach Brent Sutter; Boomer had to point out to Sutter that he (Boomer) is a Rangers fan and added the comment (I’m paraphrasing from memory), “I’m a Rangers fan, as I’m sure you know.” Let me say right here that Brent Sutter barely even knows who Boomer Esiason is, let alone knows what hockey team he roots for; nor would Sutter care even if he did know.
…then there are the guys who were a little wild when they were players, but turn into outside-the-box thinkers who aren’t afraid to let people know those opinions in an interesting way. Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams is one such broadcaster.
I was watching him on the Hot Stove Report on the MLB Network and he was organized, thoughtful, intelligent and had a point-of-view other than what he thought the viewers or players would want to hear. Another aspect of Williams that might endear him to those that are as allergic to crap as I am is the perceptive abilities he showed when he saw right through the shtick of Curt Schilling when they were teammates with the Phillies and Schilling was a young, fledgling self-promoter drawing attention to himself with his antics and mouth.
Williams was open in the fact that he couldn’t stand Schilling and was ready to give him a beating for the way Schilling showed Williams up by putting a towel over his head while Williams was pitching in the 1993 post-season. Part of the reason proffered for Williams’s trade to the Astros after the 1993 season was the rage of the Phillies fans after he gave up the Series-losing homer to Joe Carter; but another reason was his relationship with Schilling. Williams said (again paraphrasing from memory) that the relationship “wouldn’t have been a problem, because I (Williams) would’ve kicked his (Schilling’s) <butt>”. To me, that’s as good a reason as any to like the guy.
- The story so narrow only one outlet is openly reporting it as fact:
According to the Denver Post’s Troy E. Renck (the name sounds like a nom de plume, but apparently it’s a real guy) the San Francisco Giants are “quietly making an aggressive run at Manny Ramirez”. What that means is anyone’s guess, but it should be a red flag that this story is coming from a writer for the Denver Post instead of a San Francisco, Los Angeles or New York outlet.
That the story was reported this morning and no one’s picked it up as having any validity make it look like it’s: A) a plant from the Scott Boras camp in response to the Dodgers planting the “contacting Adam Dunn” stuff a couple of days ago; B) something completely fabricated; C) a great bit of reporting by this Troy E. Renck person or he’s trying to get people (like the gullible me) to print his name and garner him some attention for a story that has no basis in fact; or D) all of the above.
Of course Manny makes sense for the Giants, but are they going to spend the money that it’s going to take to get him? We’re talking about between $20-25 million a year for probably three years; that’s a lot of money for a team with a lot of stadium debt to pay off and a limited payroll. If the Giants were able to get Manny for a year or a year with an option based on performance, I’d say they’re a pretty good bet to make the playoffs and it’d be a worthwhile thing to do, but for three years? Maybe not. I don’t think there’s much, if any, truth to this “story”. How it got out and why is a more interesting tale in the long run, if that’s ever divulged. (I wouldn’t hold my breath.)
- How deeply are reporters in bed with management, agents and players?
This Manny thing got me to thinking about how agents, management types and players use reporters to get their feelings conveyed or to create bidding wars where they didn’t really exist and the reporters receive the quid pro quo benefit of getting some brief national attention. I think back to Moneyball when Billy Beane was in the midst of making one of his deals and refused to take any and all calls from reporters other than Peter Gammons because Gammons was so dialed in then (he’s more of a columnist/reporter emeritus at this point) that he was quite possibly going to tell Beane something he didn’t already know.
The prevalence of this practice is so extensive that it’s hard to tell who’s giving the real deal information; who’s intentionally writing things that they know are extremely unlikely to be true; or are suspending disbelief to write what they’ve heard for the dual benefit of getting further information from the “source” or trying to get their names in the national spotlight.
I suppose this has been going on forever, but there comes a point where the true reporters who come up with nuggets that wind up being true—-Ken Rosenthal; Jon Heyman—-are being devalued because of the rabble that makes things up or are having things planted with a purpose in mind rather than it being genuine reporting. In today’s media—-where there’s the internet, cable TV, all-sports talk radio and even a channel dedicated to the MLB itself—-there’s going to be such a rush to get the stories out first, that it’s going to cause a number of things to get into the media that have no basis whatsoever in fact.
How many guys are dialed in enough that they have access to the agents, team management and players to get the truth from all sides? I’d say not many. Those that are passed off as “experts” generally tend to be anything but. I still remember after the Roger Clemens congressional debacle, how Seth Everett (SNY’s “baseball insider”—-hold on a minute, I have to go get a barf bag)….
…Okay. I’m back. Everett went on about how former Red Sox GM Dan Duquette may have been “vindicated” by the Clemens PED allegations and how Duquette was “fired by the Red Sox after 1997″ when Duquette was actually there until after the 2001 season—-Prince Of New York blog 12/14/2007—-blah, blah blah; Everett clearly didn’t have any idea what he was talking about and was just regurgitating things he heard (or read) and was passing it off as “inside” information and analysis in order to bolster his flagging credentials. (Haven’t seen much of him since as a matter of fact, on SNY anyway.)
This happens a lot and diminishes not only the effort many of us take to keep track of what’s happening, but wastes our time and energy since we’re the ones who are stupid enough to believe it and then, in the case of some mental patients (see Lebowitz, Paul), write about it to drag things out even more.
- More on the connections between writers and executives:
This isn’t going to degenerate into another one of my rants of the arrogant cluelessness of Paul DePodesta, but it helps with the argument to note how many of the stat geeks who have invested much of their lives in the use of statistics and “objective” analysis above all else in building teams still have the thoughtless audacity to defend DePodesta after he presided over the destruction of a good Dodgers team and then went to the Padres and helped trash that place as well.
nbsp; DePodesta has done nothing to warrant receiving another chance as a GM, but he still has those that say with thinly veiled hopefulness that he may eventually get another shot. (I’m still so stunned by his backers that I can’t help but say loudly to no one in particular whenever another one pops up, “How are you defending this guy?” I’ve yet to get an answer.) Maybe, after doing the penance of being an assistant for ten years or so, being successful and losing his condescending pomposity, he might get another chance, but now? No way if the owner considering it has a brain in his head. This brings me to a former GM who receives universal scorn and ridicule for his tenure despite having pretty good overall success in most aspects, former Mets GM and now ESPN analyst Steve Phillips.
Yes, Phillips made some bad trades as the Mets GM; yes, he was in charge of the club as they made the ill-advised decisions to acquire the likes of a shot Roberto Alomar, the bloated Mo Vaughn, and the one-dimensional Jeromy Burnitz; and yes, he spoke in corporate catchphrases and circles without ever answering a question directly (much as Brian Cashman and Theo Epstein do now); but Phillips was also the club’s GM when they were at the height of their powers as the second best team in the National League in the late 90s and early 2000s. He made some very smart acquisitions like Mike Piazza; Al Leiter; Turk Wendell; John Olerud and Armando Benitez; and he also signed such unsung unknowns like Rick Reed, who turned out to be very valuable. In the draft, he selected current stars as David Wright and Scott Kazmir and signed Jose Reyes.
Up until the last couple of years of his reign, he was very respectable (on the field) GM who was aggressive (sometimes overly so) in making maneuvers to make his veteran team better immediately. Those decisions cost the Mets players like Jason Bay and Jason Isringhausen among others, but under Bobby Valentine, Isringhausen wasn’t going to pitch and the Mets weren’t the only team to give up on the late-blooming Bay. Valentine wasn’t exactly blameless in the deals the Mets made although he likes to absolve himself of things like the Vaughn debacle; Phillips wasn’t working alone in the successes or the failures.
I’m not trying to make Steve Phillips look like he was Branch Rickey; nor am I advocating him for another big league job (he seems happy and is pretty good at his current broadcasting vocation); and there were some off-field issues that would give pause before giving him another chance, but to defend and extol the virtues of DePodesta with his heinous record, while treating Phillips as if he were spinning a wheel and getting lucky once-in-a-while like an unevolved, semi-trained primate is even worse because it’s not only inaccurate, it’s not fair based on facts and track record.
How many trades, signings or possibilities are floated during every hot stove season that common sense would dictate have little or no chance of coming to pass? How many different scenarios are said to be “close” or “near completion” or any other adjective to describe where certain things stand only to see them scatter to the winds and be conveniently forgotten as if they’ve never happened? On Jake Peavy alone, we’ve had more than our fill of deals that were on, then off; on, then off; on, on, on, off, off, on, off, onoff, onononononoffoffoffoff; over and over again and it’s not only tiresome, but instead of drawing interest to baseball’s off season, it creates a culture of doubt in what’s really happening, and mistrust for those that are supposed to be getting the information directly from the participants.
A few days ago, in addition to the story of C.C. Sabathia signing with the Yankees, Rotoworld.com reported that the Yankees were also close to signing Derek Lowe to a long term contract. It’s known by now that Lowe is still out there and the Yankees actually came to terms with A.J. Burnett instead of Lowe. Burnett, who was said to be preparing to sign with the Braves, jumped on the Yankees more lucrative offer. This isn’t to pick on Rotoworld alone because the other sports outlets—-ESPN.com; Fox Sports; Sports Illustrated—-have come up with stories detailing what’s going on with various franchises only to see their reports either proven to be completely erroneous or missing crucial details.
For every reporter who’s accurate (Fox’s Ken Rosenthal’s been on the money; SI’s Jon Heyman’s pretty good), there are dozens of things floating around about which team executives act bewildered when they hear of them. It’s fun when these rumors start to pop up and get fans excited, but how many of them actually come to pass? How many of those deal that were “90% done” are forgotten and disappear moments after the story is published.
There are the tedious (Jake Peavy’s ongoing soap opera with the clueless Padres); the premature (Yankees trade Melky Cabrera to the Brewers for Mike Cameron); agent-created (Scott Boras should try his hand at unambiguous fiction); and the absurd (Manny Ramirez ponders retirement if his contract demands aren’t met—-“I’ll show you!!!”—-holding his breath like a spoiled child). It’s very easy to start a rumor and have people run with it and most are coming from the supposed “insiders” who have access to what teams are trying to do. This creates demand for more information, but the continuously inaccurate reports are doing the exact opposite because after awhile, those that are hungry for the latest rumors get tired of the runaround and just ignore everything until they see a press conference with the relevant players standing in front of the logo for their new team as they put on the hat, try on the uniform and pose for pictures with their new bosses.
A good strategy is one that I’ve specifically gotten away from: I don’t believe a deal is done until I see the press conference; unless that happens, I avert my eyes with the thought in mind that if I look at them for too long, the inaccurate rumors are going to turn me to stone.
- Phillies and Jamie Moyer are both wrong in their haggling over money:
The Phillies are right in being reticent to commit a large amount of money for a pitcher who’s 46-years-old even if said pitcher went 16-7 for a World Series winner. Jamie Moyer’s right to say that his age shouldn’t have anything to do with the Phillies doling out a comparable contract to other pitchers who’ve put up numbers similar to Moyer’s in recent years. Where this is going to lead is anyone’s guess.
On the surface, it’s likely that Moyer is going to want to return to the Phillies to pitch in his home state on a team with a good bullpen and lineup in an atmosphere where he’s liked and respected; but that doesn’t mean a deal’s going to get done. If Moyer were ten years younger and put up the numbers he did in his time with the Phillies, how much would he get on an open market where guys like Oliver Perez are asking for $15 million a year?
Perez—-who is either as dominant as Sandy Koufax or as wild as Rick Ankiel in his last, lost days as a pitcher—-is probably going to get nearly double what Moyer’s going to get based on nothing more than Moyer’s age and that he gets by on a “fast” ball that goes so slowly that it looks like a Bugs Bunny cartoon (1-2-3 strikes, you’re out; 1-2-3 strikes you’re out—-all three swings coming on the same pitch). If the Phillies are thinking that Moyer is going to be made into a sap because of his age and the benefits he receives for being with a team with such a good supporting cast, they may be making a big mistake.
In looking at his gamelogs, wh
ile he’s not a 220-inning guy, Moyer was effective enough that he could realistically have won six more games and ended with over 20 wins. While it’s true that veteran pitchers tend to hit a wall at a certain point no matter how smart they’ve been (I’m thinking of Orel Hershiser in his last season with the Dodgers), Moyer hasn’t slowed down; with the way he pitches using intelligence, varying pitches and control, there’s no reason to believe that he won’t be effective for at least 2009. Another important aspect of Moyer is that he’s a quiet leader in the clubhouse with a surprising feistiness that translate into his knocking hitters back with that 80 mph fastball, and he’s been a great influence on the Phillies young pitchers, especially Cole Hamels.
If the Phillies think they’re going to get Moyer back simply because he’s from the area, they may be making a similar mistake as the Twins made with Jack Morris in 1991. Morris signed a one-year deal with his hometown team and observers acted as if it was this heartwarming story of a pitcher returning home; winning 18 games; a World Series; and a World Series MVP with his heroic and historic 10-inning performance in game seven of that classic series. That heartwarming story turned out to be a business decision for both sides as Morris parlayed his season with the Twins into a lucrative two-year contract with a team about as far from Minnesota as a guy could get in another country entirely with the Toronto Blue Jays.
As for the Phillies, they do have a right to ask for a bit of a discount on what Moyer would get if he were ten years younger and was shopping his wares on the open market. His age is what it is and there is that possibility that his body will start to break down due to that age regardless of how conscientious he is about staying in shape.
Moyer should be in demand from teams who want everything he has to offer on and off the field and because he’d be a short-term investment. The Cardinals, Mets, Marlins and Braves off the top of my head come to mind as teams that would want to bring Moyer onboard. If the Phillies keep messing around, they may lose a key part of their championship team and live to regret it, even if he is 46-years-old.
- Where does the objective analysis end and the self-justification and retribution begin?
As far as the ESPN bloggers go, Keith Law comes up with useful tidbits much of the time. He’s a bit heavy on the stats and his analysis of players gets a bit technical (to the point of making me wonder whether he’s ever picked up a baseball or has just memorized certain buzzwords like “bars his arm” or pitches “breaking on two planes”, etc.); and his endless scouting reports on minor league players occasionally sound like he’s regurgitating stuff he’s accumulated from other sources; but that’s neither here nor there. My biggest issue is the blurred line of where his analysis ends and his self-interest begins.
When A.J. Burnett signed with the Yankees, Law wrote the following blog, entitled, While a bit of a risk, Burnett has a huge upside:
Burnett has No. 1 starter stuff — sitting in the mid-90s with a hammer
curve, a plus changeup he should use more, and a cutter he just started
using in the last year or so to give hitters another thing to worry
about. He has no major weaknesses on the mound. He’s not prone to the
long ball, not too wild, he gets hitters on both sides of the plate out
and he misses a ton of bats.
There are two major drawbacks to a Burnett signing of more than one
year. One is that he doesn’t always pitch up to his stuff; last year,
he had a 4.96 ERA at the All-Star break, and over three years with
Toronto he didn’t post a single-season ERA under 3.75. Yet he finished
his three years in Toronto on a tear, with a 2.72 ERA, 105 strikeouts
against 29 walks in 94 1/3 innings, and dominant outings against the
Yankees (four starts, 32 1/3 innings, five earned runs), Rays (two
starts) and White Sox (one start) after the 2008 All-Star break. If he
pitches like that over a full season, he will be a Cy Young contender.
But he hasn’t pitched like that over a full season at any point in his
career, and he has only pitched like that in years when he had a
significant financial incentive to do so (his walk years and his last
The other is the frequency with which he takes the mound.
Burnett has, with some reason, earned a reputation as a pitcher who
will only pitch if his arm feels 100 percent, even though most pitchers
pitch from time to time with some soreness or mild discomfort. Burnett
has had only one serious arm injury in his pro career — the blown
elbow ligament that cost him most of the 2003 season — but has missed
time with “minor” arm problems that never required surgery. As a
result, he has thrown only 200 innings in a season three times (the
aforementioned years when there was money at stake), and has only made
30 starts in a season twice. An optimistic forecast would only give him
125 or so starts across the five years of this contract with the
A.J. Burnett is far more than a “bit” of a risk at $82.5 million over five-years. He’s a major risk at that amount of money and with his history. The fact that Burnett has had “only one serious arm injury in his pro career” only makes his frequent trips to the disabled list seem all the worse because his amping up his performance and durability when there’s a lot of money at stake indicates that with a guaranteed amount of money that he’d never been able to spend in five lifetimes, he might find even more reason to sit on the DL for months at a time.
I’m not a fan of questioning another person’s pain threshold. As much as Carl Pavano was ridiculed for how he got injured and the nature of his injuries (bruised buttocks for example); and the disinterested way in which he went about his rehab until this past year, I don’t know if anyone could say that there was nothing wrong with Pavano and that he was making things up to stay off the mound and go to the beach. Other players might have gone on and tried to perform with Pavano’s issues, but that depends on the individual.
Personally, I don’t think that Burnett is going to even come close to fulfilling that contract and what the Yankees are expecting from such a talented, highly-paid pitcher. His history is there for everyone to see and to think that he’s going to suddenly—-at the ages 32-37—-become Steve Carlton in terms of durability, is insane. Add in that players can no longer use “little” helpers like amphetamines; or “big” helpers like PEDs and what they’re going to get out of Burnett is an open and legitimate question from beginning to end of the contract. My main issue with Law is what I read between the lines of what he writes and says.
Law was with the Toronto Blue Jays as a Special Assistant to GM J.P. Ricciardi when they signed Burnett to a five-year, $55 million contract after the 2005 season; one would assume that since Law is such a supporter of Burnett, part of the reason he thinks he’s a “bit of an injury risk” is an attempt to save face for the first two underwhelming, injury-plagued years Burnett spent in Toronto. Also, whenever the subject of Ricciardi is broached, you can almost feel the underlying sniping from Law toward his former boss. It’s hard to find what exactly happened between Law and the Blue Jays, but it’s obvious reading between the lines that it wasn’t an amicable parting.
I’m not claiming to be above partisan politics here. Everyone knows I’m a Mets fan; that I can’t stand this over reliance on statistics above all; that there are certain people in positions of power in baseball who have proven to have neither the aptitude nor the intelligence to be in those positions, but I at least try to stay objective and do a good enough job (I think). Do you think I want to be giving constructive advice to the Braves, Phillies and Yankees as to what they should do to improve their teams? Of course not, but I do it anyway.
It’d be the easiest thing in the world to suggest to the Braves, “Yeah, you should bring Tom Glavine back; yeah, it’s smart to gut the farm system for Jake Peavy; oh no, why wouldn’t you spend a chunk of cash on Burnett since he’s finally figured it all out,” but that would diminish whatever credibility I think I have. And if the Padres make a smart move in trading Peavy—-as much as I can’t stand what they represent from Sandy Alderson on down or the embarrassingly inept way they run their franchise—-I’ll be the first to credit them because it’s required to swallow crap once in awhile to maintain loyalty and any semblance of credibility.
Is Law able to do this? Given the obvious nature of his antipathy toward the Blue Jays, I can’t help but wonder where the objective analysis ends. And given the mess Ricciardi’s made, does Law even need to find ways to dig at his former boss? I don’t think so.
- The Mets bullpen could be “Devastation Inc.” with J.J. Putz, Francisco (K-Rod) Rodriguez and…Billy Wagner?
No one’s mentioning it as a possibility because Billy Wagner’s Mets career is believed to be over, but what happens if his rehab goes as well as B.J. Ryan’s did as he returned from Tommy John-surgery eleven months later? Wagner had his surgery in September and given the fact that the Mets have acquired not one, but two closers in the past week, who’s to say that Wagner won’t be able to return in time to be activated in September of 2009 and potentially be on the post-season roster* (*if applicable, these are the Mets we’re talking about) to give the Mets a trio of closers to pitch in the playoffs and possibly shorten the game to six innings?
After the disappointing way everything turned out with his injury essentially costing the Mets a playoff spot and his failures in 2006 and 2007, perhaps the idea of helping the team and closing out his career in 2009 (or p
erhaps getting another lucrative contract elsewhere) will inspire Wagner to push his rehab the way Ryan did and come back in time to be a part of a Mets team that is going to be in the thick of the playoff race; if he can contribute anything at all, he could be the difference between winning a championship or coming up short yet again.