General

Three Strikes…

MLB announced this afternoon that Jenrry Mejia has been banned from baseball for failing a third test for PED use. (Technically, he can apply for reinstatement a year from now, but he must sit out two years before playing again.)

It’s an amazing story of stupidity. Mejia has been suspended at the start of the season last year for 80 games for failing the first test. He was suspended for 162 games almost immediately after returning to the team and is now out of baseball. This is a guy who was going to make over $1-million this year, despite his suspension, and has now failed three drug tests in less than a calendar year.

Give MLB credit for putting in a plan with serious teeth to try to clean up the game. I should note however that this case involves a 6-foot, 200-pound, reliever who threw in the low 90’s. You simply can’t tell who is cheating with your eyes.

 

It Won’t Be Long Now

I’ve argued before that the NL will adopt the DH soon and we have the clearest evidence of that yet today. Rob Manfred said today that National League teams “might” embrace the DH. Here’s one quote:

“Twenty years ago, when you talked to National League owners about the DH, you’d think you were talking some sort of heretical comment. But we have a newer group. There has been turnover, and I think our owners in general have demonstrated a willingness to change the game in ways that we think would be good for the fans, always respecting the history and traditions of the sport.”

I think it is inevitable for a number of reasons.

1- Pitching is very expensive. Ian Kennedy just got $14-million a year for the next five years. David Price and Clayton Kershaw cost about $1-million per START. Teams can’t risk injury to these guys doing something they aren’t trained to do.

2- The DH allows teams to hide bad defenders and older hitters and rest players.

3- The AL is kicking the NL’s butt in interleague play. The NL hasn’t won the season series since 2003. You can’t credit the DH for all of that, but you can’t argue that it isn’t helping.

So what are the arguments against it? Well tradition obviously, but baseball has done a good job of invalidating that. From no more day World Series games to light at Wrigley, baseball doesn’t mind blowing up its history. Some owners will mind because it should increase salaries, but that’s also why the Players’ Association will embrace it.

And of course there is the fact that the DH has survived and thrived in the AL for over 40 years. The yells will be loud, but its coming NL fans.

My Annual Hall Of Fame Rant

Once again the idiots people who vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame have covered themselves in ignominy. How in the world is Ken Griffey Jr. not a Hall of Famer? Three voters thought he wasn’t, and therefore he misses the chance to be the first unanimous HOF’er.

The voters also showed their moral certitude by keeping Bonds and Clemens below 50% of the vote. Curt Schilling got more votes than Clemens and Jeff Bagwell got more votes than Bonds which shows you the voters clearly aren’t interested in statistics. And they won’t have McGwire to kick around anymore as he departs the ballot after ten years with 12.3% of the vote.

Another departure from the ballot is Allan Trammell after 15 years which is a shame. (They changed the expiration rules a few years ago and Trammell was grandfathered in for 15 years. Lee Smith was too and has one last year to get 75%)

And Edgar Martinez getting less than 50% of the vote makes me wonder if any of these guys actually watched baseball in the 90’s.

On the plus side, Piazza made it finally. Bagwell should make it next year, and Tim Raines will have a solid shot.

Trevor Hoffman earning 67% of the vote in his first year should get there eventually too, but that total should quash any idea that Mariano might be the first unanimous Hall of Famer. The way things stand today, I think Jeter has the best shot, and he won’t be eligible until 2020. And after if Jeter doesn’t make it, we will probably have to wait for a Mike Trout or Clayton Kershaw to see a possible unanimous selection.

 

 

Interesting Theory-UPDATED

Joel Sherman has a column in the Post about the lack of movement in the free agency market. He points out that at this point last year, Sandoval, Ramirez, Martin, Martinez, and Cuddyer had already signed. Yet, there hasn’t been much of any movement on the free agency front so far.

Sherman speculates that perhaps teams have learned their lesson. He points to the fact that apart from the Blue Jays and Russell Martin, every other team that quickly signed a big free agent last year would probably gladly give him up today for nothing in exchange beyond salary relief. Ramirez and Sandoval for the Red Sox. The Mets with Cuddyer. The Tigers with Martinez. The list goes on, and the anonymous quotes from various personnel directors make you wonder if he is right.

But as he points out, it only takes one team to change the calculus of the situation. If the Red Sox, as Andy has speculated, jump all in on the Price bandwagon, he could get things going. Advanced metrics love Jason Heyward, and he is only 26. Either one of those guys could break the bank and there are plenty of other names out there in line for a big payday. I suspect things will start to heat up this week, and in a year or two most teams will regret the contracts they have agreed to.

11:47- We may have a break in the logjam. Jon Herman is reporting the Tigers have reached a deal with Jordan Zimmerman. No contract details yet.

12:10- Heyman posted a story online about the signing, but no details on the length/money.

Over-Qualified?

According to Hardball Talk, here is a list of the 20 players who have been given a qualifying offer from their current club.

Brett Anderson, Dodgers
Wei-Yin Chen, Orioles
Chris Davis, Orioles
Ian Desmond, Nationals
Marco Estrada, Blue Jays
Dexter Fowler, Cubs
Yovani Gallardo, Rangers
Alex Gordon, Royals
Zack Greinke, Dodgers
Jason Heyward, Cardinals
Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners
Howie Kendrick, Dodgers
Ian Kennedy, Padres
John Lackey, Cardinals
Daniel Murphy, Mets
Colby Rasmus, Astros
Jeff Samardzija, White Sox
Justin Upton, Padres
Matt Wieters, Orioles
Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals

Some are clearly no-brainers, Greinke, Upton, Hayward, Zimmermann…these guys are going to get huge contracts somewhere and it is worth protecting them.

Others are hard to understand. Ian Kennedy for example. A 9-15 record and a 4.28 ERA in the NL merits a salary of $15.8-million next year?

But the bottom line is that if your club signs one of these players, you forfeit your first-round pick, unless you are the Phillies, Reds, Atlanta, Rockies, Brewers, Marlins, Padres, Tigers, or White Sox, they will forfeit their next pick if they sign one of these guys. (Note to Red Sox fans, if you had lost two more games, you would have made this list.)

Three notable players are not on the list because they were traded mid-season- Price, Cespedes, and Zobrist. Jon Lester cashed in last season thanks to that, I imagine Price will start his bidding around 6/150 and go from there.

It is 1985 All Over Again

About a month ago, I referenced the 1985 Yankees and how the 2015 season was starting to resemble that year with the Blue Jays surpassing the Yankees and taking the AL East. Little did I know how right I was.

Besides the Blue Jays beating the Yankees out for the AL East crown, they are now headed to the ALCS where they will play the Royals- just like in 1985.

In 1985, “Back to the Future” came out. At the end of the movie, the characters travel forward in time to 2015. In the sequel to the movie, we find out that the 2015 World Series winners are the Cubs- the team currently with the best odds to win the World Series.

Spooky isn’t it?

Ok, so maybe it all doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny, but the playoffs have been must-watch TV.

Start with the Cubs beating the hated Cardinals and clinching their first ever postseason series win at Wrigley. (In retrospect that should not have been a surprise. The Cubs have won one postseason series since Wrigley was opened!)

The Mets-Dodgers go to Game 5 tonight, and I am sure Chase Utley will get a warm reception at Dodger Stadium. I think the slide was legal, but dirty. I don’t think it should be legal, but he was clearly able to touch second on it, so I don’t understand the suspension. Would he have been suspended if he had not broken Tejada’s leg? Why wasn’t the guy who broke the Pirates’ shortstops leg a few weeks ago suspended? Makes no sense to me.

How about the Royals? Six outs away from elimination and down four runs, and they storm back to win Game 4 and then comeback in Game 5 as well.

And then there is Toronto. Start with the fact that they lost the first two games at home, but then consider the 7th inning yesterday  which had about everything you could ever expect to see in a baseball game. Personally, I have never seen a catcher’s throw hit a bat, that was a first. Bautista’s bat flip was perfectly fine in my mind, that was a monster homer, much better than the guys who preen over a meaningless homer in May. The game also made me very, very glad the Yankees never bit on Elvis Andrus, what a terrible meltdown he had.

It’s been a great postseason so far, and another do-or-die game tonight. I can’t wait.

How Did I Do?

I make my predictions every year before the season starts, and I review them every year before the playoffs start. This was not a good year for me.

Start with the fact that my World Series prediction– Angels-Nationals has already been eliminated. I also only got four playoff teams out of ten. What went wrong? Let’s go through things division-by-division.

AL East

I am going to give myself a pass of the AL East. My two main predictions at the start of the season were: 1- You could pick these teams out of a hat and 2- Barring a big move at the trade deadline these teams will finish within 10 games of each other. I picked Toronto for second and they clearly made two huge deals at the trade deadline. If that hadn’t happened, would they have won the division and would they have finished 15-games in front of the last-place Red Sox? I don’t think so.

Oh yeah, I missed on the Yankees. I thought they would win 82 games and finish 4th, but I did a lot worse in other divisions.

AL Central

Like this one. I had Cleveland winning it and KC second. I also had Minnesota in last. My lone good prediction, I picked the Tigers to finish 4th despite the hype surrounding them at the start of the year.

AL West

I really messed this one up. I picked the eventual division winner to finish last and I had Houston in third. I did predict that Anaheim would finish ahead of Seattle, so there is that small victory.

NL East

I missed on Washington completely, I am still not sure what happened there. I did pick the Mets for 2nd and got the rest of the division in the correct order.

NL Central

I picked St. Louis for third, but had Pittsburgh and Chicago at the top with Milwaukee in 4th and the Reds in last. Considering that Chicago and Pittsburgh finished with the 2nd and 3rd best records in baseball, this went pretty well.

NL West

I got the Dodgers as the champs, my only division winner,  but picked San Diego to be in 2nd and a wild card team- whoops!

So what do I think will happen now? I think the Blue Jays are going to win the World Series over the Dodgers. I wouldn’t be on it though.

The Price Will Be High

David Price has been everything the Blue Jays could have hoped for and more. In ten starts, he has gone 8-1 with a 1.95 ERA. Against the Yankees he has gone 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA. He isn’t the only reason the Blue Jays look like the AL East champs, but he is a big one and as an impending free agent, he is going to cash in big time.

Compare him to Johnny Cueto, another ace traded mid-season this year. Cueto has gone 2-6 with a 5.12 ERA since joining the Royals. There is a legitimate argument to keep him off the postseason roster.

Here’s the amazing thing, there are probably five pitchers who are ace-caliber talents headed to the free agent market this fall. Besides the two above, Jordan Zimmerman, Zach Greinke, and Jeff Samardzija are free agents. Based on 2015, Greinke and Price will sign massive deals. Zimmerman should do very well, and Cueto and Samardzjia may have cost themselves millions.

And don’t forget all the bats. Heyward, Gordon, Cespedes, Upton, Davis…. We could easily see over 10 $100-million deals signed this winter and probably at least two $200-million ones. What a great time to be a baseball player.

It’s Not About Baseball

I think my favorite Yankees-Red Sox moment had nothing to do with a game result. It was the night that Joe Torre returned from cancer treatments to manage the Yankees. The game was at Fenway and I was there. The Boston crowd was absolutely perfect, cheering Torre and giving him ovations whenever he came out of the dugout.

I thought of that last night when I heard the awful news about John Farrell. Cancer is an awful disease and it has affected both sides of this blog profoundly. I hope John Farrell gets well very soon. I hope that we see him managing the Red Sox next season and that Yankee fans get to give him a long ovation.

 

It’s Just Probability

There has been a lot of press about the fact that last night was the first ever time in baseball history that all 15 home teams won. It was written about a bunch this morning and even made the national news casts. It’s a neat thing, but the fact that it has never happened before isn’t a surprise.

Start with the fact that baseball has had 30 teams since the 1998 season, meaning this is the 18th season that you could have 15 home teams win on the same night. Now estimate the expected winning percentage for a team at home. Let’s say 60% is probably the highest average you could justify. You would therefore expect all 15 home teams to win 60% raised to the 15th power. That’s would put the odds at roughly 1 in 2,500. If you assume that all 30 teams played on the same night 162 times a season, you would have had 2,916 times that all 15 home teams could have won on the same night since the expansion in 1998.

But it is worth remembering that if you have odds of 1-in-2500, trying something 2500 times doesn’t guarantee you will experience it. Vegas makes a lot of money off of people watching roulette wheels and expecting that eight-consecutive reds will result in the ninth spin being black, but it doesn’t work that way. Each spin has the same odds as the last. (And Vegas diabolically has two green numbers so your odds of black and red are not even 50-50 but about 47.5%-47.5% with a 5% chance that green comes up and ruins you.)

All of this is another way of saying I am bored and too depressed to talk about the Yankees right now. Hopefully, that changes tonight.