Subscribe: Baseball Universe
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
baseball  contract  game  league  million  phillies  player  players  red sox  season  sox  team  time  yankees  year 
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: Baseball Universe

Baseball Universe

All baseball, all the time.

Updated: 2018-03-07T12:20:30.769-08:00


Three Aces and ...


Last year, Kyle Kendrick stepped into the Phillies' rotation to fill in for the injured Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee and then for the traded Joe Blanton. Kendrick actually performed quite well in the last two months of the season, posting eight quality starts in 12 chances. With Kendrick seemingly making enough improvements to earn a spot in the 2013 rotation, and with Vance Worley now donning his goggles for the Minnesota Twins, the Phillies find themselves in need of a fifth starter to join Kendrick, Halladay, Lee, and Cole Hamels. In six starts for the Phillies last year, Tyler Cloyd received a bit of a rude welcome to the big leagues. After a disappointing season in which the Phillies barely managed to not lose win 81 games, and with a payroll that will be well above $150 million, it's highly unlikely the team will hitch its championship aspirations to a rotation that includes both renewed faith in Kendrick and optimism for a rookie project like Cloyd. There are other young starters who will hopefully be ready in the near future too, like Adam Morgan, Jonathan Pettibone, and Ethan Martin. However, until one of them forces his way into the rotation, Ruben Amaro (as he has already said) will look to free agency to sign a "low-risk, high-reward" fifth starter. With $70 million already committed to the four starters for 2013, the Phillies won't go for a big signing like Anibal Sanchez, or even a mid-tier option like Ryan Dempster, Edwin Jackson, or Kyle Lohse. With the acquisition of Michael Young and the remaining payroll seemingly dedicated to finding a corner outfielder and a fifth starter, and in a world where a declining Shane Victorino can get $13 million a year for three years, the Phillies will probably spend most of their leftover cash on a bat and leave the cupboard mostly bare for the fifth starter.Which brings us to the candidates, none of whom will get your heart beating, but some of whom might be able to produce two or even three wins above replacement (fWAR) in 2013. Given the recent signings of Joe Blanton and the underrated Brandon McCarthy, each getting about $15 million for two years, and the inexplicable two-year, $10 million contract Minnesota just gave Kevin Correia, we're looking at a group of pitchers who will sign for one year and at most between $5 and $7 million. Cover your eyes if you must. Francisco Liriano. Derek Lowe. Joe Saunders. Daisuke Matsuzaka. Chris Young. Carl Pavano. John Lannan. Jair Jurrjens. Kevin Millwood. Chien-Ming Wang. OK, so there's a lot of low cards in that hand. But let's take a closer look at their numbers from 2012 to get the sinking feeling out of our stomachs. There are definitely some issues here. After the "top" four names on the list, the rest of the guys either spent some time on the DL, or in the minors, or both. For our collective sanity, let's just focus on the top four guys, all of whom produced at least 1.1 fWAR.Which guy is best for the Phillies, and why? From a quick look at these numbers, the answer is probably not Derek Lowe. He has the lowest K rate (by far) and the highest FIP. He's well-known for not striking guys out, and while that's not the only criteria, it helps a lot in Citizens Bank Park. Liriano's not far behind Lowe in FIP, but his K rate is the highest, and he's the youngest, and though he'll never be the pitcher he was before his surgery, he's probably got the highest upside. Millwood returning to Philly would be a nice story, but he doesn't exactly fit the "low-risk, high-reward" profile (and for that matter, neither does Saunders, who's never produced three wins above replacement in a season). Could Ruben Amaro sign Francisco Liriano to a one-year, incentive-laden deal on the cheap? If he wanted to, he probably could, and Liriano would likely benefit from switching to the Senior Circuit and not having to face the designated hitter. He might even approach half of his 2010 form, when he posted a 6.0 fWAR. If Liriano flames out as he so frequently has in his career, maybe the Phillies turn to one of the young guys. Alternatively, the safer [...]

2012 Winter Meetings - So Far


So what have we learned thus far from the 2012 Winter Meetings in Nashville? In a continuing trend from last year, when Prince Fielder didn't sign until the end of January, most of the top tier free agents have yet to find new homes. BJ Upton signed a five-year, $75 million contract with the Braves before the meetings started, but other than that we haven't seen any of the biggest names get paid.

Nevertheless, while we wait for Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke to set the market for their positions, we have been reminded to always expect the unexpected. Today, the Red Sox shocked the baseball world by giving Shane Victorino a three-year, $39 million deal, presumably to play right field in 2013, but with the possibility of playing center field if Boston trades Jacoby Ellsbury and needs a stopgap until Jackie Bradley, Jr. is ready. I don't have any idea why Boston thinks Victorino is worth $13 million per season in his age 32, 33, and 34 seasons, and judging from the reaction throughout the league, I'm not alone. Victorino used to be a really solid, above-average regular, but his skills have rapidly declined to the point where he's probably best suited as a fourth outfielder/platoon partner. His SLG splits, pictured below, show he really can't hack it against righties anymore.

In 2012, Shane posted a .383 slugging percentage, the lowest of his career, and also had the lowest OBP of his career at .321. Boston likely paid him for his speed and defense, but when you move him from center to right, Victorino's bat doesn't profile nearly as well for the position. In comparison, Angel Pagan, who doesn't have the career track record Victorino has but who has probably been the better player over the last 18 months, got $40 million to stay in San Francisco for four more years. Is Shane Victorino worth $3 million more per season than Pagan? Probably not, especially considering Pagan will stay in center.

I hate to pick on Shane, because he was great for the Phillies for so many years, but this contract is the latest example of the craziness that ensues when you put the entire baseball world into one city.

Royals Fire Hillman


On Thursday, the Kansas City Royals became the first team to fire its manager this season. Trey Hillman was informed of the decision Thursday morning by General Manager Dayton Moore, who gave Hillman the option of managing one last game. Appropriately, thick with Royals irony, Zack Greinke finally won his first game on Hillman's final day as manager.

The decision to fire Hillman is not surprising, and in fact is probably welcomed by nearly all Royals fans and followers. The impact of the decision will be minimal, as Ned Yost will play out the string in an interim capacity. The significance of the decision, however, is daunting.

Hillman's firing is an admission, tacit or not, that the Royals are no closer to contention now than they were three years ago. The Royals play in a competitive but winnable division, in which even the big-spending Tigers and White Sox are within reach year after year. Yet, even with some fine franchise cornerstones in Zack Greinke and Billy Butler, the Royals seem adrift. To advance the franchise, the Royals need to change the standard operating procedure.

Bullpen stalwart Joakim Soria, or "The Mexicutioner" to Royals fans, can be a dominating presence in the ninth inning. But he's an asset a team like the Royals simply can't afford to hold onto any longer. Before July 31st, the Royals need to trade him to restock what is an unremarkable farm system.

Greinke signed a nice contract last year, and it's not hurting the Royals to pay one of the American League's top 5 pitchers. But without some significant changes to the Royals' philosophy and roster, Greinke may as well start counting the minutes until his contract expires and he can go home to central Florida to play for the Rays.

I hate to do this because I truly feel a kinship with Royals fans, whose plight is oddly similar to that of Phillies fans from the mid-80s through early-90s. But if the Royals are ever going to advance beyond their long-standing position of mediocrity, it's time for some radically different thinking. Hopefully for the sake of all of Jackson County, the early-season firing of Hillman is the falling of small stones that starts an avalanche.

Chase Utley Is The Best Second Baseman On Earth


Congratulations to the 2009 Gold Glove winners, who were announced Tuesday (AL) and Wednesday (NL). The 2009 NL Gold Glove winner at second base, LA's Orlando Hudson, won for the fourth time after winning three straight Gold Gloves from 2005 to 2007.

The Gold Glove, in theory, is the award given to the best defensive player at each position on the field. Each year, managers and coaches select the elite group of nine players from each league.

A message to the NL managers and coaches who voted:

Chase Utley Is The Best Second Baseman On Earth. He's (also) the best defensive second baseman in the National League. For realsies. Sorry, Orlando Hudson.

An award recognizing defensive excellence seems less legitimate when it fails to recognize its most deserving recipient, which this year is Chase Utley. Among second basemen, Utley had the highest UZR in the NL, and was second in MLB only to Detroit's Placido Polanco, whose 2009 UZR of 11.4 is just 5.5% higher than Utley's 10.8. Polanco, of course, won a Gold Glove (his second).

What's UZR?

"UZR (ultimate zone rating): The number of runs above or below average a fielder is in both range runs, outfield arm runs, double play runs and error runs combined."

If Polanco's UZR is higher, then that must mean he is The Best Second Baseman On Earth. Right? Well, while Polanco and Utley each lead their leagues in the fielding department, Polanco doesn't come close to Utley with a bat in his hands. Utley's .905 OPS led NL second basemen, and was second overall in MLB to Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist (.948). Polanco's 2009 OPS was .727.

Why mention offensive stats in a discussion about a defensive award? Because the Gold Glove is sometimes given to "the best hitter who can probably field pretty OK." The poster boy of this phenomenon is Derek Jeter, who has been winning Gold Gloves for years (this year is his fourth) on reputation and hitting prowess. This year being no exception, check out Jeter, finishing 6th in UZR among AL shortstops, but 2nd in OPS.

Well what do you know, Chase Utley led National League second baseman in UZR and OPS. The AL (and MLB) UZR leader among second baseman, Polanco, was just 18th in OPS among 2Bs. So statistically speaking, Chase Utley is the best second baseman in the National League, both offensively and defensively. The overall MLB leaders at second base in UZR and OPS, Polanco and Zobrist, are each excellent players, but Polanco's offense has clearly declined with age, and Zobrist's defense, while very good in 2009, is difficult to judge in comparison to other second basemen who played the entire season at the position, because Zobrist played every position in 2009 except catcher and pitcher.

Getting back to basics. Hudson had a UZR of -3.3 (the eighth-WORST among all 2B and fifth-worst among all NL 2B). Utley's UZR of 10.8 led all NL second basemen.

Why even give out Gold Gloves if you don't give one to Chase Utley?

MLB Waiver Trade Deadline


The following is a brief explanation of the two trade deadlines in Major League Baseball: the non-waiver trade deadline of July 31st, and the waiver trade deadline of August 31st. What follows is a real conversation – not edited for content, spelling, or grammar – between a friend (SS) and me (AD):SS: i dont understand something....isn't the trade deadline over? b/c i thought i heard about two guys getting moved this week?or is it if they are traded after the deadline they can't play in the playoffs?AD: there are 2 trade deadlinesjuly 31 is the non-waiver trade deadline, meaning any team can trade any player to any team without restrictionsfrom august 1 to august 31, players can still be traded, but must pass through waivers firstso, if you wanted to trade brad lidge today, you'd have to put him on waiverswaiver priority is determined by divisional standings....AKA, the nationals would get first crack at him if they claimed him (they would have priority over say, florida, or pittsburgh)SS: but waitcant the team not trade to them?like what if nationals aren't offering what they want?AD: if washington claims lidge, the phillies have 3 options: release lidge for nothing; trade him to washington and only washington; or, pull lidge off waivers. if lidge is pulled back after washington claims him, then lidge is no longer eligible to be traded at all to anyone for the remainder of the seasonif washington gets lidge, they are responsible for the remainder of his contractso, in 2003 when the red sox put manny ramirez and his $20 million annual salary on waivers, not a single team claimed himbecause they didn't want to assume his contractSS: okAD: virtually every major leaguer is placed on waivers in augustand virtually every one is pulled backfor a player to qualify for a playoff roster, he has to be on his new team by August 31so, august 31 is the last day a player can be tradedwaiver trades DO happen EVERY yearSS: ok, i got it...kindaenough to get byhahaAD: thats why july 31 is so importantSS: rightAD: if the phillies wanted to trade ryan howard and get maximum value for him, they would want to be able to trade him to the highest bidderbut the waiver process allows teams to "block" other teamslike if lidge got on waiversSS: so we put lidge on waivers....nats say we want him....we have to either work out a trade or pull him back...making him inelligble for any other tradeAD: its possible washington would ONLY claim him to keep him away from atlantawe could also simply release lidge to washington without getting anything in return...with the catch being that washington has to pay the remainder of lidge's contractSS: i dont much see the point in that but i dont really know to much about how their finances worki get football moreAD: see the point in what? blocking?SS: putting him on waivers and not trading, just releasingis it just to see if you can do a trade?AD: oh....well a recent example of that is alex riosalex rios was an outfielder for torontohe had a big year in like 2006 or something and the jays signed him to this INSANE contract that paid him like $15 mill a yearwhich is close to the top of the sportrios has NOT performed to the level of his contract, by any stretch of the imaginationthe blue jays are losing a SHITLOAD of money this yearso, the jays placed rios on waiversthe white sox claimed himtoronto let him walk for nothing........where nothing is a positive cash flow of the prorated portion of $15 million this year PLUS teh remaining years of the contractby "releasing" rios to chicago, the blue jays saved themselves about $45 million bucksso, they're not getting "nothing"what they are getting is financial flexibilitySS: but what is the difference between just doing that and cutting himor is that like cutting himAD: well, here's the thingits not like rios is terrible...he still has valueif a team wants to "cut" a player, they call it "designated for assignment"when a player is DFAthe team has 10 days to [...]

Half the Battle


By Elizabeth Emmerich

After rising through the ranks of professional baseball as a promising young athlete, Oakland A’s shortstop Bobby Crosby has had a few shortcomings over the last few years. Out for most of the second half of last season with various injuries, Crosby needed much more than recovery to secure his starting position in the 2009 A’s lineup. During the off-season, Crosby has been working with former Athletic Mark McGwire to develop a new look. Crosby’s stance is different, he has a whole new swing, and as current teammate Mark Ellis described, he gained some confidence, which was half the battle.

Is confidence what separates the super-elite athletes from the mainstream elite MLB players? Surely there is a top percentage of incredibly physically talented athletes, but to get to the MLB level you have to be a star. So how does confidence contribute to heightened performance? Is a lack of confidence what puts players in a “slump?”

As a Sport Psychology Consultant, one of the first things to assess with an athlete is their comfort and stability with their role as a player and as a part of the team. Confidence comes with perceptions of ability and overall competency, which can definitely change over a 162-game season. Bobby Crosby is fighting for his position as starting shortstop and to do this, he had to make some serious changes. Physically, he did. Will Crosby remain confident in his ability to perform well mentally? Hopefully he has secured some mental toughness from McGwire along with his beautiful new swing. All eyes are on Crosby during spring training to see if these changes stick.

The concept of confidence and mental toughness is such a strong component of complete athletes but is rarely explored as a piece of peak performance. If you're listening in on the radio or TV, versus personally attending a game, announcers consistently talk about the mental game in passing. As spring training games officially kick off this week and the regular season is just around the corner, it might be of particular interest to pay close attention to the importance of such critical elements of performance.

Bringing It All Back Home


Multiple sources are reporting the Seattle Mariners and free agent outfielder Ken Griffey, Jr. are close to finalizing a one-year contract worth about $5 million. After this week's signings of Adam Dunn with the Nationals (2 years, $20 million) and Bobby Abreu with the Angels (1 year, $5 million plus incentives), the Mariners - who need to sign another outfielder - don't have many options besides Griffey. He'll likely split his time between the outfield and the DH slot, and may even get some reps at first base.

The deal makes sense for both the team and Griffey. The Mariners have little chance to contend for the division title this year and will be able to increase fan interest with one of the franchise's all-time greats. From Junior's perspective, he would like to write the final chapter of his baseball legacy where it all began, as he has previously said, "...this is the place where I grew up and I owe it to the people of Seattle and to myself to retire as a Mariner."

Griffey, who has 611 career home runs and a career OPS of .920, last played in Seattle in 1999. Junior is fifth on baseball's all-time home run list and needs 49 bombs to tie Willie Mays. If he's able to play two more seasons, Griffey may be able to at least tie Mays, or even surpass him. But for now, the player once known as "The Kid" will just be happy to come home.

The Hypocrisy of the BBWAA


Baseball just can't seem to move on from the steroid era. Beginning on Saturday with a Sports Illustrated report that Alex Rodriguez failed a drug test in 2003, and followed by A-Rod's exclusive interview with ESPN's Peter Gammons, the baseball universe has once again been rocked by the revelation that one of the game's brightest stars is a cheater.A-Rod is hardly the first star to become embroiled in the steroids saga, but he is the first player to really come out and offer a sincere apology and elaborate on his use of performance-enhancing drugs. In spite of some evasive responses to Gammons’ questioning, Rodriguez provided more information than just about any player to date. Given A-Rod's high profile, outstanding career accomplishments, and projected stats, one of the largest issues under debate is his candidacy for the Hall of Fame.So far, the “Steroid Era” fallout has only affected the Hall of Fame candidacy of Mark McGwire, who never tested positive for anything, and who played during a time in which baseball had no testing program. McGwire seems unlikely to garner the 75% of votes necessary to become elected to the Hall of Fame, at least judging from his 2009 vote total. The members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) decide which players are enshrined in Cooperstown. A player is eligible for election after five years of retirement and must receive at least 75% of votes to become a Hall of Famer. Some BBWAA members have indicated that they will never vote for any of the Mitchell Report players, or players who failed drug tests. In their outrage, these writers fail to properly serve the game and their myopia will create an indelible mark on baseball history. What's troubling about McGwire, Rodriguez, and the other players of the Steroid Era goes beyond the use of performance-enhancing drugs. The members of the BBWAA are overemphasizing the controversy embedded in Steroid Era baseball and are refusing to acknowledge cheating as a reality of baseball and Hall of Fame history.Is it ethical for baseball players to use performance-enhancing drugs? Is it fair? Probably not. Nor is it ethical or fair to exclude some of the game's greatest players from the Hall of Fame. How would this era of baseball be defined without including legends such as Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, and Alex Rodriguez? There are numerous players in the Hall of Fame who are known cheaters. For example, Gaylord Perry, a notorious cheater who doctored baseballs throughout his career, is in the Hall of Fame. Mike Schmidt, the greatest third baseman of all time and a Hall of Famer, admitted to using amphetamines or "greenies" at some point in his career. If McGwire and Bonds and A-Rod and Clemens are excluded, will the BBWAA decide to revisit the candidacy of Perry and Schmidt? Of course not. Will the BBWAA expel any of the possibly hundreds of players in the Hall who used greenies at times in their careers? No. Cooperstown is the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, the purpose of which is to record and display baseball history. If baseball is going to maintain a museum to celebrate its greatest players, it’s indefensible to exclude Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, or Alex Rodriguez. These four are among the greatest players of their generation. They dominated their leagues for extended periods of time, racked up serious hardware, and boast all the stats they need to back up their Cooperstown credentials. At the core, a Hall of Famer needs to be judged in the context of his era and of his peers. Did he stand out from his peers? More importantly, did he dominate his peers? Did he reach the important statistical milestones? These are the questions the baseball writers are supposed to ask themselves when considering a player for induction into Cooperstown. But instead of focusing on [...]

The Neverending Manny Saga


According to several reports, Los Angeles Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti had a meeting yesterday with agent Scott Boras, who represents enigmatic free agent outfielder Manny Ramirez. Colletti apparently offered Boras a one-year, $25 million contract for Ramirez. Within an hour, Boras informed Colletti the offer was rejected.About three months ago, Colletti extended a two-year, $45 million offer to Boras for Ramirez, which Boras also rejected. With Ramirez being the only surefire Hall of Famer left in what has become baseball's free agent wasteland, it seems reasonable that the Dodgers would extend a legitimate offer to match Manny's talent. What many people are trying to determine right now is why Boras and Ramirez would reject a $25 million contract for 2009.Turn the clock back to July 2008. To make a long story short, Ramirez had two option years left on his contract at $20 million each. Ramirez demanded a new contract, and when the Red Sox made it clear they weren't going to oblige, Ramirez demanded to be traded. Manny quit on his teammates and tanked games, even faking a knee injury, until the Red Sox arranged a three-team deal that brought Jason Bay to Fenway Park.Ramirez then proceeded to torch National League pitching and lead the Dodgers' charge into the playoffs, where Manny again waved his magic wand. Ultimately, the Dodgers fell to the World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies. Manny's Ruthian accomplishments in the second half of the 2008 season and in the playoffs placed him in the NL MVP discussion, but raised more questions than answers. This offseason, as Boras sought a multi-year mega-deal for Manny in the range of four or more years for at least $25 million per year, baseball's owners and general managers sent a clear message to not only Ramirez, but the rest of the players: we will not reward the type of behavior Manny displayed on his way out of Boston. Although Manny's statistics and career profile would seem to qualify him for another big free agent contract, Manny's behavior and choices have indicated otherwise.Which is why this latest development is so startling. Ramirez could have accepted the Dodgers' generous one-year offer and made $25 million for one season of playing baseball. With Spring Training starting in roughly two weeks, Ramirez is running out of time and options. Taking the Dodgers' offer benefits Manny in several ways.First of all, $25 million is a lot of money. In fact, it's a 25% raise over what Manny was paid last year. The contract would make Ramirez the second-highest paid player in baseball in 2009, after Alex Rodriguez, and would make Manny the highest-paid outfielder in baseball history. Manny could take the deal, put up his usual 30-40 home runs and 100-120 RBI, and attempt to rebuild the credibility he lost with last year's Boston fiasco.With a 24-hour news cycle, a year can be a very long time. Perhaps in a year, Manny's behavior on his way out of Boston won't be remembered so harshly. More importantly, in a year the economy could be improved to the point where some team will be willing to give Manny one last multi-year contract. Manny Ramirez is one of the greatest hitters of all time and is often discussed as the greatest right-handed hitter ever. He has a chance to play for a few more seasons and pass Ted Williams, at least statistically, as the greatest "pure" hitter to ever step between the white lines. But Manny won't be furthering his legacy, or hitting any more home runs, by sitting out the season. Baseball doesn't need Manny Ramirez...Manny Ramirez needs baseball.[...]

Ryan Howard's Ridiculous Arbitration Request


Last winter, Ryan Howard and his agent submitted a $10 million salary request. The Phillies countered with $7 million. Howard was victorious in what became a landmark arbitration case, one that rocked the baseball world and led to a flurry of long-term deals for emerging young stars like Milwaukee's Ryan Braun and Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria.

At the time, the Phillies were ridiculed - and rightly so - for making such a low offer. In all likelihood, their case would have been stronger had they offered the extra $1.5 million to meet Howard in the middle. This winter, Howard and his agent have asked for $18 million for the 2009 season.

Ryan Howard is undoubtedly one of the game's premier power hitters. The numbers he has produced at such a young age put him on track with some of the game's greatest sluggers. Yet, his request to jump $8 million in salary - while still arbitration eligible - seems beyond the realm of reason.

Howard is not the best first baseman in baseball, is not the best first baseman in the National League, and is not even the best player on the Phillies. He may not even be the second-best, given how valuable Chase Utley and Cole Hamels are to the team. Why, then, would the Phillies consider engaging in long-term contract discussions with a player who clearly is going to ask for "A-Rod" money (somewhere in the $25 million per year stratosphere) down the line?

Even a player as historically great as A-Rod has proven that he is not worth $25 million a year. Rodriguez's inability to consistently come through in the clutch, and the Yankees' inability to win the World Series since A-Rod's arrival, are two reasons why his contract does not match his value. A-Rod also plays above-average defense at a position where a player cannot be a defensive liability...and he is still overpaid.

Ryan Howard is an excellent player, though a below-average, if not poor, fielder and a yearly contender for the strikeout crown (not good if you're a hitter). Given everything presented above, it would make sense for the arbitrator to rule in favor of the Phillies this year, with Howard receiving something more reasonable, in the range of $14 million for the year (which is what the Phillies have offered).

Last year, Howard's arbitration victory sent shockwaves through the baseball universe. This year, the universe should balance itself out with a victory for the Phillies.

A Time For Change


It's been a great three-plus years here at, but it's time for a change.

We're going to be moving to within the next month or so.

Please check back for updates and a final notification of the domain change. Thanks!

Why the Yankees Are Good for Baseball


Each offseason, baseball's "Hot Stove" heats up with free agent and trade rumors. The team that wields more influence than any other during Hot Stove season is the New York Yankees. Because they have the highest revenue, and because of the organization's stated goal to win the World Series every year, the Yankees typically dictate the market for free agents.If there were any doubts about this theory, the past several weeks have surely proven the theory to be true. Since the end of the World Series, the Yankees have signed three free agents to long-term contracts: CC Sabathia signed a seven-year, $161 million contract; A.J. Burnett signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract; and Mark Teixeira signed an eight-year, $180 million contract.Columnists, bloggers, and baseball executives across America have differing opinions on the signings, but there appears to be an overtone of disapproval - heightened by the global economic crisis - throughout the baseball community. Somehow, there is a belief that the Yankees' decision to commit $423.5 million to Sabathia, Burnett, and Teixeira will hurt the game of baseball. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. To understand why, it is necessary to examine how baseball's salary system works.First, there is no salary cap in baseball. Teams are free to spend as much or as little as they choose on payroll. One nuance to the salary system in baseball is revenue sharing, in which the teams are required by MLB to send money to MLB, which then distributes a pro rata share of the money to the teams. Teams that receive revenue sharing payments are required to spend that money on player salaries. Therefore, the more money the Yankees spend, the more money the other teams receive in revenue sharing payments. Teams that complain about the Yankees' spending habits (such as the Brewers) are surely still cashing their revenue sharing checks.Second, there is a gross misconception about the distribution of the $423.5 million. The Yankees did not spend $423.5 million at once. The money on those three contracts will be distributed over several years (five for Burnett, seven for Sabathia, and eight for Teixeira). The idea that the Yankees have almost $425 million in cash reserves to spend at once is baseless and ludicrous. Third, although not a widely reported fact, the Yankees will actually be spending less on player salaries in 2009 than they did in 2008. Despite the addition of their newest three members, the Yankees have said goodbye to Bobby Abreu ($16,000,000), Mike Mussina ($11,071,029), Jason Giambi ($23,428,571), Carl Pavano ($11,000,000), Kyle Farnsworth ($5,916,666), and Andy Pettitte ($16,000,000). The total value of those players' 2008 salaries is approximately $83,416,266. ESPN's Tim Kurkjian has reported the Yankees actually have cut roughly $88.5 million from the 2008 payroll, so there are certainly a few smaller deals that account for the additional $5 million saved.Even after accounting for annual salary increases to current players, the Yankees will spend less money in 2009 on player salaries than they spent in 2008. The team also got younger, improved its pitching, and boosted its offensive and defensive capabilities at first base. Despite the decrease in salaries, the Yankees will still pay the most into the revenue-sharing system in 2009. That money will be beneficial to every team, as well as to MLB as a whole. There are certainly other factors to consider when examining the "Big Three" signings. Will Burnett be able to stay healthy? His track record says no. If Burnett does injure himself, his $16.5 million average annual salary will seem like a mistake; but no other team besides the Yankees can afford to take such a risk. The MLB Player's Association [...]

Dear Baseball Gods


Dear Baseball Gods,I hear the Twins have been peddling Johan Santana. Please. PLEASE. Do not allow the New York Yankees to acquire the world's greatest pitcher. First of all, the Yankees are the Yankees. People are either going to love them, or hate them. For those of us who hate them (and there are many of us), the Yankees represent all that is evil in the baseball world. They spend, and spend ... and spend ... and spend in an effort to buy the World Series trophy. The fact that the organization has been unable to achieve championship status in this decade has given many baseball fans great happiness. For the game's greatest active pitcher to become a member of the Evil Empire would break many hearts (and not just those in the Twin Cities).Santana is one of baseball's few pitching masters. He can overpower hitters, yes, but his most dominant pitch relies on deception. His changeup is one of the greatest anyone has ever thrown. Yet his singular greatness would be lost in the madness that is the Bronx Zoo. How would he rise above the glare of the A-Rods, the Jeters, the Posadas? How would he fare in the den of Babe Ruth? He would be nobody. Santana would have to earn his place in the New York Pantheon. And that, my friends, would be a gross injustice to his talent.On the other hand, there is something to be said for the juggernaut getting another jewel for its crown. Bob Gibson, inarguably one of the greatest pitchers of all time, and the St. Louis Cardinals were hated (feared) by many in a way that is similar to the current Yankees. In a distinctly anti-Nietzschean fashion, we despise the strong on account of their strength. In layman's terms ... we want to root for the underdog. It would be impossible for most baseball fans to appreciate Johan Santana's greatness without bias if he were to don the dreaded pinstripes.Which is why the only logical destination for Santana, from the perspective of this argument, is Minnesota. There he is not only beloved - he has been deified. At least, from the point of the view of the fans. Unfortunately, the Twins are owned by the notoriously frugal Carl Pohlad, the last of a dying breed of owners who believe the organizations, not the players, make the game what it is today. Santana and his agent are actually asking for quite a modest extension. Their proposed deal would pay Santana roughly $20 million per season for the next seven seasons. Think about this logically. $20 million per season (or even $25 million) for the game's greatest pitcher is a bargain. I could rattle off a laundry list of overpaid, overrated pitchers - Kevin Brown, Darren Dreifort, Chan Ho Park, Kevin Millwood, Carl Pavano, A.J. Burnett, and on and on - who have been given upwards of $10 million per season. But more importantly, the economics of the deal speak for themselves. By 2014 or 2015, a $20 or $25 million annual salary will be rather average for a starting pitcher, if we are to follow the current trend of salary escalation (approximately 10% per year). Why should Minnesota not sign Santana? In the absence of Minnesota's beloved Kirby Puckett, whose early retirement and untimely death haunt all Twins fans, Johan has made the franchise relevant. He has dominated in a manner that few have matched over the last century. More importantly, before this contract fiasco, he appeared to be happy in his surroundings. Alas, the honeymoon is now over. Because the Twins have backed themselves into a corner, they now have no control. They must either trade Santana, pay him, or lose him to free agency.I believe the Twins have overplayed their hand. They had the opportunity to make several deals - including one with the Yankees - that would have improved their clu[...]



An internet poll concluded yesterday and conducted by fashion designer Mark Ecko, the current owner of Barry Bonds' 756th home run ball, has struck a nerve within the baseball community. Ecko purchased the record-setting ball on September 15th and created a website for fans to decide the ball's fate. Given three options -- give the ball to Cooperstown; brand the ball with an asterisk and then give it to Cooperstown; or launch the ball into space -- the people chose the asterisk.

Earlier this week, I voted to submit the ball unblemished to Cooperstown. I believe baseball history is what we make of it, for better or worse. I don't think the ball should be marked because one of the best aspects of being a baseball fan is arguing with your friends. Argument, discussion, nostalgia, and most importantly, records, are what make baseball fans happy. Whatever Mark Ecko's intent was, whether true belief in democracy, a love of baseball lore, or simply shameless self-promotion, his message will forever mark the famous ball.

While noble in its furtherance of the democratic process, Ecko's poll violates baseball fans by placing a final judgment on the record. Mark McGwire isn't in the Hall of Fame...where's his asterisk?

Red Sox - Yankees, Part 1


Watching Friday night's latest epic battle between the Red Sox and Yankees was rewarding on many levels. Both teams always bring it, with whatever pieces they have available. Some years are leaner than others if the right pieces aren't in place. Regardless, being able to watch a playoff-type game at the end of April is a treat. But on to the game.

First, Alex Rodriguez is on a tear unlike any other except Pujols' last year. Of course, there are plenty of games left in April so we are witnessing history unfold. A-Rod has always been the guy most likely to be the first to break through the all-time home run barrier of 800, and this season is the perfect example. I have to be honest, it's amazing to watch a player, any player, be this locked in for so long.

Even though the Red Sox had their backs against the wall against Rivera in the 8th, they didn't seem intimidated. This team feels much different from the 2005 and 2006 teams, and the first clear reason is the pitching. Schilling is the nominal ace but isn't the best pitcher on the staff; Beckett has four wins already, and is mixing in way more breaking stuff than he was last year; Matsuzaka has been brilliant, but the offense hasn't picked him up; and Wakefield hasn't given up more than one run in any of his starts. Tavarez is about to go back to the bullpen, once Lester gets the go-ahead to return to the bigs. Having that kind of a rotation makes everything easier for the rest of the team. The hitters can go into a game knowing that if they score more than three runs, they're probably going to win.

Another big reason for yesterday's success was the contribution from the non-Papi-Manny-JD part of the lineup. Tekker, Coco, and Cora all really buckled down and came through in tight spots. Poor Dustin Pedroia looks a bit out of place so far. Coco nearly made a ridiculous catch in center on A-Rod's second bomb. Most importantly from my point of view is Varitek is starting to come around. Ideally, I'd like to see Coco moved up to the 2-hole, with Youk protecting JD, and Lowell and Varitek sliding down to 7th and 8th. Now, doesn't that seem a whole lot better than what looks like a drop-off from Drew at 5th to Lowell at 6th? Maybe Tekker will force his way into the 6th or 7th slot, if he can put together one more good year in the sun (as Jake Taylor would say).

Lastly, the Red Sox are clearly in Rivera's head. Varitek has his number, but beyond that, Rivera isn't as scary as he has been in the past. His cutter just wasn't there for him, and he backed himself into a corner trying to throw it anyway. Luis Gonzalez broke Mariano's impenetrable shield in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series; the Red Sox eliminated his mystique in the 2004 playoffs; and now, with two blown saves to start the season, an 8.44 ERA, and no movement on his cutter, will his skill come into question in New York? Or is it simply Joe Torre's fault for bringing in his trusted fireman in the 8th inning?

Max Power: Part II


Now for the aftermath. A few days after the draft, I learned Kevin Gregg wouldn't be closing for Florida, so I dropped him. I went to the free agent list and who did I find sitting there? Mr. Rich Aurilia of the Giants, who is eligible at 1B, 2B, 3B, and SS. In 2006, Aurilia hit 23 out and drove 70 in, while sporting a nifty .349 OBP and .518 SLG. He should have been drafted.I won my first weekly matchup, 8-4, and then (although it was after I had set my lineup) something fantastic happened. Astros manager Phil Garner made Dan Wheeler - my Dan Wheeler! - the closer and relegated Brad "In Orbit" Lidge to mop-up duty. Fortuitous? No. Serendipitous? Absolutely. Wheeler is an excellent complement to Papelbon, Gordon, and Broxton.Then, last week, I made a crucial free-agent pickup. I dumped Red Sox #9 hitter Dustin Pedroia, whose numbers are...ugly. In return, I snagged Devil Rays closer Al Reyes, who was unowned for some reason. Reyes has already locked down several games for the D-Rays, and could potentially save 25 to 30. His value allowed me to improve my team significantly.Because almost as soon as I picked up Reyes, I traded him and Felipe Lopez for Barry Bonds. I didn't at all like what I was seeing from Lopez, and I really want nothing to do with the Nats, who will be the worst team in baseball this year. Reyes was a really smart pickup because although he couldn't crack my starting lineup, he had value to a pitching-starved team. Lopez had also been sitting on the bench, due to his poor play somewhat, but mostly due to Kinsler's explosion.Barry Bonds could hit 30 to 40 home runs this year, or he could get hurt and miss a lot of time. If he does get injured for the season, I would miss him, but it wouldn't cost me the season. In his first week as a member of Max Power, Mr. Bonds is my third outfielder, and his backup Josh Willingham is playing in the second UTIL spot behind Hafner. There's always room for a hot-handed free agent hitter, with Bonds on the DL or on the free agent list himself due to injury. But if Bonds does not get injured, and is the old Bonds we know that is one of the top OPS guys in the league, then I'll have made a steal of a deal. Even if Reyes does save 30, and what are the odds of that? He's never done it before (his current total of 5 is his career high), and he plays for the freaking Devil Rays. You never, ever, ever pay for saves. Never.The day the trade went through, I had an open spot on my roster. I decided to pick up temporary Royals closer Joakim Soria. He comes in and basically blows the doors off, striking out two or three in an inning sometimes. Since Soria's a Royal, he can't start for Max Power. However, if he keeps saving games and striking out people, I might not have a choice. I'm hoping the trend continues. Octavio Dotel is hurt (again) and if/when he comes back, I can reconsider Soria's role and maybe pick up a free agent hurler, which again, I would base on the "hot hand" theory. I could also trade Soria, but it's too early to say. He had a great day today against the Tigers, getting his first major league victory in a two-inning, four-strikeout performance in the 9th and 10th innings.Although it's early, I decided today to drop Boof Bonser. I'll keep my eye on him, but he's gotten lit up so far and I really just need some stability in the rotation. I already have basically a bunch of kids - Felix, Dontrelle, Snell, Ervin Santana, Broxton, Anibal Sanchez. But before I picked up a veteran arm, I added Jon Lester, the Red Sox SP who is soon to return to the majors after beating cancer. I'll stash Lester on the DL until he gets the call to [...]

Max Power


Last time I wrote that for the purposes of fantasy baseball, power is king. I also warned against drafting one-dimensional stolen base artists. I tried to follow that logic in my draft, but you can judge for yourself how well I practiced what I was preachin'. Just for your reference, I play in a 12-team, 12-category, weekly roster edit, head-to-head league. We count R, HR, RBI, OBP, SLG, and SB for hitters; and for pitchers we count W, L, K, SV, ERA, and WHIP. Our starting rosters include C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, CI, MI, OF, OF, OF, Util, Util, SP, SP, SP, SP, RP, RP, P, P, and five bench spots. We also allow one DL spot. And now, my 2007 squad - Max Power.1. Carl Crawford, 2. Travis Hafner, 3. Matt Holliday,4. Hanley Ramirez, 5. Jonathan Papelbon, 6. Felix Hernandez,7. Brian Roberts, 8. Prince Fielder, 9. Dontrelle Willis,10. Felipe Lopez, 11. Ervin Santana, 12. Tom Gordon,13. Adrian Gonzalez, 14. Russell Martin, 15. Ian Kinsler,16. Ian Snell, 17. Edwin Encarnacion, 18. Jonathan Broxton,19. Dan Wheeler, 20. Josh Willingham, 21. Shane Victorino,22. Anibal Sanchez, 23. Boof Bonser, 24. Dustin Pedroia,25. Kevin GreggI had the tenth pick out of twelve, and to let you know, I wasn't really concerned about the draft slot's favorableness. Although I would have liked a higher pick, being lower down gave me the chance to grab two of the top 15 players this year. No complaints. I started off by taking the best available player, Carl Crawford. I expect him to steal at least 55 bases this year, as well as hit more than 20 home runs and score close to 100 runs. Though it seems as if Crawford's been around forever already, he's barely gotten started (turns 25 in July), and on top of that, he's the fastest player in the league.With my second selection, 15th overall, I chose Travis Hafner. Although "Pronk" has missed a decent number of games over the past two seasons, I expect him to produce his best year yet in 2007. I'm projecting 53 HRs and 141 RBIs for the big guy; that is of course assuming he doesn't get hit by a pitch and miss 30 games. Why such a big jump from last year's numbers besides health? Hafner led the AL in OPS last year after coming in second for the two years previous.Matt Holliday and Hanley Ramirez in the third and fourth rounds kept me quite happy. I'm not sure why either player was available at the time, but then again, what do I know? After taking Jonathan Papelbon and Felix Hernandez in the fifth and sixth rounds, I now had two elite power hitters, two of the few elite speed threats, an elite closer, and an ace. Word.Brian Roberts in the seventh round surprised me, but I was happy to take him. He had a career-high 36 SBs last year despite missing a month. I consider him to be a top-5 second baseman. The people in my league should be ashamed for leaving him past the sixth round. In the eighth round I chose Prince Fielder, even though I really didn't want him. At that stage of the draft, I had to make a value pick and Prince's 30 HRs and 100 RBIs are going to fit in just fine. The ninth round brought me Dontrelle Willis, for whom I am supremely thankful. After a rough 2004, Dontrelle slipped to me in the 20th round in my 2005 draft. He ended up winning 22 games and striking out 170 batters. So after a slightly down 2006, I figured Dontrelle would get no respect. Again. I snatched him up to hold my #2 starter spot, so I need more than the 12 wins he put up last year.Felipe Lopez in the 10th round seemed like a steal to me; the guy had 44 SBs last year and can score a bunch of runs. I thought he was going in the 8th or 9th round, so this was another value pic[...]

Fantasy Baseball 2007


My fantasy baseball draft is tonight, and let's just say I'm excited. In 2005 and 2006, I had some pretty bad drafts, due to a combination of lack of preparation and panic. But this year, I've burned the candle at both ends trying to unearth this year's versions of Hanley Ramirez and Jonathan Papelbon. I've mock drafted more times than I'd like to admit. And what have I learned? Nothing that I didn't already know about the general ways a person can succeed in fantasy baseball. But specifically...

Power is king. In a roto league, this is of course true, but in a head-to-head league, it applies even more. Take my head-to-head league for example. We use 6 categories for batting (replacing AVG with OBP and SLG) and 6 categories for pitching (adding losses for pitchers). Let's say you draft Ryan Howard with your first pick. When the 2006 NL MVP sends one deep into the South Philadelphia sky, your whole offense gets a boost. Why? A home run registers for the "counting" stats (HR, R, RBI) and also boosts your OBP and SLG. Because SLG is essentially the number of total bases a player collects per at bat, the more bases your man touches, the better. There's a good chance that by including SLG, we are rewarding power a bit too much. But since AVG is no longer an accurate barometer of a player's value, we have to adjust. Perhaps down the road, we'll use AVG with RISP as a stat, but that's not happening this year.

The lesson here is to adjust your draft style based on your league's settings. Am I going to draft Juan Pierre? Not a chance in hell. His OBP is atrocious for a leadoff man, he doesn't score many runs or knock in many baserunners, and he doesn't hit home runs. Most of his hits are singles, so his SLG is pretty low. All he can do is steal bases. So if Juan Pierre steals 58 bases this year, you might think you've done a pretty good job drafting him. But his other stats will kill your team on a weekly basis. You're better off drafting a few guys who can swipe 10-30 bags, and filling in SBs that way. Did you know David Wright stole 20 bases last year? Jason Bay had 11. If you get those two guys in the second and third rounds, why do you need a guy like Pierre or Corey Patterson?

I can't reveal too much because some of my leaguemates read this blog. I'll have a full report and analysis of my team after the draft. Wish me luck!

Goodbye, Vuke


In their history, the Philadelphia Phillies have won just one World Championship, defeating the Kansas City Royals in 1980. Since then, the organization has endured countless changes, save one: the presence of John Vukovich ("Vuke"). No matter what uniform the team was wearing that decade, or what stadium the team played in, or who the manager was, or who the GM was, Vuke was there. He lived and breathed Phillies baseball for the better part of four decades, but on Thursday, Vuke couldn't hang on anymore. At the age of 59, John Vukovich died of complications from an inoperable brain tumor.

The casual baseball fan probably doesn't know much about Vuke's playing career, but that's OK. It doesn't matter what his lifetime batting average was (.161), or what his lifetime OBP was (.203), or even how many home runs he hit (6). What does matter is that Vuke was always there teaching the game, whether as third base coach, as bench coach, as manager, or as in his final seasons, as a front office assistant. No matter how bad the Phillies got (and they were atrocious from 1984 to 1993), Vuke's presence always lent the organization an air of credibility.

Thinking back to all those awful afternoons and nights I spent watching the Phillies, there's only one face I can remember that was always there: Vuke. Nick Leyva, Mike Schmidt, Curt Schilling, Mitch Williams? Just passing through. Managers come and go, players get traded or sign free agent contracts (or give up career-ending home runs in the bottom of the 9th in Game Six when we had the Blue Jays down and out!). But seminal baseball minds like John Vukovich don't come along very often. To Philadelphia, to the Phillies, John Vukovich WAS baseball.

Which brings us to the point of all of this. I never saw him play. I never spoke to him in person. But what I did do, was watch John Vukovich teach for 20 years. I didn't even need to hear him on the field, all I needed to do was watch his eyes, his lips, his hands. The players looked to Vuke for direction, and he sure was willing to give. Since 1980, the Phillies have had 12 managers (including some interim stints by Vuke and Gary Varsho). Can anyone really argue that any of those managers had an impact approximating that of Vuke's? My words don't do justice to the man. Please read Jayson Stark's loving tribute to a Phillie who can never be replaced. We'll miss you, Vuke. Say hi to the Tugger for us.

Pitchers and Catchers! Pitchers and Catchers!


There's nothing quite like those two words you see in the headline. Spring Training 2007 is upon us, and there's no reason to wait on a discussion of five of the season's biggest stories:1. What will be the reaction to Barry Bonds breaking the all-time home run mark?In typical fashion, Major League Baseball has already screwed up the Bonds home run thing before it's even begun. In this space I have certainly criticized Bonds, but if he breaks the record, the league and especially the commissioner have to recognize the feat. It's really not a big deal, he's never going to win a championship, so just let him have his record. MLB should really just use this as an opportunity to celebrate Aaron's career (and give Bonds his due, I mean the guy is one of the best ever, before the steroids). But they'll screw it up even more before this is all said and done, you can count on that.It's not like Barry Bonds is going to be #1 on the home run list for long. This is obviously his final season, a desperate and pathetic attempt to remain relevant, after which he will remain the Home Run King for barely enough time for anyone to remember. The real home run champion is clear, it's Alex Rodriguez, and he has a damn good chance of passing Bonds. Does A-Rod juice? I don't care, it wouldn't make me hate him any less. He is one hell of a player though.2. Will the Marlins trade Dontrelle Willis?There have been rumblings out of Miami recently that the Marlins may actually get a stadium deal done at some point in the near future, keeping them in South Florida. The draw of a new stadium won't have the same impact in this market as a traditional market such as New York, but there will certainly be a great economic incentive for the Marlins to have a gate attraction. His name is Miguel Cabrera. Problem is, what to do with Dontrelle "I Really Had to Go" Willis? (Side note, this offseason Willis was arrested in Miami Beach for public intoxication. He was observed by a Miami Beach PD officer, who claimed Willis stumbled out of his Mercedes and urinated. Good work, D-Train. Way to set an example for the kids.) Willis' value will never be higher than it is now, and probably has already dropped a bit. The market for pitching is still controlled by the sellers, so I expect Willis to be gone as of July 31. This assumes Willis stays healthy, which if you check his career, is certainly not a given. The Marlins simply can't afford to sign both Cabrera and Willis. If they have half a brain, they'll keep Cabrera and build on their outfield and bullpen with what they get for Willis.3. Can anyone stop the Yankees?The real question is, will the Yankees ever stop beating themselves? The Tigers looked completely outclassed in Game 1 of the ALDS, but these aren't your Father's Yankees. These Yankees don't know how to win anymore. Ever since the 2001 World Series, the Yankees have been ... snakebitten. You might even say they're ... Cursed? That's right, I said it. Cursed.That's what you get, Johnny Damon. Bastard.The team as currently assembled will run roughshod over the league during the regular season and is probably the favorite to win the AL East. The pitching (as assembled now--we can't presume future trades) is not good enough to win in the playoffs (just like last year). The Yankees will win the World Series again when they remember what got them there in the first place: solid pitching, timely hitting, and a whole lot of luck.4. Who will win the NL West?What a difference a year makes. At the end of 2005, this divi[...]

Rise Up!


Boy, there is a lot of money being spent this offseason. I know, I must sound like a broken record. But I can't get over the daily shock quickly enough to receive the following day's news. Adam Eaton, a pitcher who has never won more than 11 games in a season, gets $24 million over three years from (who else?) the Phillies. He's a flyball pitcher going to a notorious launching pad, he has an injury history, and he's never shown anything more than #4 stuff at best. That's exactly what he'll be for the Phillies, and that's exactly what is wrong with baseball (for today's topic, anyway).

A #4 starter apparently costs $8 million a year. There are plenty of six-figure players in the Bigs (pity them), but there are far too many players at a similar skill level who are being paid seven figures. GMs have to spend money to make money, and when they make it, they push the money back into the team. Right? Right?

Seems to me that every season, the free agent signings become more and more outlandish. And the GMs just keep giving away millions of dollars, while fans are asked to pay ever higher ticket, concession, merchandise, and memorabilia prices to see a continually mediocre product. A.J. Burnett got $55 million over 5 years last winter, and the sport erupted. For a time. But now, nobody cares about that contract because Eaton is only getting paid $3 million less per season. And really, who would want to pay $8 million to Eaton when they could just pay $11 million to Burnett? (Shed a tear for the days when both guys would be making the league minimum). What a choice to have to make!

It sickens me, the whole thing absolutely sickens me. As fans, it's our responsibility to inform the ownership and management of our teams that we won't accept their buffoonery. If you name me your favorite team, I will be able to tell you a free agency horror story. I promise. Despite the continuing trend of bizarre, and often insultingly large, contracts being given out, fans seem happy to go to the ballpark and "hope for the best."

Well let me tell you something, America. That's a Cubs fan's mentality. And I won't allow it to poison the fans of other cities. Don't let yourselves get to the point where you're so used to losing that you think a 31 year-old player with a career .325 OBP and 224 CAREER walks is worth $136 million. I'm convinced that there is absolutely nothing we can do to save Cubs fans, but dammit, I refuse to give up on the rest of you.

Please, continue to go to games. But attend with witty signs, perhaps a bag over your head, maybe even spell out "Fire (GM's name)" in paint on your chest with your group of friends. Carry monopoly money with you at all times when attending a ballgame, to throw at any player who hits .275 or has a 4.75 ERA. Be sure you drink a lot of coffee, or beer, or both, to make sure your decision-making powers are as impaired as possible. This way, you may begin to "see" the team your GM apparently sees in his dreams.

This game belongs to us, and they are taking it away from us. And we are letting them.

You Paid How Much?


Every offseason, something really crazy happens. In fact, a whole lot of ridiculous contracts seem to get signed every single year. Despite that, a lot of people are going to be blown away by the contracts that get signed this winter. While we haven't gotten into full Hot Stove mode yet, as it's not quite Thanksgiving, we're almost there.Wait.We're there. The Red Sox paid a $51.1 million posting fee to the Seibu Lions for the right to negotiate a contract for World Baseball Classic star pitcher, Daisuke Matsuzaka. For you futbol (soccer) fans, this "posting fee" is equivalent to a transfer fee. Matsuzaka just happens to be represented by Scott Boras, who's not the most powerful agent in baseball by accident. Let's assume the Red Sox are going to work out a deal with the Lions - 28 of the 30 negotiating days remain - because God knows, John Henry didn't just send a $51.1 million check over there because he's being a nice guy.Japanese baseball star Daisuke Matsuzaka will be wearing a Red Sox uniform in 2007. It gets better. The Red Sox have to sign Matsuzaka - who reportedly throws at least six pitches with exceptional command and location - to a four- or five-year deal to make this all worthwhile. That'll cost them (at least) over $12 million a season. That's roughly $100 million over four years or roughly $115 million over five years for one player. Now, many insiders believe that Boras will seek a shorter deal from Boston, likely three years, in order to get his client on the free agent market before Matsuzaka's 30th birthday. However, Boras' ultimate goal in all negotiations is to get his client the highest average annual salary possible. So it's most likely that Boras will use the threat of taking Matsuzaka to free agency after the 2009 season (and by default, to the rival Yankees) as leverage to get a more lucrative deal from the Boston brass.Having said that, the Red Sox also know that Boras doesn't have much room to negotiate. The Sox paid $51.1 million to have exclusive negotiating rights; that means if the Sox and Lions can't work out a deal, Matsuzaka must return to Japan, and Boras loses millions in commission. Therefore it's safe to say that sometime soon, probably around Thanksgiving (as the Sox have a history of making big news on Turkey Day), the Sox will agree to a contract with Matsuzaka that will pay him around $60 million over 5 years. Pitching is at a premium in today's MLB, and the Matsuzaka posting fee is the best example we have that proves the baseball world really has gone completely nuts. If he's the best pitcher on the free agent market, the Sox will have paid a high price for talent, but also for keeping that talent away from the Yankees and other rivals. They will have also paid a little extra for creating some space for themselves in the lucrative Japanese market. If Matsuzaka settles in as a number 3 starter - his scouting reports say he pitches up in the zone often, which means he challenges hitters but also leaves himself open to the big hit, just like new Sox teammate Josh Beckett - he will be one of the most overpaid players in sports history.It's likely - given the news reports, scouting reports, and Matsuzaka's performance in the World Baseball Classic - that Matsuzaka will be something less than "the best pitcher in baseball" and something more than a number 3 starer. Next year, Boston could have a rotation full of number 2 and 3 starters: Schilling (a bulldog, but no longer an ace), Beckett (a glo[...]

Wash Gets His Shot


Today is a both a great and a tragic day for Major League Baseball and the Texas Rangers, but most of all, for Ron Washington, who was hired today to be the next manager of the team. "Wash" has, like Willie Randolph before him, finally landed a managerial position after years of watching other, less qualified candidates get hired in front of him. And while a man's race shouldn't be a prominent topic in a baseball story, the sport and the men who control it have given us no choice. Out of the 27 managers in MLB (Washington, San Diego, and Oakland have vacancies), just two are black (Randolph and Washington), and just two are hispanic (Ozzie Guillen and Fredi Gonzalez). During the season, when two prominent figures - Dusty Baker and Frank Robinson - were employed (the Cubs and Nationals fired Baker and Robinson at season's end), this story received little to no attention.

It's always touchy to bring up race relations in sports, and especially touchy to suggest that one group is not properly represented. I don't have any statistics on player demographic profiles, or the percentage of black, white, and hispanic players in MLB. But I do know that two black managers out of 27 is 7.4%, that two hispanic managers out of 27 is 7.4%, and that four minority managers out of 27 is 14.8%. I also know for a fact that the percentage of white players in baseball is decidedly lower than 85.2%.

The NFL is asking this question, and some would say too lightly and too late, but at least the league is asking the question: why are minorities so poorly represented in the coaching ranks of professional (and collegiate) sports? This is a question that MLB must face, and that will no doubt be completely ignored this winter. With a new collective bargaining agreement, the Winter Meetings in December, and unprecedented parity which has revitalized the fan bases of several former baseball meccas, MLB has little reason to address any "dirty" issues. Especially because the steroids story has received so much attention and because MLB doesn't want any more bad press, I don't anticipate hearing any outcry over race relations in baseball, at least not this winter. That assumption on my part perfectly characterizes a sport that is notorious for burying its head in the sand.

Ron Washington's pedestrian playing career is greatly overshadowed by his coaching career, in which he has been highly regarded. He is featured, albeit briefly, in Michael Lewis' Moneyball. Washington is depicted as a player's coach, a man who pulls no punches while giving elite instruction. He'll be given the chance to turn around the Texas Rangers, who haven't made the playoffs this century and who are plagued by a chronic pitching deficiency. Good luck, Wash, you deserve the chance.

Wrong Way


It's not a big deal, really, but this just gets to me. Typically, MLB doesn't allow teams to make announcements during the World Series. The hope behind this stance is that not only will teams refrain from making headlines, but that teams will simply wait for the season to end before making their offseason moves. For various reasons, the San Francisco Giants were allowed to make a major announcement today, celebrating the hiring of new manager Bruce Bochy (formerly manager of the San Diego Padres).

Read the link for me real fast and come back. Maybe Bochy does have to go to Japan. So what? In the media blitz era, it's deemed "OK" for a team to make a major announcement during the Fall Classic? Why, to get a photo op? So 30 journalists can scribble the same "rebirth of the Giants" column? I don't agree with the continual erosion of the things we hold dear. This most recent development is a microcosm of the dwindling expectations we have for ourselves.

Like I said, it's probably not that big of a deal, especially since most of the country doesn't even know the World Series is being played (St. Louis leads Detroit three games to one heading into tonight's contest). And I don't say that condescendingly. I honestly believe that most people simply don't care enough to watch what has been a boring, sloppy Series. That's all I have for today. What do you think?



-by Seth Dembowitz
Special contributor to and a HUGE Red Sox fan.

Reproduced in its entirety, unedited.

October 6, 2006, NEW YORK, NY - Now I don’t want to go off on a rant here, but…

We suck. We trade for Beckett (major disappointment, obviously, please sir learn how to throw a freaking curveball) and Lowell (great pickup, but no one can realistically expect him to be back at third next year) and in the process lose the NL batting champ/All Star shortstop who may be one of the best prospects at his position since Jeter, and a guy who turned out to be one of the best rookie pitchers in baseball with a very promising future (and by the way he threw the only no hitter in baseball). We trade Wells after the deadline for a sack of baseballs and he pitches in a playoff game.

On July 31 we were in first place by a game and a half, I think. The Stankees get Lidle (questionable and yet still a starting pitcher who can throw the ball over the plate) and Bobby, who literally gets on base 2/3 of the time and went 18 for 20 in the 5 game massacre series to which we were witnesses. WE DO NOTHING. WE SIT ON OUR GOSH DARN HANDS AND DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. By September 1 we were pretty much out of the race. By October 1 we were in THIRD PLACE behind THE FREAKING TORONTO BLUE JAYS.

The following former Fens favorites are in the playoffs this year while our men are fishing and spelunking:




Jash Bahd (who hit .333 after being traded)

Fat Wells

Suppahn (a stretch, I know, but still falls into the discussion)

Aaron Sele (also a stretch, and old, but still)

Johnny Traitor (to whom we should have made a more competitive offer, he makes me sick, I don’t want him anyway, but you know what I’m saying)

Cliff Floyd

Derek Lowe (the ONLY pitcher in the history of baseball to CLINCH ALL THREE SERIES)

Billy Mueller (former batting champion)

Embree (on the Pads)

Seanez (on the Pads)

David “My Hero” Roberts, who will be honored and remembered until the end of time in New England for stealing that base.

Hell, half of the Padres roster are Boston rejects. And yet, they are in the playoffs. I know, out of a bad division, yet again, these rag tag losers are still playing baseball while we cry in our preverbal soup.

Egg on your face Mr. Epstein? When does the grace period end? Can you make the bad man stop?

On the bright side, look for Mr. Crisp to be manning a light tower in Alaska while Vernon Wells suits up in the classic home whites with red trim. It is inevitable. This is a deal even this front office can’t screw up. Or can they?

Should I write a rant for your blog? I’m getting into this now.