General

Winter Meetings 2

Nothing major has happened so far, but it is worth remembering that it is three hours earlier in San Diego. They may be just getting warmed up.

Here are some story lines that caught my eye tonight.

1- The White Sox are apparently close to getting Jeff Samardzjia. I know an A’s fan and he recently asked me if I understood what the $%!! Billy Beane was doing. I don’t, but I think the guy has built enough of a track record to have the fans believe in him. That being said, Donaldson, Moss, Samardzjia…where does it end and what is the plan?

2- Jon Heyman has reported today that the Yankees are willing to go to four years on David Robertson and Chase Headley. I am not excited by that, but let’s see what happens.

3- Interesting that Ken Rosenthal blew up the Internet earlier with news that Lester was closing on the Cubs/Giants, but hasn’t addressed it since.

4- Jerry Crasnick is reporting that Scott Boras is seeking “multiple years and substantial dollars” for Kendrys Morales. I would think Morales would have learned something from last offseason, but we shall see.

Lester News-UPDATED 7:25PM

Ken Rosenthal just tweeted “Barring late change, Lester choosing between Cubs and SF Giants”

I think we all know that “late change” means more money from Boston. Let’s see what happens.

UPDATE 4:55- As BL points out in the comments, Lester’s agent denies this report. Jon Heyman reports that Giants and Cubs are “favorites” but Red Sox have not been informed they are out. Buster Olney speculates that Lester’s agents like to present teams with a “take down price” and that Boston has been presented with that. Rosenthal hasn’t tweeted anything beyond his initial report.

The Giants part intrigues me as they obviously need a third baseman. They went to a $150-million payroll last season and they already have almost $130-million committed for 2015. Are they willing to go well above $150-million?

UPDATE 7:25- I was waiting for this- Jerry Crasnick tweeted “Don’t count out the Yankees with Jon Lester”

If the Yankees are going to sign a major free agent pitcher, and I hope they won’t, I hope it is Jon Lester. Is that a backhanded endorsement?

 

Winter Meetings Update 1

No big news so far, but here are a few items worth mentioning.

1- Buster Olney says Jon Lester will decide by tomorrow where he is going to pitch. That should get the free agent pitching market going on a number of levels.

2- One guy who didn’t wait is Jason Hammel who went back to the Cubs for 2-years/$18-million with an option for a third year.

3- The Veterans’ Committee did not elect anyone to the Hall of Fame. Quite honestly, I am getting sick of all the debates and whining about the Hall of Fame and who didn’t get in. Today’s flavor seems to be Jim Kaat, who by all accounts is a lovely guy and I enjoy his broadcasting. But he is tied for 386th place in career ERA (old stat) and 375th-place in ERA plus (new stat) is this a guy who should be in the Hall of Fame?

4- The Yankees and Giants are apparently the favorites to get Chase Headley. FanGraphs named him the #1 bargain free agent this offseason. (Brandon McCarthy was second) Pegging him at a contract of 4-years/$56 to $60-million. I can’t wrap my head around that. Headley is a nice player, good glove, switch-hitter, but $14 or $15-million a year for him? We shall see.

5- The White Sox have apparently decided to go hard after David Robertson. There are still people saying the Yankees aren’t out of it, but I can’t see them spending anywhere near what Robertson could get on the free agent market to retain him.

Things should heat up later today as all the GM’s get checked in and going.

Qualifiers

No surprise, but all eight of the players who could have received a qualifying offer from my Top-10 post the other day did. Four other players did as well-

Francisco Liriano- Reinvented himself in Pittsburgh and a lefty.

David Robertson- A no-brainer for the Yankees

Ervin Santana- Already paying him close to $15.3 million, so why not take a chance on one more year?

Michael Cuddyer- Had an amazing 2013, but only 49 games played in 2014, so I thought this was a bit surprising. I imagine he might accept.

All of the players offered qualifying offers have until November 10th to accept. If they do, they are signed for one-year and $15.3 million. If they don’t, they can continue to negotiate with their current team, but if they sign with another team, that team forfeits its top draft pick. (Unless it is a top-10 pick)

 

 

 

What A Wonderful Series

That was awesome. Seven games and it came down to the final inning. How amazing was Madison Bumgarner? He has written himself into the baseball book of legends with that performance.

I do have two questions about that final inning. First, am I the only one who thought Gordon would have scored on his eventual “triple” in the 9th? He seemed to have busted it out of the box and with two misplays on the ball I think he would have gotten in there. Alas, we will never know. (I fully admit that would have been a brutal decision for the third base coach)

Second, how does the batter not see Buster Posey practically standing up behind the plate on a high fastball? To me that is a dead giveaway of the pitch location, but I must be missing something. No matter what, that was a great ending to the baseball season.

******

Watching Madison Bumgarner out there tonight made me think of two things in regards to the 2015 Yankees. First, the Yankees need to make the bets the Giants did on pitchers like Bumgarner. The Giants signed him to a five-year/$35-million deal in 2012 with two additional options for $12-million each, after he had made less than 50 starts in the bigs. That looks like the steal of the century at this point with San Francisco controlling him for the next five years at a total of $52-million, but it was obviously a risk. The Giants know this from the contract they gave Matt Cain, which cost them almost twice as much, but hasn’t come close to providing any value.

Pitchers are inherently unpredictable. But the Yankees would be much, much smarter if they placed their bets on guys earlier in their career than later. The Bumgarner bet cost the Giants a total of $$59-million for seven seasons. The Yankees spent almost three times that amount to lock up Tanaka for seven years. How about approaching Nova and Pineda this offseason and seeing what the cost of a long-term deal would be? Both have risks, but both could be real bargains in the future.

Second, I wonder if Bumgarner showed us a model for the way pitchers in the 21st Century should be handled? I am not suggesting that they pitch 117 pitches on a Sunday and then throw 60-plus on a Wednesday, but considering the cost of pitching, why are throwing days wasted in the bullpen? I don’t know what the exact number is, but maybe a starter could pitch on a Sunday and then throw 20 pitches in a game on Wednesday? Whatever the number, wouldn’t that make more sense than using a guy for 6 innings every five days? I hope the Yankees are smart enough to find out.

That’s Why You Play The Games

I am sure I am not alone in admitting that on July 31st I had the ALCS as a matchup between the Tigers and the A’s. I figured with the additions of Price and Lester both teams would cruise to the playoffs and end up playing each other for the right to go to the World Series. Whoops! Oakland staggered into the playoffs and lost the wild card game. Detroit barely eked out the AL Central crown and just got swept out of the playoffs by Baltimore. It’s funny how that always seems to happen.

And I will bet that very few people had the Royals doing much in the playoffs, yet they are a game away from joining Baltimore in the ALCS.

 

Checking Back

With the Yankees almost officially eliminated and the playoffs essentially set, I wanted to look back at my predictions made before the season. I will break things down by division.

I totally blew the AL East. I picked Tampa and Boston to both make the playoffs and the Orioles to finish last. The only saving grace is I had the Yankees in third at 85-77, which won’t be far off from where they finish.

I picked the Tigers to win the AL Central, but had Cleveland finishing second and the Royals third. Theoretically, that could still happen, but I doubt it. That’s the only thing that will prevent me from picking the division completely correctly as I had Chicago and Minnesota finishing 4-5. I also said Phil Hughes would have a “nice” year. (15-10, 3.61 ERA and 200 IP is pretty nice!)

I got the top of the AL West correct with Anaheim-Oakland going 1-2, but I thought Texas would be better and Seattle worse. I even expected Robinson Cano to be playing meaningless games in August. Whoops!

I picked Oakland to beat Boston in the wild card.

I picked Tampa to beat Anaheim and Detroit to beat Oakland with Tampa winning the pennant.

So, I got three of the six playoff teams, but the ones I missed crippled my “bracket”.

Over int he NL East I had Washington winning the crown with Atlanta second. That can certainly happen, but my assertion that this was a “two-tier” division with Washington and Atlanta being miles ahead of everyone else was clearly wrong.

In the NL Central, I had the Cards winning the division and the Reds beating the Pirates out for a wild card.

The NL West was my best division as I am 5/5 in my picks with only the chance that the Rockies and Diamondbacks switch places threatening a perfect division.

I picked San Francisco and Cincinnati for the wild card with the Giants winning. I picked LA to beat them and the Senators to beat St. Louis with the Dodgers advancing to the World Series and winning it. So, my NL picks are very healthy.

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today…

That the MLB players started a strike that would ultimately wipe out the 1994 season. It’s amazing to think how far baseball has come since that day.

When the strike happened, Bobby Bonilla was the highest paid player in the game at $6.3-million. That’s approximately what the Yankees are paying Ichiro Suzuki this year to be their fourth outfielder. Annual revenue was about $1.9 billion for all of baseball in 1994. Today it is close to $9-billion.  Not surprisingly, average ticket prices have almost tripled from about $10 to nearly $30. (It’s worth noting that inflation since 1994 has been about 61%, so MLB revenues and salaries are far, far ahead.)

Back in 1994 George Steinbrenner was trying to bully NYC into building a stadium in Manhattan for the Yankees while also threatening a move to New Jersey. Ultimately, he got massive tax breaks and other incentives for building a palace in the Bronx. Sadly, that’s what most of the MLB owners have done.

So when you hear the powers of MLB mention how wonderful the labor peace of the past twenty years has been, just remember who really paid for it.

 

I Hope He Grooved One

You know what most baseball fans wanted to see last night? They wanted to see Derek Jeter get a hit in the All-Star Game. You know what most baseball fans could care less about? This stupid idea that the All-Star Game “counts”.

It is ridiculous that home field in the World Series depends on a game where the best players can’t go more than a few innings. MLB should be ashamed of that and they should immediately switch it to the team with the best record in the World Series gets home field advantage. The NHL and the NBA figured that out a long time ago, why can’t baseball?

So I could care less if Wainwright grooved one to Jeter. First of all, even if he did  Jeter has to hit it. Second, why not do it? If Jeter’s last home game finds the Yankees mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and the Orioles are in a position where a win doesn’t matter, I hope a Baltimore pitcher grooves one to Jeter then. I hope the same thing happens when David Ortiz makes his final appearance at Fenway. Denny McLain did it for Mickey Mantle and I imagine other pitchers have done it as well. Baseball is a sport where failure is the norm. Even the greatest hitters make an out more often than they reach base. And that is not how we want to remember them. We want to see them touching them all or racing into second. Just like we saw Jeter do last night.

I Have A Problem

I have a problem with what David Ortiz said the other night about David Price. First, here are his comments:

“I have a lot of respect for the guy, man, but it’s over. I have no more respect for him. Last year we kick his ass in the playoffs, he went off, talking (expletive) about everybody, (Sports Illustrated writer) Tom Verducci and everybody. Players.We kind of got to talk on the phone. We kind of straightened things out. He was kind of upset. Me as a veteran I kind of let him know how things go in this game. Later on he called me and apologized because he knows he was wrong. He apologized in public. He apologized to myself. Everything was cool. So first at-bat of the season against him he threw at me.

I mean, it’s a war. It’s on. Next time he hits me, he better bring the gloves. I have no respect for him no more.

You can’t be acting like a little girl out there. You aren’t going to win every time. When you give it up, that’s an experience for the next time. But when you’re to be acting like a little (expletive) every time you give it up, bounce back like that and put your teammates in jeopardy, that’s going to cost you.

I was going to let him know. I respect everybody in this league and I get the same respect from everybody. If you’re mad because I take you deep twice, let me let you know, I have almost 500 homers in this league. It’s part of the game, son.”

A lot of people are focusing on Ortiz talking about war. Personally, I don’t believe he was literally comparing this situation to war or trying to disrespect troops in any way. War is used as a metaphor in sports by plenty of people and it would be great if they stopped it. War is a horrible thing and should never be trivialized like this. But, the war portion of Ortiz’s comments dominated the story, while the following got almost completely ignored-

You can’t be acting like a little girl out there. You aren’t going to win every time. When you give it up, that’s an experience for the next time. But when you’re to be acting like a little (expletive) every time you give it up, bounce back like that and put your teammates in jeopardy, that’s going to cost you.

There were many things Ortiz could have said here. He could have said, “You can’t be acting like a tremendous ass our there”. Or he could have said, “You can’t be acting like a total jerk”. But he decided to say “little girl” because apparently that is the same thing.  He also added a word for a female dog that is primarily used as an insult to women.

We have to stop this. We have to stop equating being a girl with something bad. And we have to start noticing when people say things like this. It wasn’t that long ago that using a term that questioned a player’s sexuality would have gone almost completely unnoticed. Thankfully, that is no longer the case. But comments like this that equate being a girl with a negative thing persist. I don’t know if David Oritz even realizes the implications of what he said, but it is time he does.

I am the proud father of two girls. I want them to grow up in a world where people judge them by their character. I want them to grow up in a world where they are not limited by their gender. I know I am just like millions of fathers out there in that respect and I hope those numbers will help to change this behavior. Being a “little girl” is not an insult at all. We shouldn’t use it like it is and we definitely shouldn’t teach our children that it is.