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.
- Manny Ramirez rejects the latest official Dodgers offer of $25 million for one year:
Supposedly the Dodgers had given Manny 48-hours to accept or decline the offer, but he and agent Scott Boras didn’t need that long because the rejection came almost immediately after the story broke that the offer had even been made. The only value a deadline has is if the team stands by it and moves forward with another option; if the Dodgers sign another available bat like Bobby Abreu or Adam Dunn, or trade for Jermaine Dye, that’ll be the only clear indication that they were serious with their “48-hour” window for Manny and Boras to agree to the deal. Until that happens, I can’t believe that the Dodgers are out of the running for Manny; but if such a thing does happen; of the Dodgers do move on, where does that leave Manny?
Manny Ramirez will be sitting out in limbo and waiting for someone to make an offer. This will present an opportunity for a team that needs a bat—-the Giants, Mets, Angels, Reds, Cardinals—-to throw the Hail Mary and go for it all now. The risks of Manny are well-known, but one thing that has to be taken into account is that Manny will always hit and he’ll always be oblivious to pressure. The state of the National League is such that the signing of Manny would shift the balance of power toward whichever team gets him.
On the top tier are teams like the Cubs and the Phillies, who despite being the class of the league, are vulnerable. After that, there are a bunch of teams who are going to accumulate win totals in the mid-80s who would find themselves right on the doorstep of being the best team in the league. Which one is going to take the risk? Which one is going to shut their eyes and throw the pass hoping that it connects? Manny’s expensive; Manny’s a pain; Manny’s got a bad reputation with his moodiness; but Manny is also one of the best hitters in the history of the game; and he’s out there waiting for someone to make him an offer that will allow him to save face and not go crawling back to the Dodgers under their terms.
The main obstacle to Manny being heavily in demand is money. It’s not the way he got out of Boston or his reputation—-it’s money. Teams continually gave chances to guys like Steve Howe, who by all rights, should’ve been told to take a hike years before his career ended. Has Manny ever done anything remotely close to the self-destructiveness of Howe? By all accounts, Manny has, for the most part, been there when the bell rings. Teams don’t want to pay Manny and they’re hoping that his price reduces to a point where it becomes a realistic endeavor to bring him in at a discount. As long as the Dodgers are bidding against themselves, that’s not going to happen; if their 48-hour window was real, then a different player will be signed in the coming days or if another team strikes for Manny, then the situation will be resolved.
This whole thing is going to come to a close in the next few days if a team with nothing to lose decides to go for it all with Manny or if the Dodgers stand by their deadline. Is there the “Manny discussion” going on right now in the front offices of the Mets, Giants or Angels despite their insistence that they’re not interested? These vacillating teams have to realize that even though they’d be paying Manny $50 million over two years (plus perhaps an option for a third year at another $25 million when he’ll be 39-years-old), they’ll gain an unprecedented amount of revenue from his mere presence; they’d sell T-shirts; jerseys; bobbleheads; be able to center promotions around him; and most importantly, playoff and World Series revenue; the money would come back to them if he hit and the team won, and both things would happen for any of those teams for whom Manny would be a perfect fit. And I’ll say this: at crunch time, I’d much prefer to have Manny standing in the middle of the storm than Alex Rodriguez.
Manny’s out there and waiting with the spectre of a World Series surrounding all that risk; the question is will someone other than the Dodgers take that chance?
- Why are the Cubs decimating their depth?
Trading Rich Hill was understandable given how he started showing the symptoms of the Steve Blass/Steve Trout/Rick Ankiel disorder of not being able to throw strikes; it made sense to get something for him and to send him to the Orioles where he’ll get a chance to pitch in the big leagues. As for the deal that sent Michael Wuertz to the Athletics for minor league outfielder Richie Robnett and infielder Justin Sellers, it makes very little sense.
Wuertz has been one of the better—-albeit unappreciated—-middle relievers in baseball over the past few years. While not being a household name, Wuertz takes the ball willingly; generally throws strikes; strikes out a good number of hitters; and doesn’t give up an inordinate number of hits or home runs. And the implication is that his replacements in the Cubs bullpen will be the shaky Kevin Gregg and/or Aaron Heilman; this would give me great concern if I were the Cubs. Gregg just isn’t any good and will very, very quickly be housed in manager Lou Piniella’s doghouse if he gets off to a bad start; and I’ve had a closeup view of Heilman for the past four years and if he doesn’t make it as a starter, then he’s not going to be any better in the Cubs bullpen than he was for the Mets.
The Cubs farm system is gutted and that’s one of the main reasons they were unable to get Jake Peavy from the Padres, but is now the time to start replenishing the farm system at the expense of depth on the big league roster? The Cubs are a now team; with a now manager; and if Sellers or Robnett help the team at all in the coming years, it’s probably going to be after Piniella has retired to return to broadcasting and wait for a possible call to the Hall of Fame as a manager. Bullpen
help is always more valuable when the season is rolling along than a couple of prospects, neither of whom appears to be can’t miss. This was a great move for the A’s and a big mistake for the Cubs, which they’ll learn after watching two or three games blown up because of Gregg and Heilman along with a well-timed tantrum from Piniella.
- Mets re-sign Oliver Perez for 3-years, $36 million:
All things being equal, Perez was the best option remaining for the Mets. Ben Sheets has a better on-field history than Perez, but he’s always hurt; and Randy Wolf isn’t a guy you want to count on over a full season. Perez has shown the ability to raise his game when the pressure’s on and, if his head’s on straight and he’s concentrating on what he’s doing instead of watching butterflies passing overhead, his stuff is wicked. The Mets would’ve been paying for alternative pitchers to sit on the disabled list or deliver pure mediocrity if they had to replace Perez, so it was better to get him on a short-term deal for a reasonable amount of money hoping that he’ll pitch as he did in 2007 and for chunks of 2008 and that the one career-year in which he’s going to win 17-20 comes in those three years. (Of course, he’d probably go 9-14 the year immediately following, but beggars can’t be choosers.)
Finally Nolan Ryan has said something baseball related to indicate that he’s got something to do with what’s going on on the field. Up until now, no one has really known whether the president of the Texas Rangers was taking an active part in the on-field activities; there was an ambiguity with Ryan’s statements that dovetailed with the meticulous and slowhanded mannerisms he showed on the mound. Never impulsive, Ryan always considered, tested, planned and looked toward the future before undertaking a drastic change whether it was his workout regimens; changing teams; deciding whether or not to enter politics; or joining a team’s front office. The idea of Ryan’s position with the Rangers being nothing more than ceremonial was a nonsensical thought. Now he’s made a statement that is surely going to cause some consternation in the baseball world as to who’s calling the shots for the Rangers.
In yesterday’s Star-Telegram, Ryan said that he wants to move Josh Hamilton to right field—-Story; in addition to that, he expressed his admiration (rightfully so) for talented outfielder David Murphy. The idea of moving Hamilton to right field is a valid one; he did appear to tire as the season wore down, but that could’ve been due to any other number of factors like not having played a full pro baseball season since, well, he’s never played a full pro baseball season; then there are the emotional aspects from trying to stay clean; the home run derby; and maintaining his focus while all the accolades and attention (a bit prematurely) poured in; then there’s the Texas heat that can sap a guy’s strength. Moving him to right is a realistic plan; but now the question can be asked whether Ryan, owner Tom Hicks or GM Jon Daniels is running the store, or if it’s some Frankenstein conglomeration of everyone trying to get their ideas implemented in a survival of the fittest scenario of playing politics and clawing their way through the muck.
Ryan mentions Nelson Cruz or Marlon Byrd as possible replacements in center field, and Byrd can play the position, but can Cruz? And Cruz proved that he deserves at least one more chance to play every day after destroying the pitching at Triple A last year and hitting very well over the last month with the Rangers; does he need the added pressure of handling center field as well?
What this newly outspoken version of Ryan does is that it draws out the infection in the Rangers front office like black salve. When Ryan took the job as club president, it was hard to believe that he was going to take marching orders from a guy like Daniels, who’s half his age and has had an up-and-down tenure as the team’s GM. Ryan, in addition to being deliberate in everything he does, is also an alpha-male who tends to let people know he’s in charge a la another couple of Texans, former presidents Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush. Whether that’s good or bad in this case remains to be seen, but the situation is going to come to a conclusion sooner rather than later now that he’s finally coming out and making his presence known to the public; I’d bet on Ryan’s will being exercised over that of Daniels and Hicks if it comes down to hand-to-hand office combat because that’s been Ryan’s history for his entire career.
No one is arguing with the multitude of reasons the Mets are
passing on Manny Ramirez. They don’t want to pay him; they don’t want
to risk Manny showing up on a Monday and deciding on Tuesday that he’s
not happy for whatever reason and starts causing trouble immediately;
they don’t like the way he shoehorned his way out of Boston; and after
the way they’ve been torched with players upon whom they rolled the
dice like Mo Vaughn, they don’t want to sell their souls as NFL teams
have with a guy like Terrell Owens. No matter how many times Manny says
that he’s going to behave himself, be a team player and act
accordingly, there’s a very good chance that that’s going to be
conveniently forgotten once some petty thing upsets him, then the Mets
are going to have to deal with the “Manny package” and pay handsomely
On the other hand, they also have to realize that they have a
massive hole in their lineup that Manny would fill perfectly; he’s out
there and waiting for someone to ante up the cash for him to sign; he’d
probably behave himself for at least the first season of the contract;
he’d hit and hit and hit and hit; the combination of GM Omar Minaya and
Jerry Manuel, along with the presence of Carlos Delgado would keep
Manny in line as much as anyone can keep Manny in line; right now, even
if they re-sign Oliver Perez, they’re the third best team in the NL
East; and most importantly, they’d win the World Series if they brought
The risk is massive, but then so is the reward; and if the Mets are
more willing to stand on their principles and are afraid of having to
deal with Dark Manny instead of Hall of Fame Manny, then they should
pass on him; but if they are determined to win this year to erase the
collapses of 2007 and 2008; put behind them the ridicule they endure
throughout baseball for one gaffe after another (some not their fault
like the Citi Field name and that Citicorp is in disarray; some their
fault like that patch on their uniforms to commemorate the first year
in the new stadium); and win BIG, they should put their fears aside and make a drastic and bold move for Manny Ramirez because the risk may be worth the reward.
- Hello? Hello? Anybody home? Huh? Think, McFly:
Sometimes I feel the urge to find Buster Olney, grab him in a headlock a la Biff Tannen from Back to the Future,
start tapping feverishly on his head to try to knock some sense into
him. Here’s one of the paragraphs from his blog today as he wonders why
certain players have gotten long-term contracts and other, seemingly
superior players, haven’t:
Derek Lowe is 35 years old and in good condition and has been
durable, which explains why he got $60 million. Ben Sheets, on the
other hand, is five years younger than Lowe, has been an elite pitcher
when healthy, and is coming off a season in which he started the NL
All-Star Game — and he apparently can’t get much of a sniff of
The reason, you say, is that Sheets is injury prone and Lowe is not. OK, if durability is valued, then explain how it is that Milton Bradley
got a multi-year deal worth about $10 million per season, having lasted
100 games in the outfield in just one season in his career — and Bobby Abreu, who has appeared in 151 or more games in 11 consecutive seasons is apparently going to have to settle for a one-year deal.
Is it really that hard to figure out why this is
happening? Lowe got his money because: A) the Braves were completely
and hopelessly desperate after whiffing in each and every one of their
attempts to upgrade their pitching staff from signing A.J. Burnett to
trading for Jake Peavy; B) Lowe was the best choice available to—-at
the very least—-get out there and pitch; Sheets wants a multi-year deal
while no one knows how many starts and innings they’re going to get out
of him; Sheets would be a good risk for a team like the Yankees who
have the depth and money to withstand a gamble on Sheets even if he
does get hurt and the Braves don’t.
With Abreu, he, like Adam Dunn, is waiting. Waiting to see where Manny ends up and picking from the remains of the teams that need a bat; waiting to see if the dominoes start to fall after Manny’s signed and someone—-the Dodgers, the Giants, the Braves, the Mets, the Nationals, the Mariners—-are willing to give Abreu something close to what he expected to get before the financial collapse began. Sure, he could do what Milton Bradley and Raul Ibanez did and accept $10 million a year, but why should he? Why shouldn’t he wait and see if he can squeeze the $12-15 million he thought he’d get from another team after Manny signs? In the worst case scenario, Abreu and Dunn are going to get at least $10 million from someone even if it’s on a one-year deal, so at this point they may as well wait for Manny, then make their move. Think McFly; good grief.
- The concern of trust in the Dodgers clubhouse in the aftermath of Joe Torre’s book:
I can’t judge how bad things are going to be perceived with Torre and his players until I read the book, but I can’t believe that the young players in the Dodgers clubhouse are even going to be interested enough to read the book in its entire context, let alone sit and worry about whether Torre’s airing dirty laundry about their “in-clubhouse” activities. It’s not like he outed guys who were cheating on their wives or doing other things in their own lives that are neither anyone’s business, nor affected their on-field play. Young players tend to resist the overt authority figures anyway and aren’t going to worry about what their manager might write in a book ten years from now. I don’t think it needs to be written down for most players to know that they don’t want to act like the guys who were supposedly ripped like David Wells, Carl Pavano and Kevin Brown; and if they don’t know that, then any dirty laundry that might be aired is the least of their problems.
- More on those Captain Morgan ads:
The newest one with these four idiots putting posters of themselves all over town referring to themselves as the “Four Guys” and getting into nightclubs free as they bypass the line; not paying for drinks and having hot chicks come up and talk to them makes me wonder how they find the actors for the commercials. In each and every one of them, the guys are pretty much the most putrid group of losers anyone would (or wouldn’t) want to meet. Is this done intentionally? Did the ad agency say, “let’s have a casting call for the commercial and pick the biggest losers we can find” because plying women with copious amounts of Captain Morgan until they couldn’t think or see straight may be the only way those guys could get the time of day out of them, let alone any kind of genuine, worthwhile attention.
- Super Bowl XHAHDJDAJDLKSAJGJGDKSAGA-90210-FAHSDJNMISHJE,JHLSJDALJDNDSO%%$#@!:
I’m tempted to pick the Cardinals, but I don’t think they’ll win. The ride ends here in a close game until the fourth quarter when the Steelers will win comfortably.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 36
ARIZONA CARDINALS 24
As promised, here’s the National League GMs, rated (and razed as the case may be):
- Ruben Amaro Jr-Philadelphia Phillies:
There’s not much context for Amaro yet, but he’s filled the biggest holes of the Phillies reasonably well replacing Pat Burrell with Raul Ibanez, although their lineup is going to be so lefty-centric that it’s a potential issue; and they’ve signed important younger players like Cole Hamels and Ryan Madson to long term deals. If the Phillies falter because of not having that righty bat who can hit the ball out of the park, Amaro’s going to have to do something to rectify that and then there’ll be enough information to judge him positively or negatively.
- Omar Minaya-New York Mets:
Minaya’s best skills are his scouting abilities and his patience. Coming up through the ranks as an old-school scout, Minaya can judge players almost by looking at them and how they move; he has a great rapport with the Latin players and he’s charismatic and charming. The patience he showed in getting Johan Santana last year, and then acquiring not one, but two closers in Francisco (K-Rod) Rodriguez and J.J. Putz to fill the Mets’ bullpen holes for pennies on the dollar showed guts and imagination. Minaya is not as ruthless as GMs sometimes need to be, which leads to the embarrassing way in which manager Willie Randolph was fired last June; Minaya’s main screw-up wasn’t with the way he handled it, but with the way he felt badly about it and shunned the hard job of firing the guy he picked to manage the team. It looked shabby—-not because Minaya was trying to be mean—-but because he was trying to be too nice.
- Larry Beinfest-Florida Marlins:
Beinfest and the Marlins are always ready to deal and know what kind of young players they want for their veterans; no one, and I mean no one is off the table for the Marlins (exemplified by the fact that they were even willing to discuss Hanley Ramirez with the Red Sox); they target the prospects they want, they get them, and they let them play in the big leagues. If there’s a book to be written about how a team wins and develops players without spending much money, forget Billy Beane and Moneyball; check out the Marlins.
- Frank Wren-Atlanta Braves:
Wren is rapidly becoming either the most unlucky baseball man in the world or is just in the wrong place at the wrong time, all the time. He had an awful year as the GM of the Orioles in which he took on Cal Ripken Jr in an ill-advised feud (smart move); then took over for a “legend” in Atlanta by succeeding John Schuerholz; but Schuerholz may have kicked himself upstairs just in time for Wren to take the blame for the Braves demise. John Smoltz’s situation was poorly handled and the Braves would be well-served to tell Tom Glavine to take a hike as well; they’ve targeted the wrong players (Rafael Furcal) and been embarrassed that they’ve been spurned; they traded some top prospects for Javier Vazquez, who’s serviceable; and they got lucky when A.J. Burnett went to the Yankees and the Braves wound up with the more durable Derek Lowe. They’ve done nothing for their offensive woes and are still in a quandary of exactly what they are; it’s a bad sign that the GM doesn’t seem to know either.
- Jim Bowden-Washington Nationals:
Without any concern as to what his manager has to endure as he imports one reclamation project/juvenile delinquent after another, Jim Bowden acquires players with checkered history and a stat sheet rife with underachievement. Manager Manny Acta should get combat pay for having to massage the sociopathic tendencies of Elijah Dukes and the (comparatively) moderate behavioral issues of Lastings Milledge and Scott Olsen. Bowden’s been successful with some players picked up off the scrapheap from his time as the Reds GM, but the Nats are pretty well devoid of prospects due to his drafting strategies (they didn’t even sign last season’s first round pick Aaron Crow). The team should be better because of some of the pitchers Bowden’s brought in, but the results are what they are. It’s hard to imagine this team truly turning the corner until a new GM is hired.
- Jim Hendry-Chicago Cubs:
He didn’t do a particularly good job when Dusty Baker was his manager and he kind of hung Baker out to dry as if the Cubs fall was his fault, but Lou Piniella’s hiring and the loosening of the purse strings has made the Cubs a World Series contender and that has little to do with Hendry’s GM skills. The team’s main hole from last season—-a lefty bat—-has been solved with Milton Bradley (if Bradley can stay healthy); he made a mistake in trading a young power arm for the shaky Kevin Gregg; and had to overpay to keep Ryan Dempster after a career-year. Piniella’s going to cozy up to the new owner because of his reputation and cachet; Hendry’s on the hook for this team.
- Doug Melvin-Milwaukee Brewers:
Melvin’s loyal to a fault with his managers, which explains why he didn’t fire Ned Yost until he absolutely had to (some say he was told to by the owner); he’s a superior talent evaluator who made some aggressive trades to try and win last season and it almost worked. The bullpen he built was atrocious and he’s going to have to deal with the contract issues of the Brewers young power bats as they pop up. Melvin paid a lot of money for outright mediocrity in Jeff Suppan and Jason
Kendall. His new manager, Ken Macha, might be another product of the Billy Beane way of running his team and time will tell if he can do the job on his own. Melvin’s a solid GM who’s dealing with a difficult situation financially and may end up taking the fall if things go downhill.
- Ed Wade-Houston Astros:
Let’s put it this way: Wade was unable to generate much sympathy when pitcher Shawn Chacon attacked him in the team lunchroom as Wade was said to have instigated the incident by cussing at Chacon. The Astros have done almost nothing this winter other than signing Mike Hampton to a shot-in-the-dark contract based on sentimentality more than anything else. The owner, Drayton McLane is the one calling the shots and Wade is just sort of there. He’s a disposable entity who may be flushed very quickly if the season starts poorly.
- John Mozeliak-St. Louis Cardinals:
Mozeliak has literally done nothing this winter other than acquire Khalil Greene only because Greene was given away by the cost-slashing Padres. He was lucky last year that he found a taker for Scott Rolen and managed to even get a useful power bat in Troy Glaus for him; and the signing of Kyle Lohse and Lohse’s successful season owes nothing to the Cardinals front office. They’re going down the penny-pinching and obnoxious Moneyball road; with a barren farm system, no improvement on the field from an overachieving 86 wins in 2008, and this sure to be Tony La Russa’s last season as manager, they’re going to fall very far, very fast with Mozeliak as the GM. That he’s openly warring with the one thing with whom an organization can’t afford to do battle—-the fans—-is a terrible omen for their future without La Russa.
- Walt Jocketty-Cincinnati Reds:
Jocketty was the architect (along with La Russa) of the perennially contending Cardinals teams from 1996 until before last season when he was forced out in favor of Mozeliak. He made some solid moves in dealing Ken Griffey Jr and Adam Dunn away and the Reds aren’t that far from contending for a playoff spot. Jocketty is aggressive in finding players and doesn’t fear making mistakes. If he has the money available to improve and willing trading partners, he’ll be wheeling and dealing during the season.
- Neal Huntington-Pittsburgh Pirates:
It’s been said that Huntington is the GM in name only and team president Frank Coonelly is calling the shots. That’s Huntington’s only chance at redemption for the hideous trades he made as he dealt away both Xavier Nady and Jason Bay and got far less than expected in what appeared to be panic stricken maneuvers. The Pirates organization seems to have done the opposite of what teams like the Marlins have done and accepted their fate as a second-rate organization that has no chance of competing because they fired one GM who didn’t know what he was doing in Dave Littlefield and hired a tandem in Coonelly and Huntington who don’t know what they’re doing. Two empty heads are not better than one.
- Ned Colletti-Los Angeles Dodgers:
Colletti’s made some major gaffes like signing Andruw Jones, Juan Pierre and Jason Schmidt to very expensive washout contracts; he prefers veterans to younger players even though the Dodgers farm system is producing one hot prospect after another. Colletti was said to be on the firing line at mid-season as the Dodgers were struggling until Manny Ramirez fell into his lap and carried the club to the NLCS. If things go poorly this year, it’s not manager Joe Torre who’s going to get the blame, it’s Colletti; because of that, assistant GM Kim Ng may finally get her chance to be the first female GM in big league history.
- Josh Byrnes-Arizona Diamondbacks:
Byrnes has a history as a stat guy, but that’s not how he runs the Diamondbacks. He’s aggressive and makes moves based on his eyes and the numbers. Byrnes did everything he could possibly do to try and jump start his team last season and acquired the components necessary to win—-they just didn’t. He’s got a great future as a GM because of those traits; the Diamondbacks have a young nucleus that should be competitive for a long time.
- Dan O’Dowd-Colorado Rockies:
O’Dowd is living off of one hot month that led the Rockies from a better-than-expected, over .500 season in 2007 to a shocking trip to the World Series. He’s had numerous chances to rebuild the club and make trades to find a way to win in the pinball machine known as Coors Field and, purely by accident, stumbled onto something in that magical month of 2007. The team has some young talent and is always willing to deal, but by all rights, O’Dowd should’ve been fired three years ago; instead, he’ll be there for the foreseeable future. If they made an aggressive move for Roy Halladay, they might have a chance to win the weak NL West, but O’Dowd’s started another rebuilding project, thereby giving him at least another three years of “building” to work with, preferably with players who live by a Christian moral code.
- Brian Sabean-San Francisco Giants:
Sabean was considered one of the “worst” GMs according to the poll conducted by Dugout Central; and while he’s gotten a big hit for the Barry Zito signing, no one could’ve expected Zito to be this bad. He was the GM when they drafted both Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain and the Giants have bu
ilt up a very solid pitching staff from top-to-bottom. All of Sabean’s career as Giants GM was spent trying to build a team around one temperamental (borderline impossible to deal with) superstar in Barry Bonds. He signed veterans like Omar Vizquel, Ray Durham and Edgardo Alfonzo to do one thing—-surround Bonds; he hired managers to do one thing—-handle Bonds; the team was a championship contender for much of that era and Sabean has been trying to rebuild on the fly after the departure of Bonds; and he’s had to deal with a new boss after the retirement of Peter Magowan; and he’s operating under a budget. Realistically, it should’ve taken the Giants more than the two years it’s taken sans Bonds to gain respectability, but they’re again a viable contender in the NL West short one power bat from being serious threats. Sabean’s getting a bad rap due to circumstances beyond his control.
- Kevin Towers-San Diego Padres:
Towers was well-respected before Sandy Alderson took over as Padres club president; now he’s nothing more than a low-level mouthpiece/functionary who saw an opportunity to escape as GM of the Diamondbacks be awarded instead to Josh Byrnes and Towers had to return to the Padres under their auspices. The prevailing image of Alderson can be seen when reading between the lines of Moneyball; he thinks he’s the guy who created Billy Beane; he thinks he’s the guy books should be written about. What is happening with the Padres has nothing to do with the divorce of owner John Moores and the club’s pending sale (these factors weren’t in place during last season’s 99-loss campaign; nor while they collapsed in the pennant race of 2007); it has to do with the logical conclusion of the Moneyball system as it’s laid out in the book if it’s followed to the letter; the logical conclusion is the current state of the Padres organization. See it; study it; know it; accept it.
This idea originally began as a question and analysis of why the so-called Moneyball general managers are so openly obnoxious and combative with their fans. The antics of Cardinals GM John Mozeliak, with his embarrassing back-and-forth with an irate Cardinals fan—-StL Today Article (there seem to be a lot of those around these days—-Link; wait until Tony La Russa leaves in a huff, then you’ll see some serious sniping and possibly rioting) made me think about other smug, stat-oriented GMs who look at anyone who disagrees with their “provable, unassailable, numerically infallible” assessments with a condescension that religious zealots exhibit…*
*Has anyone ever watched the Kirk Cameron Jesus show? It’s creeeeeepy. He’s not simply religious; he and his cohort—-some guy with a mustache straight out of a 1970s adult film and an Australian or possibly New Zealand accent—-are teetering on a Taliban-level fanaticism. (When Growing Pains was at the height of popularity, girls used to tell me I looked like Cameron, except in reality I’m, y’know, far better looking.)
…except that the stat-geeks who’ve tried to take over baseball like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, haven’t won anything of consequence; in fact, many of them, who became GMs as a direct result of Moneyball have failed not just on a miserable level, but on an embarrassing level. Baseball Reference.com had a link for a poll of the “worst GMs” in baseball—-Dugout Central—-but here’s my list and a brief analysis of each GM (in the order of their team’s finish last season). First the American League; the National League will be in a later posting:
- Andrew Friedman-Tampa Bay Rays:
It’s amazing how quickly someone can go from being in over his head to having his opinion quoted and “strategy” copied throughout baseball. The Rays parlayed a series of high draft picks; some newly found discipline and a no-tolerance policy with troublemakers like Elijah Dukes and Delmon Young; and a few smart trades into a division title and World Series appearance. They were also very, very lucky with some previously awful pitchers. Let’s wait a few years before crediting Friedman as a good, or even competent, GM.
- Theo Epstein-Boston Red Sox:
It was only natural for a young man who was running a high-profile team and helped lead it to their first championship since 1918 to become a bit arrogant, but Epstein’s behavior after the first championship was absurd. From the “resignation” in a contract/power-related snit to the escaping from Fenway Park in a gorilla suit to avoid the press, Epstein made himself look foolish. The complicated three and four team trades and nonsensical comments he made to self-justify some of the mistakes he’s made have faded into the background. Signing Julio Lugo will be seen as a free agent gaffe on a Carl Pavano-level, but two championships are two championships and the Red Sox are one of the most productive and best run organizations in all of baseball.
- Brian Cashman-New York Yankees:
I haven’t gotten my hands on the Joe Torre book yet, but Cashman’s evolution into a stat-geek is apparently discussed and dismissed by Torre. Cashman has made some atrocious mistakes in player judgment and his hand-picked manager, Joe Girardi, is still a huge question mark who could be headed for the gallows before May if things start out poorly. The Yankee organization appears to be a “survival of the fittest” type of atmosphere and if playing organizational politics is necessary to live another day, then it’s understandable how Cashman has become what he’s become. His pitching acquisitions such as Kevin Brown, Carl Pavano, Kei Igawa and Steve Karsay, along with his reliance on the three youngsters Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy put into question his ability to accurately assess pitchers. He’s not a great GM by any stretch of the imagination, but a major focus appears to be on garnering credit for himself, and that’s a problem.
- J.P. Ricciardi-Toronto Blue Jays:
Full of bluster and overt arrogance when he got the Blue Jays job, the team has done almost nothing of consequence since he’s been there. They’ve been over .500 most of the time, but never true contenders. Ricciardi had public dustups with fans, players (opposing and his own) and managers and now the team is going to lose 90+ games and has no chance to contend in 2009, but Ricciardi, inexplicably, is still there. He’s got some attributes that might make him a better behind-the-scenes man than front-man (or a great broadcaster), he’s made some awful personn
el mistakes and has been the Blue Jays GM since 2001; it’s time for a change whether the Blue Jays like it or not.
- Andy MacPhail-Baltimore Orioles:
MacPhail has a historic lineage in baseball and the on-field success with a small-to-mid market team with the Twins; he helped rebuild the Cubs into a pennant contender and has a keen eye for inexpensive talent. Within two years, the Orioles should be ready to contend for a playoff spot with MacPhail’s skills and owner Peter Angelos’s money. That he managed to get Angelos to allow him to trade Erik Bedard, Miguel Tejada and Ramon Hernandez is a sign that he’s not one of the front office puppets that Angelos has had in Baltimore since Pat Gillick left.
- Kenny Williams-Chicago White Sox:
Smart and gutsy, many GMs claim to not care what anyone says and refuse to admit that outside opinions affect what they do, but Williams really doesn’t care. He was ridiculed for bringing in troublemakers like A.J. Pierzynski, Carl Everett and Bobby Jenks and won a World Series; there were calls for the firing of his explosive manager Ozzie Guillen, which he ignored; he trades players a year early rather than a year late and it’s resulted in the acquisitions of Gavin Floyd and John Danks. Williams is also a superior and smart talent evaluator.
- Bill Smith-Minnesota Twins:
Smith was left holding the Johan Santana bag when Terry Ryan resigned and overplayed his hand getting a fraction of what the Red Sox and Yankees offered in the deal he made with the Mets. The Twins are benefiting from the way Ryan, Tom Kelly and manager Ron Gardenhire, along with the rest of the organization put the pieces in place for them to develop players, but Smith made some ghastly mistakes in signing Mike Lamb and avoided a huge one when he unfathomably claimed Jarrod Washburn off waivers from the Mariners and the Mariners pulled him back; the jury’s still out on Smith’s future as a GM.
- Mark Shapiro-Cleveland Indians:
Aggressive and smart, he learned well from John Hart as to the value of locking up the young players to build the organization and keep the team together. Shapiro makes short-term, frugal free agent signings and brings in veterans who might have been considered finished (Paul Byrd, Joe Borowski) and gets production out of them. He’s also not afraid to make a trade of a superstar like C.C. Sabathia when necessary.
- Dayton Moore-Kansas City Royals:
I was once a defender of Moore considering his pedigree of having learned his job from Braves GM John Schuerholz, but his decisions this winter have been nothing short of baseball malpractice. Willie Bloomquist? Horacio Ramirez? Kyle Farnsworth? All signed to two-year contracts? Trading valuable bullpen contributors for journeymen like Mike Jacobs and Coco Crisp? And some critics are backing away from unloading on Moore because he locked up young starter Zack Greinke. Did it take any stroke of genius to lock up Greinke? Does he deserve credit for doing something so obvious? It looks like Moore is actually getting credit for not doing something stupid with Greinke like trading him, and if that’s the case, the Royals have some big problems.
- Dave Dombrowski-Detroit Tigers:
An excellent talent evaluator with a great history of building teams, Dombrowski gutted his farm system in bringing as many superstar players into his clubhouse as possible and it was a disaster in 2008. He’s taken a step back from that in going for better defense in 2009, but the contract issue of manager Jim Leyland and the veteran players who may or may not return to form could inspire a housecleaning in Detroit if things go badly; Dombrowski knows what he’s doing and will make the right decision on how to move forward when the time comes, and it may come sooner rather than later.
- Tony Reagins-Los Angeles Angels:
Reagins learned well at the side of Bill Stoneman and has made sure that the continuity in the Angels clubhouse will continue as he signed manager Mike Scioscia to a very long term contract extension to stay. The Angels are built for the long-haul and their pitching has always been the key. He’s aggressive when he needs to be in trading for star players like Mark Teixeira and draws a line at overpaying to keep free agents he feels he can replace. The Angels are contenders year-after-year because of the principles to which they adhere and that starts from the top.
- Billy Beane-Oakland Athletics:
Beane is the original Moneyball GM, except he’s not exactly a Moneyball GM. He relies on stats, but he also relies on trying new and different approaches; sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t, but those that are criticizing Beane for never winning a championship don’t seem to get it. He’s putting a team together that wins with a budget and makes bold moves sooner rather than later; he doesn’t appear to want the money available to contemporaries like Cashman and Epstein; unlike the other
stat-oriented GMs, he doesn’t come off as a jerk.
- Jon Daniels-Texas Rangers:
Daniels made some hideous trades early in his tenure (remember Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Young to the Padres for Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka?), but the Rangers organization is bursting with prospects and he’s committed some highway robberies like getting the package he got from the Red Sox for Eric Gagne. It’s hard to know how much credit or blame should go to Daniels for what’s happening in Texas, but the Michael Young mess in which he was told—-not asked—-told to move to third base was disrespectful to the player and could’ve been handled far better.
- Jack Zduriencik-Seattle Mariners:
Zduriencik has made some interesting and aggressive moves (trading J.J. Putz to the Mets; acquiring and trading Aaron Heilman); and he’s got a great eye for talent. There will be a clearer window into Zduriencik when he deals impending free agent Erik Bedard sometime this season; my guess is he’ll get some high-end talent if Bedard proves he’s healthy.
The National League will be posted later today.
- Jason Varitek agrees with the Red Sox to a 1-year, $5 million contract with options for the team ($5 million); and the player ($3 million) for 2010:
Almost identically to the negotiations after the 2004 season in which the Red Sox assuaged Jason Varitek’s singed pride for their refusal to give a no-trade clause by naming him team captain, Varitek accepted the Red Sox final offer just as the team sends out word that there wasn’t really a deadline. To me, that’s a little backtrack for Varitek to save face not just in the clubhouse and throughout baseball, but in the mirror as well. In the end, Varitek had no choice whatsoever but to accept the Red Sox offer or basically retire because the idea of him sitting out this year in a stubborn staredown as he did when coming out of college was so ludicrous that it shouldn’t have been taken seriously as anything more than a would-be tough guy having his last moment of the supposed relentlessness that has been a hallmark of Varitek’s career.
Did anyone believe that Varitek was going to sit out for the 2009 season and then return next year? Did he and agent Scott Boras think that this ploy would somehow work and get him the money he was missing out on in this deal after he stupidly declined the Red Sox offer of arbitration? If he sat out this year and returned next year, he’d be 38-years-old and returning after a year away from the game entirely. Someone would sign him, but it would probably be a minor league deal contingent on him showing some skills in spring training; and believe me, guys leaving the game and returning to perform anywhere close to capably is a rare occurrence and for a catcher, it’s almost impossible to see happening.
Varitek couldn’t have seriously thought that the Red Sox would’ve released him in spring training to save money had he accepted arbitration; he couldn’t have imagined that they would really go into the spring with Varitek as their catcher and not having filled the hole with a potential heir apparent and then invited the ire of the fans and other players by dumping the captain of the team because of his salary, could he? This whole thing was a roll of the roulette wheel that was undone both by the economy and Varitek’s declining production.
Now his reputation is intact by “winning” something in the negotiations as the Red Sox shied away from the idea of a deadline, and he’s back with the only team he really wanted to play for. This is going to elicit sighs of relief for the Red Sox fans who love Varitek for his contributions off the field, but at mid-season, if the Red Sox are getting even less production from Varitek than they got last year, will there still be the giddiness there is now? Or are they going to look back and say that it was clear that Varitek was rapidly declining into a part-time player and they should’ve made a deal for a replacement whether Varitek came back or not? Let’s say that Varitek’s numbers improve from last season (and they should), but is that going to be good enough for a Red Sox team that needs more offense to account for the season-long absence of Manny Ramirez and that they’ve done nothing to replace that irreplaceable bat?
This move is making everyone happy now on January 31st, but what will be the reaction on July 31st if Varitek is hitting .230 and playing only four games out of seven in favor of George Kottaras and Josh Bard for the other three games? Will his “leadership” be seen as such an important factor then if the Red Sox are in third place in the division behind the Yankees and Rays? It may have been the easiest thing to do in bringing Varitek back, but for a team that prides itself on its coldblooded rationality and adherence to what’s best for the team on the field, it could be seen as a departure from that winning formula and wind up being a mistake because it’s a very real possibility that Varitek simply can’t play anymore; then the Red Sox are going to have the same problem, but with fewer options to solve it than they have now.
- Mets should lock John Maine up with a long-term contract:
The Mets and John Maine avoided arbitration with an agreement on a 1-year deal for $2.6 million. Maine will still be eligible for arbitration after the next two seasons and then a free agent after the 2012 season. As a young pitcher who the Mets essentially stole from the Orioles for Kris (and Anna) Benson in one of Omar Minaya’s best trades, the Mets should start serious negotiations to lock up the soon-to-be 28-year-old with a long term contract.
Maine has shown the potential to be an 18-20 game winner and despite running up large pitch counts in the early innings, his stuff is so good and he’s so hard to hit that he’s worth the gamble to avoid further acrimony through arbitration and keep him for two or three years of his free agency eligibility. Maine is also coming off of a shoulder injury, but if he shows that he’s healthy and impro
ves his control during the early part of the 2009 season, and begins to mature into the wicked stuff and great potential he’s shown since joining the Mets, they should approach him about a long-term deal. He’s well-liked in the clubhouse, has become something of a mentor to Mike Pelfrey, and it doesn’t hurt that he wasn’t all that bothered by the pressure of the post-season in the 2006 playoffs and he’s exactly the type of guy that would cost twice as much on the market if they had to find someone to replace him.