The Sunday Lightning feature (including a tantrum) is available on PAULLEBOWITZ.COM.
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
The Tigers signing of Brandon Lyon with the intent of giving him a chance to be their closer is a perfect example of their problems heading into the 2009 season. After last winter’s Yankee-like display of trophy collection as they acquired one big name after another only to see the season turn into one long nightmare, the Tigers have taken a different approach this winter, and while they’ll certainly be different, are they going to be any better?
Their defense will be much improved with Adam Everett at shortstop; Gerald Laird behind the plate; and Brandon Inge playing third base every day; but Everett has never been anything more than a defense-first player who is also an offensive liability; Laird was hitting in the batter’s paradise known as Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and his numbers are just about identical (and poor) home and away. The Tigers offense, which scored 821 runs last season (good for fourth in the AL) is going to get much worse; and this is going to put even more pressure on a rebuilt and rebounding pitching staff.
Justin Verlander was atrocious last season. His velocity was down and his stuff lacked bite; he and the Tigers insist that he’s healthy and if that’s the case, then his problems may have been nothing more than mechanical and it’s going to be up to new pitching coach Rick Knapp to straighten Verlander out. Then there’s Jeremy Bonderman, returning from rib surgery and having had some arm issues in the past; will he be able to return to form? No one’s going to know what to expect out of Dontrelle Willis until he gets out on the mound; if his mechanics can’t be straightened out or he physically can’t throw strikes, he could be the next in the long line of pitchers who’ve been shifted to the outfield; Nate Robertson has to be better than last because he can’t possibly be any worse; and Armando Galarraga was a heretofore underwhelming, journeyman prospect who came into his own at age 26 and won 13 games, saving the Tigers from a 66 win season; is he going to repeat that level of work?
Fernando Rodney is either unhittable or all over the place with his control; the Tigers obviously know this or they wouldn’t have signed Lyon with the idea that he’ll compete for the closer’s job; Lyon gives up a lot of hits and a lot of home runs. This is also a bad sign for the future of Joel Zumaya since he’s no longer even being discussed as anything more than a “maybe”; it seems so long ago that all-time greats like Alex Rodriguez looked clueless and helpless at the hand of Zumaya’s 103-mph fastball.
This could all be rectified if the new pitching coach is able to prevail upon the staff that the defense is there to help them. Knapp was the longtime minor league pitching coordinator for the Twins and their objective with their young pitchers is to get them to throw strikes first and foremost; the Tigers improved defense could make that a winning strategy and all their moves to shore up that aspect could, in hindsight, be seen as astute; but if it doesn’t work immediately, there could be huge bloodletting in Detroit sooner rather than later.
Manager Jim Leyland’s contract is up after this season (as I mentioned last week) and if the team gets off to a bad start, that issue and others with GM Dave Dombrowski could come to a head fast. This situation is similar to others with veteran managers (specifically Charlie Manuel with the Indians and Don Zimmer with the Cubs) who’d had some success and felt they were worthy of contract extensions; both wanted their situations settled and they were—-they got fired in the middle of the season.
This isn’t going to be a case of a slow downward spiral, if the Tigers fall, they’re going to plummet; their destiny for 2009 will be known quickly; if they get off to a bad start, Leyland could be gone by the end of April and they could be heading for close to 100 losses. If they get out of the blocks well; if Verlander regains his form; if Bonderman’s healthy; if either Lyon or Rodney can handle the closing duties and Miguel Cabrera carries the team, they should contend.
If, if, if…
Just like last season the greatness of the team on paper had little to do with how they wind up performing; this club doesn’t look like they’re going to win many more games than last season’s team of All Stars did; maybe that strategy will work, but it’s more likely that it won’t.
- Strange machinations and a managerial merry-go-round:
If Leyland gets axed, the Tigers are going to be in such a sorry state by that point that it won’t make any sense to bring in a veteran manager to take over and try to rescue the sinking ship; what they’d probably end up doing is installing one of the current coaches like Lloyd McClendon or Gene Lamont in the manager’s office; or clearing out the entire staff and putting Triple A Toledo manager Larry Parrish in as manager for the rest of the season.
Strangely, if the Yankees get off to a bad start and Joe Girardi is dismissed, Girardi would probably be a good choice for the Tigers to get a younger, more discipline-oriented manager in place. The Girardi situation is going to be fascinating to watch because if the Yankees get off to a bad start, there are a couple of ways this can go: Brian Cashman could be reticent to fire his hand-picked manager and have his hand forced by Hank and Hal Steinbrenner; Cashman could accept the inevitable and replace Girardi (presumably with a laid back veteran manager like Davey Johnson or Jim Fregosi, both solid choices for a veteran team); or the front office will hold it’s fire and see if the situation corrects itself as the season moves along until Derek Jeter goes to Cashman and the Steinbrenners and tells them that enough’s enough with Girardi.
All things being equal, it would behoove both Leyland and Girardi to get their teams off to good starts.
- Was this staged at a carnival?
Buster Olney linked the following article—-Seattle Times Article—-about a “boxing match” between…Jose Canseco and Danny Bonaduce. What the point of this was I don’t know, but it’s pretty embarrassing. The thing is that Bonaduce is very small, but is a multiple black belt in various forms of karate. There aren’t many people I’d say out of the box, “I would not mess around with that guy,” but Bonaduce’s one of them. Not only does he have the training to really hurt someone, but judging from one of the few reality shows that I actually found interesting (Breaking Bonaduce) he’s not all there in the head.
It reminds me of a story Stephen King once told in an interview about seeing a picture of the 1950s spree killer Charles Starkweather, looking into his eyes and seeing nothing more than a “double zero” as if there was no reason, no compassion, no nothing behind those eyes that would keep him from killing anyone and anything that got in his way. King said he memorized the look and steered away from people he encountered that had that trait. I’ve seen it as well in people and done my best to avoid them. I wouldn’t put Bonaduce in that class, but he’s not that far out of that arena.
As for Canseco, I mean, good grief!! Vince McMahon must be dialing him up right now and Canseco might take him up on an offer if this spectacle is any indication of how far he’s fallen.
- So now Tom Glavine doesn’t necessarily need to pitch at home in Atlanta to continue his career?
This could be a negotiating ploy to get the Braves to give Tom Glavine a guaranteed contract for 2009, but it could also be a prime example of why things most players say should go in one ear and out the other. When he left the Mets to go back to the Braves, Glavine was open in his desire to be near his home, family and children; it was either the Braves or retirement; now the news is coming out that Glavine is considering the Nationals—-MLB.com Story—-because of his “close” relationship with Nats president Stan Kasten. What that has to do with anything is anyone’s guess; are they that close that Glavine wants to lose 90 games and be near Kasten at the expense of time with his family?
I’m sure if he’s truly committed to pitching, a better team like the Yankees, Cardinals or Phillies would consider him as a back of the rotation starter at a reasonable rate and short-term deal. It seems like Glavine’s trying to take advantage of the way the Braves are reeling from the John Smoltz mess and is looking quite disingenuous in the process. Washington isn’t much closer to Atlanta than New York (about 100 miles difference), so is he going to be near his family pitching for the Nats? In one ear and out the other…
- Mirror images:
I know I said when the Jets hired Eric Mangini that he wasn’t just going to be a winner, but he was going to be a big winner (in true Jets fashion, he may still do it—-coaching the Browns), but their new coach Rex Ryan reminded me of one guy—-Bill Parcells.
It wasn’t just the way he carried himself and his prodigious girth, but the way he sounded so sure of himself; bantered with the press; made outrageous statements that Mangini probably wouldn’t say in private (the Jets are going to win multiple Super Bowls?!?); and charmed the crowd while making sure that he was clearly the guy in charge. That he’s Buddy Ryan’s son means that he’ll be able to build a defense and a hard-hitting team, but that personality is going to play well in New York as long as he wins, and I think he will.
- That’s a book I intend to read:
All the NFL coaching news has gotten me to thinking about which managers are going to start the season in the managerial death wing waiting for a governor’s reprieve. Some of the names may be surprising; some not so much:
Joe Girardi, New York Yankees: With all the money they’ve spent and the expectations as high as they’ll be going into the new stadium, GM Brian Cashman—-as much as he likes Girardi—-isn’t going to mess around; if the Yankees get off to a bad start, Girardi’s getting fired and it’ll be quick. Bottom line.
Dave Trembley, Baltimore Orioles: They have no chance of competing this year in that impossible division (although they do have a shot at overtaking the Blue Jays) and Trembley has acquitted himself surprisingly well since he took over that thankless situation, but even if he survives the season, he’s not going to be there next year if owner Peter Angelos does what I expect him to do, and what I expect him to do is put a full-court press (with money as no object) on Tony La Russa.
La Russa is almost definitely not going to be back with the Cardinals in 2010 (and it doesn’t look like they want him back, stupidly); he’s going to be 65-years-old and would probably want to take three years to try and win it all one more time for a team that’s going to spend some money. Angelos would tell him, “Tony, you tell me what you need to win and we’ll make it happen.” It’s not Trembley’s fault, but the situation is what it is. Players aren’t going to Baltimore to play for Dave Trembley; they’ll go to play for Tony La Russa.
Jim Leyland, Detroit Tigers: You’d think a veteran manager like Leyland would be safe no matter what (he’s never been fired from any of his other three managerial jobs, which is an accomplishment in and of itself), but things have the potential of getting very ugly in Detroit; GM Dave Dombrowski worked with Leyland in Florida and they won a championship together, but the relationship isn’t exactly warm and fuzzy. Leyland used his relationship with then-Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga to usurp and undermine Dombrowski while there and their marriage in Detroit has grown strained with the drastic underachievement of 2008. Leyland wanted a contract extension that he didn’t get and his deal is up after 2009; it sounds like the Tigers are taking a “wait-and-see” attitude toward their manager, which is only going to make Leyland even more grouchy and the relationship between the two worse.
With the moves they’ve made this off-season, their defense is going to be better, but are their results from 2008 going to improve all that much with Gerald Laird, Adam Everett and Edwin Jackson? Unless Justin Verlander returns to form; Jeremy Bonderman and Joel Zumaya come back healthy; and Armando Galarraga repeats his 2008 performance, things could snowball very early. Owner Mike Ilitch is going to have to make a choice and he’s not going to back the manager this time.
Ron Washington, Texas Rangers: Washington was days away from being fired after the Rangers atrocious start last season, but the team rebounded and saved his job. Things sound completely dysfunctional in Texas and no one seems to know who’s really running things. One thing I’ll say about Washington is that the players have never stopped playing hard for him no matter how bad the situation was. If he gets the axe in Texas, he’ll deserve another chance with a team that has a strong veteran presence to police the clubhouse and can withstand Washington’s easygoing demeanor.
Bob Melvin, Arizona Diamondbacks: It won’t be his fault, but it’s possible that if the team gets off to a sluggish start and needs a kick, the even keeled Melvin might get the blame and the boot.
Bud Black, San Diego Padres: Black hasn’t done a very good job, but Connie Mack couldn’t have done much better with the Padres as they’re currently constructed. The only reason that Black wasn’t fired at the end of their brutal 2008 was that the front office knew how bad the team was going to be in 2009 and it made no sense to fire Black and pay him and another guy to lose just as many games as Black will.
If the sale of the club to Jeff Moorad goes slower than expected, Black might survive the season; if things are expansion team-level bad (and they will be), they won’t have a choice but to make a managerial change just to make it look like they’re doing something even though it won’t make a difference one way or the other. If Black’s fired, they’ll install Glenn Hoffman or Jim Lefebvre as manager for the rest o
f the season and let Moorad start over with his own people next year.
- The growing disconnect between front office and manager with the Cardinals:
Talk about dysfunction. Apparently what Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan want to do has no bearing on the intentions of the front office led by John Mozeliak. In recent days, the Cardinals have shifted the discussion of what to do with injured ace Chris Carpenter from the possibility of using him as the closer into Carpenter “preparing” to be a starter. In listening to the participants, it doesn’t sound as if La Russa is very confident in Carpenter being able to start for the entire season and would prefer to use the veteran out of the bullpen if that were to guarantee his availability for the year (or close to it) rather than not knowing from one start to the next if Carpenter would be able to pitch.
It doesn’t help matters that the Cardinals don’t have an established closer and may be forced to go with Chris Perez—-something La Russa clearly doesn’t want to do. If it were up to me and there was still this vacillation of whether Carpenter would be able to give 28-32 starts, I’d move him to the bullpen because not only would it be easier to monitor his workload, he’s got the stuff and the makeup to be a very good closer and it might keep him healthy. Carpenter’s at a similar age (34) as Dennis Eckersley was (32) when the switch was made (by La Russa and Duncan) with Eckersley. They know their pitchers and when it may be time for a role-change for the team’s and the pitcher’s own good. Unfortunately, that’s getting lost in translation with the front office, to the detriment of the club.
- Mets should make a serious move on Ben Sheets:
It’s a fine line to walk with a pitcher who’s as talented and fragile as Ben Sheets, but a team with the hole in their starting rotation might be well-served to roll the dice (within a reasonable financial commitment) on a guy like Ben Sheets. The red flags that have popped up with Sheets concern not just his elbow, but his shoulder; and his injury history cannot be discounted; but if he were willing to come for a 2-3 year deal, he’s worth a shot to see if he can stay healthy with a different organization. This isn’t to blame the Brewers for what happened with Sheets over the past few years, but who knows what a different situation will do for Sheets’s pain threshold?
If Sheets is able to deliver something close to what he did last season—-31 starts; 198 innings; and 13 wins—-wouldn’t that be worth more than what they’re going to have to throw at Oliver Perez to keep him? Or Randy Wolf, who’s little more than a last resort/name to mention as available (and who the Mets don’t really even want); or Jon Garland, who gives up a lot of hits and benefited more from the Angels bullpen than from anything he did on the mound in amassing 14 wins in 2008?
It sounds like the Sheets possibility is being discussed by the Mets brass seriously and if the choice is between Wolf, Garland and Sheets, Sheets on a short-term deal would be the best option (as long as Perez is being so demanding). Would Sheets rather go to the Rangers, where he has no real chance of competing; will be pitching in a danger zone where everyone with a bat is in scoring position; and has no bullpen to back him up? Or the Mets, who have the drastically improved bullpen; a great defense; and he’ll be part of a rotation that includes Johan Santana, John Maine and Mike Pelfrey? It’s a risk, but it’s also a potentially big jackpot for both sides.
- Omar Vizquel would be a good choice for the Rangers:
Vizquel would be able to tutor the touted rookie Elvis Andrus, and his presence would prevent the need to move Michael Young back to shortstop if Andrus needs to go back to the minors. It would be pretty embarrassing to have to shift Young back after this whole mess that came from the decision to move him to third base in the first place; and playing in Texas may bring Vizquel’s bat back from the dead.
One would think that Carl Pavano would be smart enough to try and put the Yankees experience behind him, move forward with the Indians and rebuild his reputation by taking responsibility for what happened (at least publicly) and going about his business in resurrecting his career. Instead, after signing with the Indians, Pavano had the unthinkable audacity to assign blame to the Yankees for his hellish four year term as a resident of their disabled list. The most unbelievable quotes are as follows (culled from an MLB.com Story):
“When you’re down, you expect your organization to pick you up, not
kick you when you’re down,” Pavano said. “I’ve had to pick myself up
quite a few times the last four years.”
“To make it eight, 10, 12 years in the big leagues, you’ve got to be a
pretty motivated person,” he said. “I’ve been through surgeries I
wasn’t sure I’d come back from. I’ve won a World Series, I’ve been to
the All-Star Game. I’ve been at the top of the game and the bottom of
the barrel. … I don’t think I could be any more motivated than I am
“A lot of offers wanted me to come to camp and have to make the team,”
Pavano said. “Not that I thought I was above that, but I didn’t want to
have to be looking over my shoulder. There is some risk on me, and I
understand that. I failed for four years in New York, and the
perception hasn’t been that great, and I understand that. To have a
team like Cleveland step up to the plate, how could I ask for anything
“New York’s a great place to play,” he said. “There’s no reason for me
to focus on what happened to me, because that’s all behind me. I’m not
holding any grudges. You just keep moving forward.”
The most egregious of the quotes is the nonsense about kicking him when he’s down. The Yankees, at the time they signed Pavano, still housed a large chunk of their selfless, battle-tested players like Derek Jeter, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera; there wasn’t this era of mercenaries and stat compilers that have taken over the Yankees clubhouse; Joe Torre was still at the helm of the club; they expected new acquisitions to comport themselves professionally, do their jobs and not behave as if they wanted to be anywhere but on the field, and that’s the sense that one got from Pavano even when he was supposedly healthy for the first half of 2005—-his body language (a big aspect of Torre’s assessment of players) showed a guy who wasn’t concentrating on what he was doing and was disinterested in winning.
The mental strength that the aforementioned players showed was one of the major differences between themselves and their main competition during their dynasty—-the Braves and the Indians. Pavano may not have been able to handle the pressures and expectations that came with coming to New York; pitching near his hometown; and making a load of money, but to assign blame to the organization when they call out someone who’s behaving in such a way shows a guy who has learned very little from his experiences.
It’s not just that Pavano was constantly hurt during his Yankees career, it’s that he didn’t appear all that “motivated” (a term he used in the quotes) to get back; he appeared content to sit on the disabled list with injuries that were questionable in the view of players like Martinez, Jeter and Posada, who were willing to go out onto the field with a bone sticking out of their skin. The Yankees of those years may have been serious-minded and coldly corporate, but they were also as tough as nails. Pavano was the antithesis of that attitude during his often ludicrous series of injuries that kept him off the mound.
The “holding grudges” comment is barely even worth discussing. If anyone should be holding a grudge for Pavano’s time in New York, it’s the Yankees because they basically took $40 million and threw it in the trash. It’s one thing to sign a guy who doesn’t perform as expected; but for a guy like Pavano, with the well-founded perception that he didn’t care, it’s absurd to assign blame to the team that paid him so lucratively and may have had a case to try and sue him to get some of the money back.
Pavano is on his fourth player agent now and is obviously a guy who’s impossible to bridle; and for a team like the Indians with the hustling, tough guys like Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner and Ryan Garko that permeate their roster, the comments must have been met with raised eyebrows. This isn’t the way Pavano wanted to start his time with the Indians. If I were representing or advising him, I’d try to get him to say something to the tune of the following:
“I signed with the Yankees with the best of intentions to pitch well enough to justify the generous contract I received; one thing led to another and things didn’t work out as I’d hoped. That’s in the past; I’m hoping for a fresh start with a new organization to replenish my image both on and off the field and prove that my time in New York was a learning experience that doesn’t define me or my career. I don’t blame anyone for what happened; I have the greatest respect for the Yankees organization and am hopeful that I’ll rejuvenate my career and alter my perception in Cleveland with the Indians.”
What he really said isn’t just absurd, but it’s insulting to the Yankees, who probably have a load of stories about Pavano’s time with the club that haven’t been made public and would only make him look worse. There must be bewilderment and head shaking going on in the Bronx and an even greater desire to bat him around when and if he faces them in 2009. Both sides should move on and the Yankees haven’t said anything negative about Pavano since he left; maybe he should take a page out of that book and move forward, because if this is his version of a new start, it looks more like the same old alibis and deflection of personal responsibility that were the hallmarks of his time in New York.
- Another brilliant signing for the Red Sox:
I’ve always been a big fan of Takashi Saito. He throws strikes, racks up the strikeouts and is very hard to hit judging by his numbers. For the past three seasons with the Dodgers, Saito (when he was healthy) was one of the more underrated closers in all of baseball. Now he’s bolstering an already loaded Red Sox bullpen on a short-term deal that is exemplifying the Red Sox more frugal (and smarter) off season in which they’ve watched the Yankees spend a half billion dollars to fill their holes.
The depth of the Red Sox pitching staff will allow them to try and improve their offense by dealing a guy like Clay Buchholz or Manny Delcarmen if that’s what it’s going to take to pry a catcher from a team like the Rangers, who have a surplus at the position. (Although with each passing day, it looks more and more likely that Jason Varitek will return to the Red Sox.) When players are returning from injuries or have other physical issues as the majority of the players the Red Sox have signed do, there’s no way of knowing what kind of performance they’re going to get; but the players who fit into that category—-John Smoltz; Brad Penny; Rocco Baldelli; and now Saito—-are short-term signings whose contracts are incentive-heavy. If three of them provide anywhere close to what they have in their career, the Red Sox will gladly take that for the money laid out.
Looking at the holes that each team has, the Red Sox are actually in a better position than the Yankees because their holes aren’t as glaring. The Yankees still don’t know how much they’re going to get from Jorge Posada; the back of their rotation is still a question mark; and they don’t have a legit, big league center fielder. The Red Sox starting rotation is bursting; their bullpen is deep and their lineup as currently constructed will hit enough for them to win their annual 90+ games. Add in the questions still surrounding Yankees manager Joe Girardi and the Red Sox have a clear advantage heading into the 2009 season and they filled their holes cheaply as well.
- Japanese pitchers are the ultimate in shooting craps:
The Braves have apparently signed Japanese pitcher Kenshin Kawakami, but if they really want people to believe that they have any idea whether his success in Japan and his stuff are going to translate to North America, they’re deluding themselves. After so many Japanese pitchers have come to the majors and flamed out (Hideki Irabu, Kei Igawa), or have performed far beyond expectations (Hideki Okajima, Saito), it’s clear that there’s no way of knowing what these players will provide.
Kawakami has a solid resume in Japan, but so what? Kosuke Fukudome, Irabu and Igawa were heralded when they arrived and that hasn’t translated to the big leagues. Despite gaudy numbers, Daisuke Matsuzaka hasn’t lived up to the hype of a top-of-the-rotation starter either. The biggest positive about Kawakami for the Braves is that he’s a pure free agent and doesn’t require the posting fees that guys like Irabu and Matsuzaka did, and he’s not going to require a long term, expensive contract.
Strangely, it was the pitcher who started the exodus of players coming from Japan to try their luck in the United States—-Hideo Nomo—-who was the most dominant and unappreciated of all the imports, and that includes the overrated Ichiro Suzuki. Nomo’s numbers—-specifically his strikeouts and hits/innings pitched ratios—-showed a guy who was almost unhittable when he was right. Every year he was healthy, the numbers went up—-Nomo Stats—-and he posted them with his entire country’s reputation on the line as he took the drastic step of “retiring” of Japanese baseball at age 25 to take a chance on pitching in the States knowing that he might not be allowed to continue his career in Japan if he failed. That’s more pressure than any of the successors had to endure, posting money and hype notwithstanding.
Had Nomo joined the Dodgers and been just passable, teams wouldn’t have been willing to take as many chances on the players from the Far East; it’s because of Nomo that there are so many such players in the big leagues and their organizations now. Each and every one of them owes a portion of their fat paychecks to Hideo Nomo and it’s something that’s easily forgotten because it seems so long ago.
- How about a Yankees-Mets deal that would help both sides?
The Mets have lusted after Xavier Nady ever since they traded him to the Pirates to fill the hole created by Duaner Sanchez’s taxi accident in Florida; that they were able to pry Oliver Perez away from the clueless Pirates was just an additive to their desire to get Roberto Hernandez back. The Yankees are looking to open up a spot for either Nick Swisher or Nady by dealing either of them after their acquisition of Mark Teixeira. A deal that would help both sides would have the Yankees sending Nady to the Mets for Ryan Church.
Never mind the talk that Church doesn’t like New York (if that’s the case, then forget it), but Church was a well-respected defensive center fielder while with the Nationals and is a center-right hitter who’d benefit from the Yankees short right field porch. Nady is the righty bat the Mets need and was very well-liked in their clubhouse while handling New York and providing clutch hits. He also plays first base, which will make him a viable option after the 2009 season when Carlos Delgado’s contract expires and will open up and outfield spot for Fernando Martinez.
Nady’s a free agent at the end of the year and is due a big raise in arbitration; Church is arbitration eligible, but will be under organizational control until 2012. If it’s agreeable to all sides, it fits well on paper and on the field and the Yankees could install Swisher in right field and not worry about having to play Brett Gardner or Melky Cabrera in center field; signing Jim Edmonds or trading for Mike Cameron. It’s a viable alternative on all levels.
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.
1) Roger Clemens’s name is being removed from a Houston Sports Medicine clinic—-ESPN Story. How far can this guy fall before hitting the bottom? Or is it a bottomless pit of never-ending repercussions for the perception that he did something he denies doing?
I’m not about to sit here and defend Roger Clemens for anything, but it’s not like he pulled an O.J. Simpson and killed someone intentionally and brutally; it’s not even like he pulled a Jim Leyritz and did something stupid and unintentionally killed someone because of that stupidity. Does Clemens really deserve to be treated this way? To have everyone react to him as if he’s persona non grata wherever he goes and whatever he does?
I think it’s clear that Clemens did use performance enhancing drugs; that he lied to congress and everyone else about it; that he wasn’t exactly chivalrous in blaming his wife for the acquisition of the drugs; that he’s done some terrible things for which there’s little defense in this context. Even with that, he’s also done some incredibly nice things with his time and money in charity work and in helping many, many people. Just like anything else, to pigeonhole him as a terrible person and try to strike his presence from baseball and life is a little over-the-top when everything is taken into account.
The Hall of Fame debate is legitimate and although I’d vote him in based on his career before he was ever implicated in the PED scandal and accused of doing something that a huge chunk of the baseball populace was doing, I can understand those that say they won’t vote for him. I think a large portion of those that are claiming they’ll refuse to vote for Clemens are either taking pleasure in the man’s fall and want to pile on; or are just bitter and don’t want to vote for anyone other than their contemporary cronies and are mining for justifiable excuses for their non-vote, but that’s neither here nor there.
Why is it that Clemens’s money was enough to get his name mounted above that Houston Sports Medicine clinic, but the accusations are enough to get it torn down when he hasn’t been proven to have done anything wrong aside from the allegations presented by some shady characters like Jose Canseco and Brian McNamee, along with Clemens’s own big mouth? This is just kicking a guy when he’s down and by now, there’s no way for him to replenish his image even if, by some miracle, he’s proven to have never done anything wrong in the first place.
2) Texas Rangers GM Jon Daniels was quoted as saying that his team probably won’t contend until 2010 or possibly make a “push” by the second half of 2009. You have to give credit to Daniels for being honest and he’s probably right, but is that the smartest thing to say to reporters and especially fans, who are going to, in essence, be wasting their time in hoping that their team is going to be able to contend in the upcoming season?
The Rangers have made some interesting deals in recent years to load their farm system with young talent, especially on the mound; and Daniels seems to have started to grow into the job of GM, but it probably would’ve been better for him to keep his mouth shut on this subject or to utilize some effective semantics saying that he felt the Rangers could win despite their current circumstances.
Worse than the media and fans hearing of this type of assessment is if the players get wind of it and free agents decide that they either don’t want to join a situation where even the front office doesn’t think the team can win, or give something of a lackluster effort because of their perceived long-range plan; worse yet, it’s not as if manager Ron Washington is a guy that the players are going to be afraid of if they don’t play hard.
The Rangers have literally done nothing this off-season to improve, so it should come as no surprise if they’re not any better than around the .500 team they were in 2008, but they still need a closer and some starting pitching and Daniels’s honesty could prevent pitchers like Ben Sheets from going to the Rangers if there are similar offers elsewhere in situations that provide a better chance at contention. Daniels should’ve taken a page out of Yankees GM Brian Cashman’s book (as annoying as it is) and speaking in GM-style cliches in which he says about seven paragraphs worth of nothing. Speaking of whi
3) The muzzle on Padres GM Kevin Towers has apparently come loose. Regarding Jake Peavy, Towers was quoted as saying: “the club will still listen to offers for Jake Peavy, but is no longer actively trying to move him.”
The man does not learn. After months of saying stupid things to sabotage any chance of trading Peavy and getting maximum value for him; then saying that the Padres were unlikely to trade him; then having everyone sort of move onto other things, out he comes with another statement about Peavy. Did this need to be said? Did he have to disclose this little bit of information that any smart baseball observer knew would be the case? At this point, I’d sit and wait if I were an interested team and let Towers know not to even contact me regarding Peavy unless he was ready to get a deal done right there and then; other than that, the Padres can wallow in the muck whose volume they do their best to increase each and every waking hour with their own ineptitude.
- Marketing, Kevin Trudeau-style:
Even with all the criticism I’ve hurled toward Moneyball and Michael Lewis (the most prominent being that he doesn’t know much of anything about baseball and that he twisted the story to fit into his hypothesis), there’s no doubt that he’s a talented and successful writer. It takes skill to take a theory and adjust the narrative to fit into what one is trying to convey; but that being said, the new book that’s in bookstores with the name “Michael Lewis” in big bold letters atop the cover is a bit misleading to coax people into purchasing it without taking a close look at what they’re buying.
The book, Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity, isn’t something that I have the faintest interest in reading whether Lewis wrote it or not, but for people that are fans of the writer, they’re going to be surprised if they don’t look closely at the cover and see the italicized words “Edited by” atop Lewis’s name along with the appellation, “THE #1 BEST-SELLING AUTHOR”.
As some who have purchased the book without realizing this fact have probably discovered, Lewis didn’t write the book. This is at best, misleading; at worst, it’s a Kevin Trudeau-style tactic of getting a load of people to buy the product and hoping that the dissatisfied customers don’t bother to take the time to ask for a refund. I’m not comparing Lewis or the book company to Kevin Trudeau’s sleazy (though admirable in its audacity) operation; I’m sure those that are interested in the book’s contents will be satisfied whether Lewis wrote the thing or not, but it’s still in the same ballpark as what Trudeau does no matter how it’s justified.
- Reds sign Willy Taveras to 2-year contract:
This isn’t a world-shaking maneuver, but the Reds had a hole in center field and at the leadoff spot in their lineup, so Taveras fills that hole at a reasonable price. He’s a very good defensive outfielder and can really run, so he’ll steal his 50-60 bases and catch the ball for the Reds pitchers. Manager Dusty Baker won’t harass him to be more selective at the plate either, so this is a good fit for both sides.
With their acquisitions this winter of Ramon Hernandez and Taveras, along with the hoped return to form of Aaron Harang, the Reds should be hanging around the top of the NL Central. They still need a corner outfielder who can hit the ball out of the park like Pat Burrell or Milton Bradley, but with the dearth of center fielders available and the number of teams who could use a decent one, the Reds could’ve done far worse than Taveras.
- Micro-managing from the top, but in a reasonable way:
I went to see the New Jersey Devils on Friday night because I couldn’t get reasonably priced tickets to the Rangers while my fiancee’s brother is in town. (It was bad timing; getting three tickets isn’t easy; the Rangers were playing the Capitals, who are a good team with a superstar player in Alex Ovechkin; and then the Rangers have the Devils and Islanders coming into Madison Square Garden for the other available games—-rivalries are more expensive.)
When venturing into Prudential Center in Newark, the shadow of Devils boss Lou Lamoriello is everywhere. The place is clean and well-lit; the staff is courteous and organized; the set-up of the arena is straight up from the ice to get a view of the entire surface and is different from the set-up at the Garden where it’s more of a bowl shape.
One thing that was interesting was how I went to the restroom during play and when I tried to get back to my seat, there was an usher holding a little pseudo-stop sign that said, “Puck in play. Please wait” or something to that effect. I’ve never seen that before and it had the mark of Lamoriello all over it. The man’s like a phantom; a modern day Al Davis; everywhere but nowhere and you really can’t argue with success. I still prefer the Garden though.