Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Word of Advice

Dear Mr. Pujols:

When guys like Jim or me whine about the fact that you didn't win the National League Most Valuable Player Award, it's OK. Because we're just a couple of stat geeks with nothing better to worry about. So it's easy to ignore us.

But when you start whining about the fact that you didn't win the National League Most Valuable Player Award...well, you're well within your rights, but I'm not sure it's OK. Because you just sound like a whiner.

And no one will ignore you, because you're not some geek with a blog -- you're a big-time MLB star. And it's not like the current crop of media jackals will give you a pass if you stick your foot in your mouth. Didn't your last pity party during the NLCS teach you anything?

Look, Al (I can call you Al, right?) -- you know and I know the BBRAA hosed you in the vote. Rail about it in private if you must, but keep your pie hole shut once the microphones go on. There are plenty of fans who are more than happy to whine on your behalf.

If there's any justice in this universe, there won't be another crummy vote like this. But if there is, try to stay above the fray, OK?

Yours etc.,

The Super Genius' Magical Fantasy Land

NEW YORK (AP) -- Tony La Russa will defend Mark McGwire until the end: To him, Big Mac is a Hall of Famer.

"I've believed in him from day one. I still believe in him," the St. Louis Cardinals manager said Tuesday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

McGwire is appearing on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, and an AP survey of 125 baseball writers who are eligible to vote -- about 20 percent of the total -- showed that only one in four who gave an opinion planned to vote for McGwire.

"It would be two in five then. I'd make it two in five," La Russa said. "I can't answer for anybody else, what priorities they give and how they weigh stuff. I know what my personal opinion is, and that's the way it stays."


"I've watched him for years and years and years work out and take care of himself, and if any of us do that, we get bigger and stronger," La Russa said.

Look, no one knows for sure whether McGwire juiced or not. No matter how loudly they scream their opinion.

And the Super Genius' loyalty to one of his guys is certainly admirable, I guess.

But at what point does loyalty become fooling oneself?

Small Counsell-ation

So the Milwaukee Brewers signed Craig Counsell to a two-year, $6 million contract.

One wonders why in God's name they did that. Wasn't it just a year or so ago that Rickie Weeks and J.J. Hardy were heralded as the second comings of Joe Morgan and Honus Wagner? Has the Brew Crew brain trust soured on the young talent so soon? Do they think that either (or both) will languish on the DL for extended stretches again this year?

Or does Ned Yost just hate young players?

I guess if there's a bright side for Brewers Fan, it's that there's really no such thing as a bad two-year deal. Well, 99.999% of the time, that is...

Kissimmee Mucho

Over the years (especially during the Chuck LaMar days), we mocked the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for being a Mickey Mouse operation.

This, however, is ridiculated...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"Historic" Is One Way to Describe It, I Guess...

Here's Astros GM Tim Purpura talking about new acquisitions Carlos Lee and Woody Williams:

This is a historic commitment to winning.

That might be the funniest thing I've heard all day. Thank you, Tim Purpura, for teaching us to laugh -- again.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Free Agent Frenzy

I talk baseball with a lot of people in the course of my day. And these first few heady weeks of the free agent season provide plenty of fodder for conversation.

In the course of all this gabbing, I couldn’t help but notice a distinct pattern in how my colleagues view the various free agent signings. Being a fun-loving sort, I made a little game of it to share with you.

First, a list of this winter’s signings (courtesy Yahoo Sports). Then, a list of the most common reactions to those signings. Now, these are not actual, verbatim reactions. They’re more a summary of the overarching theme of those reactions; in essence, an amalgamation of them all distilled into a few coherent sentences. Have fun!

1. Carlos Lee Houston 6 years, $100 million
2. Justin Speier Anaheim 4 years, $18 million
3. Gary Matthews, Jr. Anaheim 5 years, $50 million
4. Nomar Garciaparra Los Angeles 2 years, $18.5 million
5. Mark DeRosa Chicago (NL) 3 years, $13 million
6. Greg Zaun Toronto 2 years, $7.25 million
7. Kerry Wood Chicago (NL) 1 year $1.75 million
8. Juan Pierre Los Angeles 5 years, $44 million
9. Henry Blanco Chicago (NL) 2 years, $5.25 million
10. Wes Helms Philadelphia 2 years, $5.45 million
11. Danys Baez Baltimore 3 years $19 million
12. Alfonso Soriano Chicago (NL) 8 years, $136 million

A. What a great signing! That team needed offensive improvement, and they signed the best hitter available. Yeah, they spent a lot, but when they win the NL Central next year it’ll look good. Flags fly forever!

B. Gosh, it’s hard to tell what qualifies as a ridiculous contract anymore. It’s their money – if they want to overpay for what was once considered freely available talent, or guys who spend more time on the DL than the field, who cares? They have so much dough to throw around nowadays it doesn’t matter.

C. Another great signing! This guy’s a premier center fielder just entering the prime of his career. Look at the awesome season he had last year! That year was so good there’s no chance it was a statistical outlier.

D. Great googaly moogaly! What the hell is that Jim Hendry thinking? That guy’s had only one good year in his career, and now he’s getting Star Money™! Doesn’t Hendry have any concept of fiscal responsibility?

E. You know, there really is no such thing as a “bad” two-year deal. Even if the player stinks, he’s off the books in another year anyway, so who cares?

F. Great Caesar’s Ghost! Why pay Star Money™ for a guy slated for 80 innings of middle relief! Jim Hendry is a frickin' idiot.

G. What the hell? Why would you sign a guy like that for two years? You can shake the non-tendered tree and get a guy just like him. That Jim Hendry is a foolish fool, I’ll tell you what!

H. Sweet Zombie Jesus! It’s taking all my self-control not to break down into sputtering, apoplectic rage! How can Jim Hendry sign this deeply, deeply flawed player to such a ridiculous contract? This is the sort of contract that’s going to make it impossible for Joe Six-Pack to go to the yard. That Hendry must be stoooopid!

Answers: Remember – we’re not singling out any particular team…

1. A 2. B 3. C
4. B 5. D 6. E
7. F 8. C 9. G
10. E 11. B 12. H

I Thought That This Kind Of Voting Only Happened In Florida

Ryan Howard? Justin Morneau? Are you kidding me? I honestly thought that Bob was kidding me when he told me that Morneau had been selected as AL MVP.

Justin Morneau is a good player, and I'm sure he's a nice young man. He's still only the third best player on his own team, no matter how many runs he drives in. Ryan Howard had a terrific season, and I'm sure that he's a nice young man also. He is also only the second best player in his league at his own position, by almost any measure that you can come up with.

These were probably two of the most idiot-proof ballots of recent years, and it took a gang of real idiots to screw it up. Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez, who regularly win these things despite being hated by a large segment of the electorate weren't in contention, and Albert Pujols and the sainted Derek Jeter had exceptional years. How could the BBRAA miss?

Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus has begun to refer to the BBWAA as the BBRAA, changing the name from Writers to Reporters. He's exactly right. The ranks of the organization no longer accurately reflect the growing number of people who write about the game, just the group that stands in a locker room and asks the same stupid questions to a guy in a jockstrap.

I didn't even have Justin Morneau on my ballot. Bob did, placing him ninth. In the Internet Baseball Awards voting conducted at Baseball Prospectus, Morneau placed sixth and Howard was a somewhat distant second to Albert Pujols. I had Howard forth, although he should have been third, behind Pujols and Carlos Beltran. Bob placed him second, once again behind Pujols, as he clearly should be.

Imagine that you have an MVP vote, and have to pick between these two players. Which do you pick?

A 535 119 177 33 1 49 137 92 50 .331 .431 .671
B 581 104 182 25 1 58 149 108 181 .313 .425 .659

I might also mention that these two play the same position, and that A is a good defensive player and B is a slug. If you have an ounce of common sense, you vote for A. The BBRAA collectively voted for B.

One might almost think that this year's choices were so obvious that many in the BBRAA decided to show us how clever they are, and go off other directions. That's giving the organization too much credit. The simple truth of the matter is that reporters see RBIs as bright, shiny objects, and focus all of their attention on them at voting time. That's why Hank Sauer and Dale Murphy and Andre Dawson won MVP awards, and why Hack Wilson and Chuck Klein and Tony Perez are in the Hall of Fame. And these guys think that we are obsessed by statistics?

Friday, November 24, 2006

It’s Madness, I Say!

Saw this post on a Yahoo message board I’m a regular lurker on:

So where are all the Cubbies fans who should be weighing in on this? Where and when will this salary madness end? The average fan is being priced out of attending games now. It will only get worse I fear.

Jeebus help us. And so I was compelled to respond, and to leverage that response as a cheap blog post, thus sparing me any extra effort:

As a Cub (never "Cubbie") Fan, I will weigh in.

Regarding the Soriano acquisition, I think that will be a net positive for the lineup. Pierre is a bit better defensively, but Soriano is a better hitter.

As for the deal itself...I've always felt that teams offering contracts longer than one year are begging for heartache. And to sink that much money and that many years ties too many resources into one player.

Now, on to the other points...

Where and when will the "madness" end? When two things happen: (1) Owners stop agreeing to pay players such large salaries. And (2) fans stop whining that their teams aren't "serious about winning" when they don't sign those fan-favorite Proven Veteran™ free agents to such large salaries. I suppose you could add corollary (3) When pigs fly.

Where? I'll guess San Antonio, Texas.

I'll also guess that the comment about the "average fan being priced out of attending games" indicates a belief that ticket prices are higher than they were back in the day (whenever your particular day was) because those selfish, greedy players make too much darned money. This is, of course, complete hogwash.

As a Cub Fan, I've been listening to variations on this argument for the last thirty years (since Bill Madlock had the temerity to tell P.K. Wrigley he wanted more money). In that time, no one has offered a compelling argument that if only those selfish, greedy players would play for less money we could all go back to paying a dollar for box seats.

Why are tickets cost so much more now than they did back in the day? Well, everything costs more now than back in the day. Why should baseball be any different?

Why do the owners charge so much for their product, thus risking leaving the average fan in the cold? Because they can. And because enough fans (average or otherwise) are willing to pay those prices to see a Major League Baseball game.

If enough fans decide they don't want to pay those prices, then prices might come down. Or the owners will whine about how they need a new stadium to draw the fans back (but that's another story).

As for the Cubs specifically, the team announced before the Soriano signing that season ticket prices were not increasing (single-game ticket prices are TBD). So Cub Fans, you can't blame Soriano for the ticket prices. Yet...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Simple Questions No One's Bothered to Answer

There's been plenty of gab about Alfonso Soriano this week. And, in typical media fashion, most of it has been pointless and inane. Some shorter versions:

Jay Mariotti (Sun-Times): Jim Spendry! Ha! Get it? Spendry? I crack myself up sometimes.

Carol Slezak (Sun-Times): Yeah, they’re spending money and stuff. But they still don’t care about winning. Or the fans.

Yahoo’s Jeff Passan: I’m writing a humorous bit of satire about the Ghosts of Wrigley Pasts playing poker and talking about Soriano. It works great if you ignore the fact that there are several living people included among the “ghosts.”

Mike Imrem (Daily Herald): If the season started today, they'd still have no starting pitching, so Soriano won't help. I make a great point if you ignore the fact that the season doesn't start today.

Rick Morrissey (Tribune): This proves they're serious about winning!

Dave van Dyck (Tribune): He's dreamy!

Dr. Phil (Tribune): The Cubs are spending so much money that they must be for sale!

All this is...ummm...interesting...for lack of a better word. But none of this answers the question the pundits should have asked: does signing Soriano make the Cubs a better team?

There's been gab about where Soriano will play. Probably center, but perhaps one of the corner spots. No matter where in the outfield he is, he's essentially taking Juan Pierre's place in the lineup.

Defensively, it's a downgrade. To say Soriano is still a work in progress in the outfield is being generous (although some reports say he isn't too bad). And center is a lot different than left, so that transition could be a bit rocky. Soriano has a better arm than Pierre. Then again, 90% of the world's population has a better arm than Pierre.

Offensively, their OBAs are pretty much a wash. But Soriano blows Pierre out of the water in the slugging department. That's the big positive in this move.

Overall, I think Soriano is a plus for the Cubs. He's not an ideal leadoff hitter (L-Pin should think about sticking Orange Guy at the top of the lineup and Soriano fourth or fifth...), but I think he's enough of an offensive upgrade over Pierre to make up for the lowered defense. Or perhaps I should say I hope he is...

The contract is another thing altogether. I don't like contracts longer than one year, usually. Anything longer than two years and an option and you're begging for heartache. So eight year deals really set my teeth on edge. And sinking that much dough into one guy is never a good thing.

But flags fly forever, right? If things work out, Hendry will look like a genius.

Oh, who the hell am I kidding? Even if things work out perfectly, anything that happens this year will be long-forgotten seven years after. It's part of that famous media bias we keep hearing about...

I Think Eric Idle Said It Best

And I think Juan Pierre and Gary Mathews Jr. (and Nomar and Alfonso and Justin Speier) would agree with Idle's musical message:

There is nothing quite as wonderful as money!
There is nothing quite as beautiful as cash!
Everyone must hanker for the butchness of a banker
It's the currency that makes the world go round!

You can keep your Marxist ways, for it's only just a phase...
Money, money, money makes the world go round!

Another Triumph from the House of Ideas

Justin Morneau is the AL MVP? Hell, he's not even the best player on his own team. Another swing and a miss from the BBWAA...

Shop 'Til You Drop

I'd say that the people who are lining up in front of Tribune Tower chomping at the bit to buy the Cubs are just as bad as the video game geeks camping out in front of Best Buy to get a PlayStation 3...

But at least the geeks know that the PlayStation 3 is actually something they can buy. Because Sony is selling them. Which is the exact opposite of what Tribune Co. is doing with the Cubs. At least for now...

Monday, November 20, 2006

RBIs Rule!

Yet another example of how the BBWAA values RBIs over and above everything else.

Ryan Howard is a terrific player, and he had a great year. But he's no Albert Pujols. The writers blew this one...

Make Room

Good the see the Mets have found someone to replace Cliff Floyd's bat on the DL...errr...in the lineup...

Doesn't Stoneman Read This Blog?

Four years, $18 million for this guy. I guess Bill Stoneman missed Jim's advice about cost-effective ways to build a bullpen. Not that I'm singling out the Angels, of course...

Artistic License?

A tale of two reporters. First, from ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick:

Baseball's general managers began their 2006 meetings by donning Hawaiian shirts and taking a field trip to a local bowling alley, where San Diego's Kevin Towers and the White Sox's Kenny Williams showed them how it's done.

Towers rolled an impressive 163 in his first game before slumping to a 110. "We all did better before the beers starting kicking in," said a National League GM.

And one from the hoplessly biased Chicago Tribune's Dr. Phil:

As an icebreaker the 30 general managers went bowling Monday. They were broken into five-man teams. The winning team included the Sox's Ken Williams and the Cubs' Jim Hendry, with Williams' 155 the highest score of the one-game event

Conclusions? I'm no mind-reader, so I can't say for sure. But I humbly offer three possibilities:

1. One of these guys can't be bothered to check simple facts before rushing to print.

2. Jerry Crasnick has a vested interest in making Kevin Towers look good.

3. Dr. Phil has a vested interest in making Kenny Williams look good.

Feel free to discuss among yourselves...

Start the Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth

Can't wait to hear about how that dumb ol' Jim Hendry overpaid again. Not that I'm singling out the Cubs or anything...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Errr...Diebold Ate My Ballot?

I'm a little late with this, and Bob has already beat me to it. Without further ado, here is my ballot for this year's postseason awards. As always, this is unrecognized by the BBWAA. Additional commentary, usually available only on the DVD version of this column, will be provided here, free of charge.

1. Derek Jeter
2. Johan Santana
3. Carlos Guillen
4. Joe Mauer
5. Travis Hafner
6. Grady Sizemore
7. Frank Thomas
8. David Ortiz
9. Roy Halladay
10. Jermaine Dye

How odd that a reigning MVP who hit .290/.392/.523, scored 113 runs and drove in 121 couldn't even make the top ten on my ballot, but that's the kind of dismal off-year that Alex Rodriguez had. In retrospect, I should have given him Ortiz' spot.

I've made many snarky comments over the years about Derek Jeter, and, while I'm sure I'll be making more, his play in 2006 is pretty much beyond reproach. Santana was his only real challenger for this award. Guillen and Mauer had good cases, but fall short because (a) Jeter and Guillen play the same position and Jeter clearly ranks ahead, and (b) Mauer, outstanding as he is, is only the second-best player on his own team.

AL Cy Young Award
1. Johan Santana
2. Roy Halladay
3. Chien-Ming Wang
4. Barry Zito
5. Justin Verlander

The biggest no-brainer in the balloting. Santana is far and away the best pitcher in the game right now. The missing name, of course, is Francisco Liriano, who was even more dominating than Santana, but did it for only 121 innings. I just couldn't bring myself to vote for someone pitching so few innings, no matter how overpowering they were.

AL Rookie of the Year
1. Justin Verlander
2. Francisco Liriano
3. Jared Weaver
4. Joel Zumaya
5. Jonathan Pappelbon

A pretty fine group of young arms, I'd have to say. Pitch for pitch, Liriano was obviously better than any of the others, but Verlander is also pretty damned impressive and stayed more or less healthy, which I gave a lot of weight to. Pappelbon also was hurt, which cut his value in my rankings. I'd take any of these guys in a minute, thruth be told.

AL Manager of the Year.
1. Jim Leyland
2. Ken Macha
3. Were there three good managers in the AL?

Leyland had the Cinderella team and deserves credit. He did well to identify Curtis Granderson as his best leadoff hitter despite his flaws, and was patient and careful with his young pitchers. Macha didn't please Billy Beane, but his lost their #1 starter for most of the season and had a lot of sub-optimal bats in the lineup, yet still won 93 games and a postseason round.

If I had to pick a third, it would probably be Mike Scoscia, but it wasn't one of his better years. Joe Torre was heavily quoted in a national publication running down his best player, John Gibbons got into a fight with a pitcher, Ron Gardenshire cost his team games early in the season by making terrible personnel decisions (although these were later rectified), Ozzie Guillen made a public spectacle of himself many times, Buck Showalter lost his team and eventually his job...it wasn't a pretty year for managers in this league.

1. Albert Pujols
2. Miguel Cabrera
3. Carlos Beltran
4. Ryan Howard
5. Lance Berkman
6. Jose Reyes
7. Chase Utley
8. Chris Carpenter
9. Roy Oswalt
10. Brandon Webb

Like the AL ballot looking odd without Alex Rodriguez, the NL is missing the name Barry Bonds. He had a case for making this one, but I decided to go with the three pitchers instead. Judgement call. Pujols is a close winner over Cabrerra and Beltran. Howard gets a lot of support, but, like Carlos Guillen, is clearly second best to the guy who plays the same position. Retrospect tells me that I should have moved Beltran into the number two spot; he had a monster year both at the plate and in the field.

NL Cy Young Award
1. Chris Carpenter
2. Roy Oswalt
3. Brandon Webb
4. Bronson Arroyo
5. John Smoltz

Pick any of the top three out of a hat, and you'd be right. In fact, that's pretty much how I made my choice.

NL Rookie of the Year
1. Hanley Ramirez
2. Ryan Zimmerman
3. Josh Johnson
4. Matt Cain
5. Prince Fielder

Ramirez came into the season with a lot of hype that I wasn't buying, but he sold me. Zimmerman still looks for all the world like the 21st Century Brooks Robinson. The NL had a very large and very impressive rookie crop this year.

A lot of people voted for Dan Uggla. Uggla had a terrific year, but I didn't pick him for two reasons. He had an on-base average of .339, which is not all that special. Ramirez, Zimmerman, and Fielder all did better, as did Luke Scott, Josh Willingham, and Chris Duncan, among others. And Uggla is 26, a bit old to have "future star" written on him. fair or not, I give a lot of weight to what I see as a rookie's future, which is a good way to avoid voting mistakes like Sandy Alomar Jr. over Frank Thomas or Pat Listach over Kenny Lofton or Marty Cordova over (pick one) Garrett Anderson or Andy Pettitte or Troy Percival or Shawn Green or Ray Durham.

NL Manager of the Year
1. Joe Girardi
2. Willie Randolph
3. Tony LaRussa

Yes, it was a bit of a spite vote towards Jeffrey the Destroyer, but the Marlins played far, far better baseball than most of the media and general public expected (although we here at the Palatial Baseball Site weren't all that surprised), and Girardi deserves credit for at least some of that. Randolph gets a vote for, if nothing else, being right about Jose Reyes actually being a valuable leadoff hitter, and sticking with that despite the naysayers.

Frank Thomas, eh? Ah, Take Off!

Good luck north of the border, Frank. Beat the Yankees!

Frank is the greatest player in White Sox history, and will remain in that spot for quite some time.

Ned Colletti Has A Hissy Fit

Dodgers GM Ned Colletti is shocked and appalled that J.D. Drew would make use of a perfectly legal clause to opt out of the remainder of his contract. You know, the contract that the Dodgers negotiated with him and signed their name to.

This came six days after this. Colletti, I'm sure, fails to see the connection.

Major league baseball is a game to you and I, the ones who watch it. Major league baseball is a business to Ned Colletti and J.D. Drew and Eric Gagne, who make their living from it. They make decisions based on what is best for themselves, just like real businesses and employees do. The sooner that fans and sportswriters grow up and realize this, the sooner we will get to stop listening to whining like Colletti's.

The Dodgers were perfectly within their rights and made a good businessdecision to decline Gagne's option, which does not preclude them from bringing him back for less money. Drew was perfectly within his rights and made a good business decision to opt out of his contract and test the market, which does not preclude him returning to the Dodgers for more money. Sounds fair to me.

Question For Bob

Why does a team sign Hank White to a two year deal with an option for a third?

Snarkiness aside, I would say it's because people love familiarity, and the devil you know is better than the devil you don't. I really don't mean to single out the Cubs here, because almost every team makes stupid decisions similar to this during the course of a year. The point is, the distribution of talent at the major and AAA levels of baseball is a pyramid, and there are always plenty of guys just like Henry Blanco available on the bottom of the pyramid for pennies on the dollar. Locking one of them up for two years is not an optimal use of team resources.

At least they didn't sign Blanco to Mark DeRosa money. That would be an insult to J.C. Martin.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Pointless, Misleading Comparison Theater Presents...

...Dr. Phil in today's Tribune:

[Mark] DeRosa, a 31-year-old who hadn't driven in more than 31 runs before last season, was given a contract that will pay him more in 2009 ($5.5 million) than Mark Grace received in any of his 12 seasons in Chicago.

Not that I'm going to defend the DeRosa signing (see my post below...), but there have got to be about a bajillion better ways to criticize this deal than comparing it to the contracts Mark Grace signed back in the day.

Is Mark Grace relevant to the conversation at all? If so, I offer an abridged list of other Cubs who will soon be eclipsed on the annual salary list by DeRosa:

Ernie Banks Billy Williams Ron Santo Bruce Sutter Manny Trillo Keith Moreland Carmen Fanzone Dick Selma Don Cardwell Gabby Hartnett Cap Anson Rick Reuschel Oscar Zamora Rodney Scott Moose Moryn Burt Hooton Al Spalding Guy Bush Billy Jurges Charlie Wiedemeyer Jerry Martin Cole Liniak and all the guys on this team

Is DeRosa overpaid? Yes. Would DeRosa not be overpaid if Grace had earned $6 million in 1998? Hell, no.

But Grace is the sainted golden child of the Chicago media. His ciggie-puffing, beer-swilling, teammate-back-stabbing (off the record, of course) hijinks endeared him to all the Chicago media types. So it's no wonder Dr. Phil holds every new Cub up to the Grace standard.

So far, DeRosa comes up short. But he's one of the scrappy white guys that Dr. Phil loves so much. Perhaps with time (not to mention a few beers and sound bites), DeRosa will find his way into Dr. Phil's good graces...

Grab Some Bench

Humble and abject apologies for shamelessly swiping BatGirl's bit...

But any system that gives Hawk Harrelson a shot at the Hall of Fame is flawed...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

They Drive a Hard Bargain

According to Field of Schemes:

Thirty years at $20 million a year is worth about $275 million in present value, meaning the Citigroup deal will cover about 80% of the Mets' construction costs. As for the city of New York, which is putting up about $200 million towards the project and will actually own the building, its take will be: bupkis. Under the lease deals cut with the Mets and Yankees, the teams keep all stadium revenues, including those from naming rights. (Though the Yankees have said they won't sell the name of their stadium, they almost certainly will sell rights to name major entrances, seating
sections, etc.)

Geez, you'd think Mayor Bloomberg would have negotiated a better deal than that.

It Shouldn't Be a Problem

I'm not smart enough to comment on stuff like this. So I present it without comment.

From The Sporting News' Mike Berardino:

Seeking to avoid a hefty fine, baseball teams have been trained to interview at least one minority candidate when trying to fill manager and general manager openings.

That's all commissioner Bud Selig can make them do. He can't force them to take the next step down the road to diversity.

WBC Fever -- Catch It!

Looks like we'll get another heapin' helpin' of World Baseball Cup goodness in 2009. Get ready for continued whining about when the tourney should be played, as well as plenty of wailing and gnashing of teeth about pitchers being abused.

Jeebus Help Me

Looks like DeRosa-ier days are in store for Cub Fans. That might be a good thing, if we weren't already hip-deep in light-hitting middle infielders.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Post-Season Awards

The BBWAA starts handing out its awards tomorrow. So this seems as good a time as any to share my ballots…

National League MVP
1. Albert Pujols
2. Ryan Howard
3. Lance Berkman
4. David Wright
5. Miguel Cabrera
6. Chase Utley
7. Carlos Beltran
8. Jose Reyes
9. Aramis Ramirez
10. Scott Rolen

Pujols led the league in OBP, SLG, and OPS. If that’s not enough, he stole seven bases. Howard, Berkman, Wright, et al had good years, but not nearly as good as Albert.

American League MVP
1. Joe Mauer
2. Derek Jeter
3. Frank Thomas
4. Manny Ramirez
5. Travis Hafner
6. Alex Rodriguez
7. Johan Santana
8. Carlos Guillen
9. Justin Morneau
10. Jim Thome

For me, this decision came down to Mauer and Jeter. Jeter had a hell of a year, but I’m giving Mauer a slight edge for a few reasons. Mauer had a higher OPS. Both play key defensive positions, and while Jeter is not as good as his cheering section would have you believe, he wasn’t all that bad last year. However, Mauer gets the edge again for being a catcher.

Oh, and there’s my Midwestern bias, too. Hey, at least I’ll admit my biases, unlike certain members of the BBWAA…

National League Cy Young
1. Carlos Zambrano
2. Brandon Webb
3. Roy Oswalt
4. Trevor Hoffman
5. Chris Carpenter

Sure, it’s a homer vote. But the guy finished 16-7 with (as I am constantly reminded) a crappy team. And this despite not winning his first game until 10 May (going 0-2 in his first seven starts). Put him on a good team (or even a semi-decent team like the Cardinals), and he wins twenty easy.

Granted, “What If” games shouldn’t play a part in this stuff (after all, you can reduce that argument to absurdity and say that if Zambrano had gotten everybody out, he’d have 33 perfect games to his credit). But wins and losses aren’t a good way to judge pitchers. Zambrano had a great year, one that will be ignored because he pitched for a crappy team.

American League Cy Young
1. Johan Santana
2. Roy Halladay
3. Justin Verlander
4. Barry Zito
5. C. C. Sabathia

As if there was any doubt. 19-6, 245 K (1st in the league), 2.77 ERA (1st in the league), 1.00 WHIP (1st in the league), .216 BAA (1st in the league). How do you not vote for Santana? I mean, if you’re not an immediate family member or close personal friend of one of the other pitchers?

National League Rookie of the Year
1. Ryan Zimmerman
2. Prince Fielder
3. Hanley Ramirez
4. Josh Johnson
5. Dan Uggla

American League Rookie of the Year
1. Francisco Liriano
2. Justin Verlander
3. Jered Weaver
4. Jonathan Papelbon
5. Joel Zumaya

Rookies are always a tough lot to sort out. I just like Zimmerman better than the other guys. And talk about a great crop of pitchers in the AL. Too bad that two of the top five had the seasons shut down because of injuries. I guess lots of managers abuse their young arms, too…

Managers of the Year
The Super Genius and Jim Leyland

I’ve heard for years that winning is the only thing that counts. If this is true, how can you say any other manager did a better job than these guys?

A Dish Best Served Not At All

Saw some rumors drifting across the Internet this weekend…

Luis Gonzalez wants to sign with a team in the NL West so he can stick it to Arizona 19 times next year.

Carlos Lee may (or may not) want to sign with the Cubs so he can show the good citizens in Chicago that the White Sox were wrong for trading him in 2005.

I don’t have any problem with players wanting to show that they’ve still got it. That kind of competitive drive is good for pro athletes.

But wanting to sign with a particular team to satisfy some revenge fantasy? That’s over the line.

When players exercise their free agency rights and leave their teams, they claim that it’s nothing personal, just business. Why can’t they accept that teams have to make decisions that come down to “just business,” too?

And if I were a GM, I’m not sure I’d want to bring in a player whose main motivation isn’t necessarily to help my team win. Can’t have those negative vibes running the clubhouse chemistry, you know…

Wailing and Bailing

With Aramis Ramirez and J.D. Drew jumping into the free agent pool, there has been a lot of gab among the punidtocracy about how dumb it is for teams to give players those kinds of opt-out clauses. But how dumb is it?

Yeah, it sucks for the Cubs and Dodgers, who seem unlikely to keep their players. But look at the other choices the teams had if they didn’t include those opt-out clauses:

1. If the teams held firm and did not include the opt-out clause, there was a risk that the players would not agree to sign at all.
2. Or perhaps the team offered a shorter contract in lieu of the opt-out clause. Which winds up making the players free agents after a year or two anyway.

Is losing Ramirez to his opt-out clause this year better or worse than losing him as a free agent two years ago? Is losing Drew to his opt-out clause this year better or worse than signing him to a one-year deal and watching him leave in a more conventional fashion?

It seems like a wash to me.

Update: Of course, I write this before I check the news. A-Ram re-upped with the Cubs for a huge-ass contract. I’m sure Sully and Dr. Phil will wail and gnash their teeth about the foolish expense…just a few days after wailing and gnashing their teeth at the thought of Ramirez leaving…

Little Sarge

There’s been a lot of talk this month about how Gary Matthews Jr. is one of the most-sought after free agents of the winter.

Given the paucity of this year’s free agent pool, I guess I can see that. But look at Matthews’ career and play the old Sesame Street “One of These Things Is Not Like the Other” Game – which year looks to be the most out of line with the rest of his career norms?

I’d be wary about paying him umpteen million dollars expecting him to carry on where he left off in 2006. He had a career year (offensively and defensively), but there’s a big difference between a having a career year and being able to maintain that level of production. Especially if that career year comes when you’re 32…

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Joys of Agate Type

One of the great things about this time of year is poring over the transaction listings. Although early November is pretty quiet, every once in a while you can find something in the small print to bring a smile to your face...

Like this, for example. Apparantly, Monday was a busy day for the Expos:

Signed RHP Tim Redding, RHP Joel Hanrahan, INF Josh Wilson and OF Michael Restovich to one-year contracts. Signed RHPs Jermaine Van Buren, T.J. Nall, Colby Lewis, Felix Diaz, Eduardo Valdez, Josh Hall, Winston Abreu, Jim Magrane; LHPs Mike Bacsik, Billy White and Chris Michalak; C Juan Brito and C Danny Ardoin; INF Joe Thurston and INF Alejandro Machado; and OF Darnell McDonald and OF Wayne Lydon to Minor League contracts; Purchased the contract of LHP Matt Chico from Double-A Harrisburg.

Consider it a sneak peak at the 2007 New Orleans roster...

Speaking of AAA, fans of in Charlotte might want to duck and cover:

Chicago White Sox: Signed free agent outfielder Luis Terrero to a one-year contract.

And if your team is looking for some relief help, there might be some cheap help available:

Los Angeles Dodgers: Declined a 2007 option for RHP Eric Gagne, making him a free agent.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Declined option on RHP Brian Meadows, making him a free agent.

Milwaukee Brewers: Announced RHP Dan Kolb has elected free agency.

And from the Blast From The Past department:

Colorado Rockies: announced the hiring of Glenallen Hill as first-base coach

Ask anyone of a certain age what they remember about Hill, and you'll probably get some Arachnophobia gag. I'll remember Hill for the home run he hit that landed on the roof of a building across the street from Wrigley. The one that the official "measurement" pegged at around 420 feet. Yeah, right.

I'll also remember him as being one of the fastest guys ever to don the blue pinstripes. Even Shawon Dunston (say what you will about the rest of his game, but Shawon was a fast dude) admitted that Glenallen was way faster than he was. Funny the things you remember ten years after the fact...

Don't Get Your Hopes Up

Not sure how this will affect the Cubs, but it will get people's tongues wagging...

Johnny Sain

"He had a fine pitching career as well as an incomparable career as a pitching coach, so he should be in Baseball's Hall of Fame," said former White Sox general manager Roland Hemond, who hired Sain as Sox pitching coach late in the 1970 season. "I don't know of a greater pitching coach in my career."

As pitching coach for the White Sox, Yankees, Twins and Tigers, Sain tutored 16 pitchers who won 20 or more games in a season. Jim Kaat, of the Twins and the White Sox, and Jim Bouton of the Yankees credit him with rejuvenating their careers.

"Johnny Sain belongs in the Hall of Fame for a combination of his accomplishments as a great pitcher and pitching coach," Bouton said. "He's the greatest pitching coach who ever lived."

More here...

You Like Me! You Really Like Me!

Huzzah! The White Sox are the most popular team in Chicago! Or so it says on the front page of the hopelessly biased Chicago Tribune:

The latest poll conducted by Scarborough Research, a syndicated firm used by numerous professional sports teams, reveals that 57 percent of Chicago consumers watched a Sox game on television, attended a game or listened to one on radio from September 2005 through August 2006.

That tops the Bears, who came in at 56 percent, and the Cubs, who recorded 55 percent.

The Scarborough poll measured interest among 4,281 consumers throughout the area.

2,440 people can't be wrong, can they?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Slow News Day

I know it's the off-season and not a lot is going on. But is that any excuse for the Trib editors to run this piece of fluff from Sully?

The Cubs' brain trust will engage in some lively discussions this week at organizational meetings in Arizona, trying to come to a consensus on which middle-of-the-order outfielder to pursue...

Over the weekend, yet another alternative surfaced that's so audacious it probably would have to be labeled Option Z:

Bring back Sammy.

Former Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa told the Associated Press he wants to come back next season and claimed to have many suitors willing to take a chance.

The fact that (a) the Cubs haven't said anything about Sosa and (b) Sosa himself hasn't yet boasted which teams are among his "many suitors" didn't deter Sully or his editors. Even with twelve pages of exciting Chicago Bears coverage, they still had another quarter page to fill.

And Sully is nothing if not effective at filling space.

One wonders how long it will take for this nonsense to morph from Sully talking out of his hinder into "Golly gee whiz, the Cubs want to bring back Sammy!"

Even if Sosa hadn't pulled off his shameful disappearing act in 2004, I wouldn't want him back. His 2004 and 2005 seasons didn't show a player in the decline phase of his career. They showed a player whose career had fallen off a cliff and had reached terminal velocity.

As I said about Bagwell, everything has its time. And everything ends. I don't think any team is desperate enough to even take a flier on Sosa. And any sane person in Sosa's shows would realize it's time to hang it up...

** On a slightly happier note, I see that Ivan DeJesus is back with the team as a "special assistant" to Lou Piniella. I have no idea what his job entails, but DeJesus was a good guy, and a pretty good shortstop. If I'm not mistaken, he set a record for most chances accepted by a shortstop back in the late 1970s. Perhaps he can teach Ronnie Cedeno not to make so many bone-headed plays...

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Random Stuff

** Francisco Liriano will miss all next year while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Dave Campbell of the AP theorizes that Liriano’s elbow popped because he throws his slider 90+ mph. That’s as good as guess as anyone's. Especially since Dusty Baker never managed the Twins…

** Time to duck and cover – the Yankees picked up Gary Sheffield’s option. The AP reports that the Yankees picked up the option with the intention of trading him. There’s not a lot of teams out there who can absorb the $13 million he’s due next year, so it’s pretty easy to guess where he might be going. Rumor has it both Chicago teams are on Sheffield’s “good” list (i.e., teams he’ll go to without engaging Operation Shutdown).

** Talk about burning your bridges. Francisco Cordero had this to say about the Rangers, his former employers:

In Texas, they made stupid changes that didn't make sense. Lee is a free agent and now he's leaving. That's why the manager (Buck Showalter) isn't there anymore.


** What’s up with the Expos’ managerial search? No one knows nothin’, except that Joe Girardi doesn’t want the gig.

According to the AP:

That's keeping with the general secrecy they've sought for the search, in part because, Kasten said, he doesn't want other teams to know what the Nationals are up to.

"I have a belief that when you do business deals, they're best done privately," Kasten said.

Here's about all he would offer: "This past week we have moved into a different phase. ... We're getting closer, even though we don't have a timetable."

Kasten did say it "shouldn't be longer" than two more weeks.

It’s Kasten’s prerogative to say as much or as little as he wants to about the search. But when has any Major League been that secretive about anything? Could Washington be even more messed up than we thought?

** Owners approve the new CBA. High fives all around!

If You Love Someone, Set Them Free

Various other duties have prevented me from blogging this week, but I had to comment on ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick’s take on the Astros’ off-season:

Since 1991, Bagwell and Craig Biggio have worked in tandem to establish a professional tone in the Houston clubhouse, grinding from spring training to the end of the season, disdaining excuses and showing teammates the meaning of the word "accountable."

Their faces appeared on bobblehead dolls, media guides and pocket schedules, while their names and numbers showed up on the backs of thousands of replica jerseys. Coming or going, you knew they were around.

Now the end has arrived for one and is progressively closer for the other. While most teams concentrate on the immediate future at this time of year, no club has a bigger challenge balancing sentiment and practicality than the Astros. It seems they're always balancing the future with the past.

Great googaly moogaly! If the Astros are challenged by the sentiment involved in cutting loose Bagwell (and eventually Biggio), that’s their problem. The Astros front office has given the pair an inordinate amount of deference in all matter of things (like checking with them before allowing Roger Clemens to stay home if he wasn’t starting). But the players are there to play, not run the team.

Bagwell and Biggio have given the Astros great careers. But everything has its time, and everything ends. Sentiment isn’t going to help the Killer B’s play any longer than they can.

Heck, even the Yankees released Babe Ruth. And Ruth didn’t have a multi-million dollar buyout to fall back on. If baseball can survive Ruth getting canned, it can probably survive the inevitable end of Bagwell, Biggio, and every other player out there.

Watch Out for Flying Pigs

Sammy Sosa wants to get back to the Show.

Sosa told the AP, “I still have a lot of passion for the game and I'm in shape. I want to get to 600 home runs before saying goodbye.”

Good luck with that.