Match made in hell: Barry Bonds and the Marlins

Posted July 31, 2008 by baseballmuse
Categories: Baseball

Tags: , ,

I expect some team, the trade deadline having passed, to sign Barry Bonds. It could be the Diamondbacks, who missed out on Texeira. Perhaps the Rays, who didn’t get Bay or Dunn. Maybe the Mets, who also missed out. But more than any team, I think Barry makes perfect sense for the Marlins.

Bonds has said, truly or not, that he’ll play for the minimum this year. That’s great for the Marlins, who are the most embarrassingly cheap team since Clark Griffith’s Washington Senators. Barry might have some negative publicity attached, but that can’t hurt the Marlins, who seem to go out of their way to tell fans not to watch them. The Marlins are a game out of first place, and while their outfield is a relative strength, Bonds would be a major upgrade over any of their three outfielders.

Seriously, the only argument against signing Bonds that makes any sense at all for most teams is that he’s not marketable, and would hurt the fan-base. I don’t buy that “he doesn’t get along with teammates” crap — it’s only two months, and in a locker room of 25 hormonally-enhanced men, there are bound to be personality conflicts. That’s what you hire managers and coaches for. Statistically, he was outstanding last year. So again, it’s merely how would the fan base accept him — and the Marlins, sadly, are lacking fans. So it can’t hurt that, and it can help them win, which I do believe they actually like to do, despite some of their very odd decisions.

So David Samson, Jeffrey Loria, et al. Get on the phone and bring Barry into town. If it doesn’t work, no one will remember.


OMFG, Bud Selig! Move the All-star game to Wednesday!

Posted July 16, 2008 by baseballmuse
Categories: Baseball

Tags: , ,

A very quick post, because I’m the worst blogger ever.

Last night’s all-star game nearly either saw position players pitch, or nearly ended in the second tie this decade. People are proposing all kinds of rule changes to prevent such a future occurrence, or berating pitchers, managers, training staffs, and general managers for making their all-star pitchers unavailable. (Since it’s completely unreasonable that teams investing millions of dollars into these pitchers would want to avoid an injury in an exhibition, even one with some minimal reward.)

The problem is that several pitchers threw over 100 pitches in games that actually do count in the standings, and therefore were unavailable for no more than an emergency inning, as they had only a single day’s rest before Tuesday night. I think the solution is simple, with some acquiescence by Fox: move the game to Wednesday. That way every pitcher will have had a minimum of two days’ rest, and would, in all but the rarest of circumstances, be available for at least two innings in the game.

I grant that more conservative usage of pitchers would also help — Cliff Lee hadn’t pitched since Friday, and certainly could have thrown more than two innings, for example — but if we’re going to suppose that no pitcher can throw more than two innings, and you have four starters who are now limited to one inning because they pitched too recently, as well as three relievers who really shouldn’t throw more than an inning, because they’re not accustomed to throwing more, you’ve knocked yourself down to a max of 17 innings, assuming that you use everyone else for the full two innings they might be available. If you can bump those four starters up to two innings, because you’ve moved the game back a day, you’re now at a max of 21 innings, and no general managers debating whether to sue either the manager or Bud Selig. No one plans their vacations around the all-star game (unless you’re going to the woods, and you want to pick a time when you won’t miss anything important on TV,) so people won’t mind the switch to Wednesday, especially if it saves them having Joe Buck and Tim McCarver delighting in the possibility of another tie.

2008 Preview: New York Mets

Posted February 6, 2008 by baseballmuse
Categories: Baseball

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Over the next 30 days (give or take a day or two around the beginning of March) I am going to offer an offseason assessment and 2008 prediction for each team. I’ll start with the Senior Circuit, go from East to West, and then move onto the Junior Circuit (also known as where all the best players are.) This is partly due to the fact that I’m an N.L. guy at heart, and partly that I’m waiting for the Erik Bedard trade to be completed. Anyway, onto the Mets!

2007 record: 88-74, 2nd place

Wish we could do that twice: Trading nothing of immediate use for Johan Santana. As has been written virtually everywhere, this was a great trade for the Mets. I find no reason at all to disagree. I’ll analyze the Twins portion in a couple weeks when it’s their turn, but Santana had his worst season in four years in 2007, and still managed a 9.1 wins above replacement. Meanwhile, the back-end of the Mets rotation was the definition of replacement. In other words, even with another “down year” from Santana, the Mets have gained a conservative seven wins from last year’s team. That’s huge. And signing him to a six-year deal is icing on the cake, as this will continue to help the Mets in their lifelong quest to unseat the Yankees for New York dominance. It’s quite affordable for them. And they really gave up nothing that they’ll miss for at least a couple years.

This won’t look pretty when the beer goggles come off: Trading Lastings Milledge for Brian Schneider and Ryan Church. I understand that Milledge had worn out his welcome, although some of that responsibility lies at the feet of Willie Randolph for not running a better clubhouse such that a 22 year-old reserve outfielder could become a problem to everyone. Lastings Milledge has way more talent than Schneider and Church, and he’s cheaper. Schneider is an okay catcher, in part because there is a plethora of mediocrity at the position these days. I like him more than LoDuca, so he’ll be an upgrade. But at the time of the trade, they’d already re-signed Ramon Castro, and traded for Johnny Estrada (whom they subsequently released, and who has now signed with the Nationals in a moment of irony.) The difference between Estrada and Schneider is negligible, although I suppose Estrada is glacier-slow, whereas Schneider is just catcher-slow. Still, Schneider wasn’t nearly worth Milledge, lusterless or not. Getting back Church was nice, in that he should now occupy Milledge’s right-field spot, which is better than relying on Endy Chavez full-time. But as a Met fan, and as a baseball-guy, I’d have far preferred Milledge and Estrada to Church and Schneider. When Milledge starts his run of all-star game appearances in 2010, I’ll sigh for him like I do Scott Kazmir.

Why didn’t this happen?!?: I liked him when he was brought in, and I liked when he was given an extension last January, but Willie Randolph needed to be fired. While it’s difficult to quantify a manager’s value, and I’ve tried, it’s safe to say that his primary responsibility is not in-game decisions (there’s but a couple moments in a game where a manager can have an actual effect), although Randolph made some very questionable decisions, specifically with regards to his usage of Billy Wagner in the last 6 weeks. Rather, it is in the daily preparation and motivation of his players. Clearly, the Mets were not playing with any level of professional confidence or composure over the last three weeks, and that was Randolph’s responsibility to prevent. He failed, and should have lost his job.

Thanks God this didn’t happen!! Some reports had Kyle Lohse possibly signing with the Mets in a four-year, $40 millon deal. Since this didn’t happen, there’s no way to know how close it was to reality. But Lohse is at best a league-average innings muncher, a la Steve Trachsel, and at worse someone you release outright (as pretty much happened in 2006.) As a one-year rotation plugger, he’s fine. But for four years and a whopping amount of money, he’s insanity personified.

That guy who needs to step up: Mike Pelfrey. The Mets front four of the rotation is underrated beyond Johan Santana. Pedro Martinez looked dominant at times last September, and a full offseason of health should allow him to have a great year by most pitchers’ standards. John Maine and Oliver Perez have their moments of inconsistency, but were both capable of anchoring the staff at times. But the fifth spot is questionable, between Pelfrey, Jorge Sosa, and Orlando Hernandez. Pelfrey taking this role over in Spring Training would be a godsend, as El Duque is better suited for a bullpen role at this point in his career, which is fine considering the bullpen struggles at Shea last year. Sosa is someone who relies mostly on luck to get by, with poor strikeout rates and poor walk rates. Pelfrey being a solid #5 guy all year would save the Mets from overpaying for a starter mid-season or next winter.

What else needs to be done: A little more help in the outfield wouldn’t be bad. Church is a platoon guy with injury issues, and Chavez is best as a fourth outfielder than an everyday player. Moises Alou is great when he plays, but to expect more than 400 at-bats is really just wishcasting. What happens when Alou goes down for a month? That presses Chavez into an everyday role and deprives Church of a platoon. The Mets will get by with their present lineup, but would excel with a real rightfielder. Maybe Lastings Milledge.

Where will they finish? Aside from the last three weeks of the season, the Mets were the class of the NL. They could have done nothing and had a reasonable expectation of winning the division. Locking up Santana assures them of first. If Pedro is healthy at the end of the year, and Wagner isn’t worn down, they have all the pieces to be a favorite entering October.

Arlen Specter needs to chill.

Posted February 2, 2008 by baseballmuse
Categories: Football, Politics

Tags: , , , , ,

So I know this blog is supposed to be about baseball, and I know that it’s been incredibly inactive.  I intended to make an entry regarding an overlooked rationale in the Johan Santana trade, and I still might after my grad school apps are completed this weekend.  However, I was distracted from this by Arlen Specter getting involved in Spygate.

 Firstly, let me say as an unabashed ultra-liberal, I think Specter is a relatively decent Senator, especially for a Republican.  He has generally pushed back at the Bush administration in their attempts to railroad Congress, and pushed back especially hard at Alberto Gonzalez.  He’s anti-torture and anti-domestic spying, and pro stem cell research.  Seems like a generally fair-minded individual.  But there is no legitimate reason for him to grandstand over the destruction of the Patriots tapes involved in Spygate.

 He is not acting as a Senator, concerned about preserving the public trust.   The NFL is an association of businesses who have agreed to work together for joint profits, and formed a separate corporation (the NFL itself) to handle disputes that may arise between the teams.  The head of this organization, Roger Goodell, looked at the evidence of one entity spying on another entity, and took action that he deemed appropriate to both punish the offenders and deter others from pursuing the same practices.  He would have the same jurisdiction if there were deemed to be employee tampering, or other intra-league offenses.  There is no reason, other than a media lacking creativity, for this story to continue further.  Specter is not acting as a concerned legislator, but as an Philadelphia Eagles fan, as he represents Pennsylvania.  It’s clear as day in the letters he sent to Goodell.

In his letter, he asks only in relation to the Eagles losing the Super Bowl to the Patriots in 2005.  That is his sole care.  Furthermore, he waits until Noevember 15th to send his letter to Goodell.  This was two months after Goodell meted out his justice on the Patriots.  If this were truly a pressing concern, Specter should have queried Goodell immediately.  But to ask him two months later, after the issue was a closed book, is just unnecessary.  And to use his office as a method of bullying around others is just irresponsible.  Considering the nation is on the verge of economic collapse, the CIA destroyed tapes that they had been order to preserve regarding torture, and the budget deficit is growing every year, I would imagine that someone on two of the most important Senate committees (judiciary and appropriations, as Specter’s own letterhead reminds us) has a few more pressing issues than holding a press conference days before the Super Bowl.

 That should be it for football on this blog.  Maybe I’ll touch on Clemens et al. in Congress in a couple weeks hence.  But with the Hot Stove winding down and Spring Training soon to start, I promise to post more regularly for my three readers.

The Arod sweepstakes – part II

Posted October 31, 2007 by baseballmuse
Categories: Baseball

Continuing yesterday’s post regarding the why’s and why’s not for baseball teams to pursue Arod, I will move to the NL Central.

 Chicago Cubs:

On the field: The Cubs haven’t won a World Series in, well, everybody knows how long.  So there is a definite reason to add another player to increase competitiveness, coming off a playoff appearance capped by a decisive sweep to the Diamondbacks.  One of the Cubs biggest weaknesses is at shortstop, so Arod there is a natural fit.  Having signed a lot of big contracts in the past season, there is an additional pressure to win.  Adding the best player in baseball would make much sense.

Off the field: The Cubs are in an uncertain position with ownership, as Tribune is for sale, and once that sale is finalized, it is expected the Cubs will be put on the market.  A recent rumor indicated the Tribune sale might be fraying a bit, which only adds to the uncertainty.  That said, this didn’t stop the Cubs from signing Soriano to a huge deal last winter, or extending Zambrano this summer, so I’m not sure it’s as much of a factor as the media will make it out to be.  Also, Piniella was Arod’s manager back in Seattle.  I recall the two saying nice things about each other, but I might be mistaken.

Cincinatti Reds:

On the field: The Reds aren’t very good.  However, they do have a good shortstop in Brandon Phillips, and a young prospect at third in Edwin Encarnacion, so the marginal gain in signing Arod is a little less than some places, unless you move Phillips to second.  Even then, it’s a bit uncertain as to how competitive they could be, as their outfield situation isn’t remotely settled, although it’s fun to envision Arod and Griffey together again.  Also amusing is Rodriguez and Bronson Arroyo on the same team, because people would get to continue making a mountain out of a molehill from the ballslapping incident back in ’04.

Off the field: The Reds are generally a small-market team, and not normally big spenders.  I don’t think they would feel they could afford Arod without trading Griffey (which they should do anyway if they can find someone that will assume most of his salary.)  Dusty Baker loves Arod tho, and would be tickled to have him on the Reds.   All in all, I think Cincinnati is one of the least likely and least productive destinations for Arod, although still not even the least likely in the division.

Houston Astros:

On the field: The Astros have a void at third, and an effective void at short, as Adam Everett simply cannot hit well enough to deserve a full-time job on a major-league roster.  So there’s plenty of room.  The Astros have something of a stars-and-scrubs roster, with Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, and ideally Hunter Pence on the star side of the ledger, and the rest of their positional players on the scrubs side.  Thus adding another costly superstar fits in well with their philosophy on and off the field.

Off the field: Drayton McLane reminds me of Tom Hicks.  He’s a pennypincher who every now-and-again wants to break his piggy bank, and wants to control operations of the team, while not admitting to himself or the rest of the world that this is true.  That’s why the Astros never sign their draft picks, and also why they overpay Carlos Lee.   It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he signed Arod to a megadeal, and three years from now complained that salaries are out of control, heading into the next labor deal, as Hicks did the last time.

Milwaukee Brewers:

On the field: The Brewers led the division almost the entire year before coughing it up, so, like the Mets, the value gained from Arod is significant when thinking about wins.  Ryan Braun was abominable at third base last year, with his defense diminishing his value by about 40%.  He needs to move to left field as soon as possible.  The Brewers solved half the problem by declining the option on incumbent Geoff Jenkins, so adding Arod to fill Braun’s void would solve the other half.  Otherwise, the Brewers have an amazing core of young, cost-controlled position players, so the financial burden wouldn’t be as huge as you might think to a small-market club, especially when you factor in the additional revenue that winning brings.  For extra salary room, however, they could trade Bill Hall for pitching, move Corey Hart to center, and go with Tony Gwynn Jr. and Kevin Mench in right until Matt LaPorta is ready.

Off the field: Doug Melvin was the GM with the Rangers when Arod signed there.  I’m not certain if that’s good or bad.  I also imagine the fans of Milwaukee would love to cheer for the player who would break the evil Barry Bonds’ home run record, and see it belong to one of their players again.  Again, the swing of power that Arod would bring the Cubs, should he go there, also should be considered here as an additional reason for the Brewers to pursue.

Pittsburgh Pirates:

On the field:  Their offense isn’t very good, although they do have good young pitching.  They’re a really bad team tho, and I can’t imagine it making baseball sense for Arod to end up here.

Off the field:  They haven’t had a winning record since Bonds left, so it would certainly be a marketing turnaround to add someone of his calibre.  However, it again makes only the smallest amount of sense.  Neal Huntington seems to want to copy how his former organization, Cleveland, built their organization.  They passed on Arod in 2001, and Huntington will here.  Pittsburgh, along with Kansas City and Tampa Bay, make the least sense as players for Arod.

St. Louis Cardinals:

On the field: Their shortstop David Eckstein is a free agent.  Their third-baseman, Scott Rolen, is declining quite rapidly.  Their lineup is essentially composed of Albert Pujols and a bunch of roleplayers.  Rodriguez would be a huge addition, especially in the weak NL Central.

Off the field: St. Louis fans are the most supportive in baseball.  This means that they will still sell tickets without Arod.  It also means it would be a very good environment for Rodriguez on the personal level, as he’s not likely to hear much criticism from the outside.  They don’t yet have a GM, having let Jocketty go, so it’s really difficult to imagine what direction the team is going in.

For the most part, it’s difficult to imagine Arod winding up in the NL Central, as the markets are a little smaller, and the teams generally worse.  However, either the Cubs or the Brewers could set themselves to be the division’s dominant team for five years if they signed Arod, and Boras has already called both GM’s to say hello.

The Arod sweepstakes

Posted October 30, 2007 by baseballmuse
Categories: Baseball

Okay, so I haven’t blogged in four months, almost five.  I’ll do better now, or at least after I’m done applying for grad school in early December.  But it’s the winter, at least in baseball terms, so there are many interesting things going on with roster construction.

 Alex Rodriguez is of course the big story, as he’s a free agent now, and it’s rare that the best player in baseball enters the free agent market.  While we’ll hear in the media that few teams will want to sign him, and some in the BBWAA will even suggest that no one sign him, I think that makes no sense.  There are few teams in baseball that should not want to sign him, as most teams are rolling in money (evidenced by last offseason’s salary spike) thanks to the new national media deals, and combined with revenue sharing.  Furthermore, while I do think that chemistry is important, baseball is different from most other team sports, in that personal selfishness doesn’t get in the way of the actual playing of the game, unlike basketball or football, in which you are always reliant on your teammates.  Yes, being a good co-worker is important, just as it is in any workplace, but it is the job (in my opinion the most important job) of the manager to facilitate camaraderie.  So if a GM doesn’t think Arod (or any other player) will be a good fit personality-wise, then that should be an insult to the manager.  And if a manager doesn’t want to deal with Arod, he should not keep his job.

 Having said that, I’m going to go through each team and explore why, for both on-the-field and off-the-field reasons, they should or should not pursue him.  Again, I think that almost any team can afford the potential $30-million contract if they wanted to, so we’re really looking at if they should want to, and taking a guess if they actually will want to.  This will be in six parts, going through each division.   As a Mets fan, I’ll start with the NL East (which happens to be the division I think he’s most likely to end up in.)

 Starting with the NL East:

Atlanta Braves:

On the field:  Arod can be viewed as either a third-baseman or a shortstop.  Being so overloaded at the latter, with Yunel Escobar and Brett Lillibridge ready for major-league action, the Braves traded Edgar Renteria to the Tigers yesterday.  At third, they have the very productive offensively, yet defensively liable Chipper Jones.   If Arod were to end up here, Jones would go to left and Arod would man third.  This would move Matt Diaz to the bench.  In terms of WARP, this means you would net a little better than 6 wins in the comparison between Arod and Diaz.  Considering that the Braves finished five games out of first, such a move would be very justifiable.

Off the field: The Braves are owned by some corporate conglomerate (Liberty Media, if I’m not mistaken.)  I can’t imagine Frank Wren being given the okay to add a $30-million player, or even an $18-million player.  Considering the Braves filled a pedestrian 67.7% of their seats last season, 16th in baseball, I think that adding a visible player like Arod would have very tangible effects at the gate, something that has been a problem in Atlanta despite the in-season success.

 Florida Marlins:

On the field: The Marlins have two of the top ten (if not top six) position players in baseball, between Hanley Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera.  While those two players occupy Arod’s positions of third and short, it is widely expected that Cabrera will be a first-baseman before many more years pass.  Signing Arod would thus give reason for the inevitible to occur.  Mike Jacobs is thus left positionless, which is fine, considering he produced a whopping 1.1 WARP, practically 10 wins less than Arod’s 11.0.  Adding 10 wins to the Marlins moves them to a .500 squad — with the improving young talent that is Ramirez, Cabrera, Jeremy Hermida, and to a lesser extent Dan Uggla and Josh Willingham, it’s not hard to imagine them as sudden contenders by this one move alone.

Off the field: The Marlins have no money!  They have no stadium to play in three years from now!  How can they afford Arod?  Firstly, the Marlins spend no money, and without Arod, will next year likely only have two players (Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis) making more than the major-league minimum.  Even adding $30 million to their payroll (in effect doubling it) would leave them 24th in baseball next year.  Furthermore they do need a stadium, as contraction threats are not an option until 2012, per the CBA.  Having Alex Rodriguez will help market a stadium to local officials, as it shows a long-term commitment to providing a winning team.  This is especially true in Miami, which just happens to be Arod’s hometown.  If Loria is serious about staying in Miami, signing Arod would be about the best move he could make to get a publically-funded stadium, and the profits gained would greatly exceed the cost of the player.  The Marlins are one of the teams that stands to gain the most from adding Rodriguez.

New York Mets:

On the field: The Mets missed the playoffs by one excruciating game (or, in my view, one excruciating interference call in August.)  So practically any way the Mets can improve their team will be a huge positive.  That said, liek the Marlins, the Mets two best assets play shortstop and third, but unlike the Marlins, neither of them need to move for defensive reasons.  However, David Wright sounded perfectly happy to switch positions for Arod in the middle of the season, and I can’t imagine that missing the postseason by one game will have lessened that acceptance.  Alternatively, Arod could play second and Wright stay at third, or Jose Reyes could move back to second and Arod play short.  Regardless, adding Arod would make the Mets the odds-on favorite in the NL next year.

Off the field: The Mets can certainly afford Rodriguez, as they play in the largest market in the country.  Furthermore, they are moving into a new stadium soon, and can expect a revenue increase from that alone.  Additionally, they are always competing with the Yankees for television viewers as well as ticket-buyers, not to mention merchandise sales, and stealing the Yankees’ best player will do nothing but help the pendulum swing towards the Mets.  From a monetary perspective, I think the Mets might have the most to gain from adding Arod.  From Arod’s perspective, I can think of few things that would be a bigger “screw you” to the Steinbrenners and the pro-Yankee portion of the New York media than leading the Mets to a World Series title.  As a side note, Omar Minaya does seem to have a bias towards Latin American players.

 Philadelphia Phillies:

On the field: If the Mets are the best off-the-field fit for Rodriguez, the Phillies might be the best on-field fit.  The Phils won the division last year, but only by a single game over the Mets, and will clearly be in an off-season fight with both the Mets and the Braves.  The Phillies worst position offensively was third base, which just happens to be Arod’s position at this point.  The difference between Greg Dobbs and Arod is again about 10 WARP, which would make the Phillies a strong favorite to repeat.

Off the field: GM Pat Gillick has said that this is his last year before retiring.  You have to imagine he won’t be thinking of “next year” in his pursuit to put together a World Series team.  While normally I’d say that the Phillies have less to gain than most teams at the box office, as they sold practically 90% of tickets last season, which one would expect to rise based on this year’s playoff appearance alone, I think that Gillick’s intended departure will far outweigh the more marginal revenue that Arod would produce compared to the other teams in this division.  However, while I’m less concerned than most about Arod’s mental character, the Philadelphia media and fandom are the most unforgivingly demanding in the country across all sports, and if the Phillies fail to win the World Series in his first year of the contract, Arod will be blamed and booed more than anyone else, even if he homers 100 times.  I’m not sure I’d want to walk into that situation.  As far as home run records go, Arod in that Philly bandbox threatens Bonds’ mark, whatever it finishes at, like nothing else.

Washington Nationals:

On the field: The Nationals had the worst-hitting team, by far, in the majors last year.  Their best hitter, Ryan Zimmerman, plays third, which forces Arod to short, which would be an infinite improvement over Christian Guzman.   Of course, that means the Nationals would increase their supply of effective major-league hitters from one to two (three if you think Dmitri Young will do anything next year), leaving them still on the outside of any real playoff picture.  However, adding Arod as well as one or two other big free agents could do it.

Off the field: The Nationals are moving into a new park this spring, and are expecting to be able to substantially increase their payroll, thus affording Arod and the additional free agents required to make them a contender.  GM Jim Bowden is known for being aggressive in both trades and free agents, and while I often disagree with his moves, he at least goes for big moves, unlike what the Pirates and Royals have done for the past decade.  While I think that selling a last-place club will be hard to Rodriguez (having already experienced Texas), if the Nationals show they are willing to spend, they could pull it off.  (Note: while the Marlins were in fact in last place in 2007, the National/Expos have been the doormat for a long enough time that they are branded by much more of a last place stigma, as the Marlins won the Series in 2003, and were in contention into September of 2006.)

I really think that Arod will end up in this division more than any other, for the reasons described above.  In addition, this was such a tight race between the Mets, Phillies, and Braves, that the addition of Rodriguez to one of your competitors hurts you by about as much as signing him helps.  This will be true in other places as well, but I think it rings truer in the major media markets of the East Coast, and I’m sure Scott Boras will position these teams against each other in a way that only he can.

Well that was a bit of a shock

Posted July 1, 2007 by baseballmuse
Categories: Baseball

Mike Hargrove resigned todayWhile I had predicted him to be fired, I admit I wasn’t expecting him to quit in the middle of a huge winning streak.  I’ll take half-credit for that.  He left mid-season, but seemingly willingly (as opposed to someone resigning to save face.)