Saturday, December 20, 2008

Obscure Signings For The Week

For every Sabathia or Furcal signing, there are dozens of signings of fringe players struggling to keep their slight major league careers going. Here are a few of this week's:

Jody Gerut - Free Agent, signed by the Padres
Gerut, a centerfielder, was signed in the second round by the Rockies in 1998 after playing for Stanford. Now 32, Gerut first broke into the majors in 2003 for the Cleveland Indians. He had a nice rookie year there where he hit 22 homers and 33 doubles, knocked in 75 runs in only 480 at bats while batting .279. The following year, his average fell to .252 in 481 at bats while his homer total halved to 11. Gerut played for three teams in 2005, starting with the Indians who traded him to the Cubs. He went 1 for 14 there and the Cubs released him. Gerut then had 18 at bats for Pittsburgh and had only two hits there. He didn't play at all in the majors in 2006 and 2007.

He suddenly appeared again in the majors in 2008 with the Padres and had a nice little year, batting .296 and hitting 14 homers for the Padres in only 100 games. He was eligible for arbitration, but the Padres gave him a one year contract.

Greg Norton - Free Agent, signed by the Atlanta Braves.
Transactions that list a player's position as "PH" for pinch hitter automatically qualifies a player as an obscure signing. First of all, only a National League team would sign a "pinch hitter." But usually, pinch hitters are bad field/good hit sort of players. Norton doesn't qualify there.

Norton has played parts of twelve years after being drafted in the 2nd round by the Chicago White Sox after his college career ended at Oklahoma. The 36 year old, Norton, has only once had more than 300 at bats in a season and has a lifetime batting average of .252 and a lifetime OPS of .776. Ouch.

You have to wonder how a player with those kinds of numbers hangs around that long. But great for Norton, who has another year and another $800,000 salary.

Chris Bootcheck - Minor League Contract, Pittsburgh Pirates
Bootcheck even has a perfect name for an obscure signing. But it shouldn't have turned out this way. Bootcheck is a former first round pick by the Anaheim Los Angeles California Angels, or whatever they are calling themselves this year. But he has never panned out for them. He had cups of coffee for the Angels in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2008. His only full year was out of the bullpen for the Angels in 2007 where he compiled a hefty 4.77 ERA in 51 appearances. His lifetime totals? How about 89 earned runs given up in 132 and 2/3 innings. Yeesh. Perhaps the Pirates can find a genie in a bottle. Lord knows they need one.

Terry Tiffee - Minor League Contract, Phillies
The Fan is a pretty avid devourer of daily box scores and has to admit that this transaction wire entry is the first time Terry Tiffee has ever been heard of. Incredibly, the first/third baseman has played parts of four years for the Twins (who drafted him in the 26th round in 1999) and Dodgers. Hardly lighting his brief times in the majors on fire, his lifetime totals to date equal 253 at bats with a batting average of .226, an on base percentage of .276 and an OPS of .626. Oh baby! Ironically enough, the transaction wire also lists Tiffee as a "PH."

Such players serve as a reminder of just how difficult it is to establish a game at the highest level. Sure, every year there are two or three big name signings of elite players. But on the other end of the spectrum are guys just trying to hold on or find another job and somehow stretch their career and their dreams out another year. With five years needed for a pension, these players deserve a little space in the blog sphere. Good luck fellas.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Furcal Flap

The Fan has been reading with interest the various stories and opinions concerning Rafael Furcal's decision to sign with the Dodgers after apparently agreeing in principle to a deal with the Braves (see here for example). The linked article indicates the wrath of Wren (cool line alert!) upon the supposed flip-flop. The Fan thinks the anger is misplaced.

One can understand the Braves' disappointment. First they got outbid by the Yankees for A. J. Burnett and now they have lost out on Furcal. Bummer for them. At the same time, the deal wasn't signed and as a fellow human being (though in a considerably lower living wage), a man has a right to make the right personal choice for his future.

Say for example, the average Joe Blow (or Flagrant Fan) is looking for work and suddenly finds two opportunities worth pursuing. Mr. Blow meets with the hiring executive for the first opportunity and really enjoys the meeting. The hiring executive expresses a strong desire to hire Mr. Blow and does everything he can to convince Mr. Blow that the executive's company is the one to work for. Mr. Blow tells the executive that the offer is fantastic and would enjoy the opportunity. "I'll be in tomorrow morning to sign up," says Mr. Blow.

After that meeting, Mr. Blow then meets the second company's hiring executive and receives an almost identical offer and opportunity. The second opportunity is closer to home and would require less change of lifestyle and location. After careful deliberation concerning what is best for his life and his family, Mr. Blow takes the second job.

Wouldn't that make the most sense for Mr. Blow or anyone in that position? Sure the first executive is going to be disappointed in losing a good prospect and fit for their organization, but as a human being, he is going to have to understand that we all have an obligation to make the best choice for ourselves.

Furcal's decision is no different. There is no indication that the Dodgers offered Furcal any more money at the last minute. Perhaps Furcal had "buyer's remorse" about moving to the Braves. That's his right and is perfectly understandable.

The bold statement that Frank Wren and the Braves will never again deal with Furcal's agent or his agency (the Wasserman Group) is peevish and illogical. Get over it already. Heck, if Furcal's back is going to be a subject of future problems, you may have dodgered a bullet (another great line alert!).

The Red Sox Are Out of the Texieria Sweepstakes?

Sure they are. And the tooth faerie has given in to inflation and now has a one dollar pillow minimum. We will see what we will see. The Fan still thinks the Yankees would be crazy not to make a play for him.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Some Thoughts From the Mall

As the Fan sat in the Mall during the annual shopping season, the following random thoughts appeared in the upper lobe while the long dead Dinah Shore sings Jingle Bells on the mall speakers:

- Considering the last post concerning the WBC: If Johnny Damon hurts his arm, would anyone notice the difference? Perhaps the ball would take 43 hops to get to the cutoff man instead of 41?

- Was Fukodome the biggest Japanese flop since Steinbrenner's "Toad"? At least a Japanese flop hit someone else besides the Yankees, who have had two of them.

- The Fan can't help hoping that Giambi hits 40 homers someplace in 2009.

- The Fan also can't help hoping that Josh Hamilton and Rick Ankiel continue growing in their career. Rick Ankiel would look good in centerfield for the Yankees.

- Why would anyone sign Farnsworth for $9 million over two years?

- Why can't the Fan figure out if he loves or hates Rob Neyer's blog? It is a good thing that the Baseball Writers have finally undone the stupidity of last year and let him into their little club.

- Will Posada make it back behind the plate for the Yankees this year? And if he does and struggles early, will they stick with him?

- Dean Martin still sounds drunk even when singing Christmas songs.

- The Fan wishes Texiera would sign somewhere already. The suspense is killing him.

- What are the odds that teammates call Rafael Furcal, "Furball" or "Furby"?

- Since Furcal started his free agency, the offers for his services have gone down by $9 million. Ouch. I guess the late bird doesn't get the worms after all.

- Is Randy Johnson the most misunderstood tall man since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? At least Kareem was better looking.

- The Fan wonders if David Ortiz will continue to diminish or if he'll come back to his former formidable self.

- Does anyone in baseball swing harder than Dustin Pedroia? One of these days, he will spin himself into the ground like Bugs Bunny.

- The reports that Barry Bonds has still not retired show a man not faced with reality. Umm...Barry...take a seat next to Sammy Sosa over there and remember when you had artificial fun.

- There was a time when throwing Rickey Henderson out while stealing second was one of the most exciting plays in baseball. Any writer who does not vote for Henderson for the Hall of Fame is just plain stupid.

- Why is Davey Johnson managing the WBC and not a major league team? Seems all the guy ever did was win.

- Is anyone aware that Cito Gaston is one of the best managers in the modern era?

- The Mall bookstore had a copy of Bill James grandiose book. The Fan looked at it and it's one million pages and really would love to be that well informed to speak intelligently with the stat heads, but golly, that just seems like too much work. Does one really have to read it to know that Adam Dunn is worth his money even though he strikes out twice a game?

Guess the brain has run where is that mall bench?
WBC - A Classic Case of Blah

It is amazing how things change in two years. Two years ago, George Steinbrenner was still well enough to blast the World Baseball Classic and was even more aggravated when new free agent signing, Johnny Damon, hurt his shoulder playing the...uh...classic. George is no longer in a position to postulate and Damon is pretty much irrelevant. But one thing remains the same: The Fan still hates the World Baseball Classic.

Okay, Jeter is playing shortstop. A-Rod is playing for the Dominican Republic (who knows why). Ichiro and Dice-K are playing for Japan (do they still want Fukodome?). Who cares. Well, a team's fan base will care if one of their players get hurt playing the Olympic wannabe.

And just like two years ago, writers will have two months of excuses to give for any statistical anomalies and blame them all on the WBC: "Pitchers had a head start." "He's usually a slow starter, but played the WBC." And on and on it will go.

All the "classic" does is eat up time before Spring Training can get a team's players in full swing with the rest of the team. What else does it accomplish? We already know that many countries such as Japan, Korea, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and others already have more passion for baseball than a divided sports nation here has. What need is there to promote it further?

The worst part of the "classic" is all the statistics generated that won't mean a thing. You mean A-Rod hit eleven homers this week? Well, oh yeah, they don't count. Or, to fans in New York, "Where were they in October when we needed them?"

The second worst thing is that so much of our favorite new sites will be buggered up with stories about the non-event for at least a month. The Fan said it two years ago, and will say it again. "Blah! and Bah Humbug! On the World Baseball Classic.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Phillies Sign Methuselah For Two More Years

Like Julio Franco before him, Jamie Moyer could play until he is 50! Now 46, the Phillies signed Moyer to two more years, a contract that will take him to the age of 48. And the Phillies knew what they were doing too.

After all, Moyer has won 82 games since he turned 40. 82 wins! In that same period of time, A. J. Burnett has won 53 games. Oliver Perez has won 51. Jake Peavy has won 80. Sabathia has won only five more games in that time span. Andy Pettitte, who has always been ten years younger, has only won four more games since Moyer turned 40. Tim Hudson has won the same amount of games as Moyer in his 40s. And yet, if you turned back time to 2003 and asked any general manager if he had a choice between Moyer and any one of those guys, none would have picked Moyer.

Did the Phillies take a risk? Of course. Any contract longer than a year is risky and the risk doubles for older players. But Moyer is the George Blanda of his era. George kept kicking field goals up past 50 and Moyer will keep his team in the game for just about as long.

The Phillies risk looks pretty good when the then 45 year old Moyer went 16-7 with a 3.71 ERA, while only giving up 199 hits in 196 innings. He will win at least 13 games and post an ERA around 4.00 this coming year while making all his starts. Whether 46 or 26, a lot of teams would take those kinds of numbers.

You go, Jamie Moyer. Pitch another season for the old guys.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Kubek and the Frick Award

Tony Kubek is this year's winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasters and will become the first pure analyst to obtain the award since the award's inception in 1978. And while the Fan was fond of Kubek and enjoyed those Saturday afternoons with Kubek and Garagiola, the award is a bit troubling.

The trouble goes beyond the name of the award, which calls to mind Frick and Frack or a replacement word for the F-bomb in polite company--such as what Congressman, Barney Frank, might say: "Frick, here comes Ford." The trouble comes from knowing that Kubek turned his back on the game in 1994.

Granted, Kubek seems to be a heck of a nice fellow and spends his time doing charity and foundation work. But after the labor strife of the early 90s in baseball, Kubek walked out on the remainder of his contract broadcasting Yankee games and by his own admission, has rarely watched a game or even read about the game since. He says he's never seen Jeter play and doesn't much care.

While many people made a vow after the strike of 1993 to never watch another baseball game, hardly any of us Fanatics actually followed through with the vow. After all, the sport is a passion that is in the blood and would leave a hole somewhere inside to shed it.

So the question formulated is: How can the Hall of Fame honor someone who turned his back on their game? Is there any comparison? hmm... A fairly young actor recently announced that he was finished with acting. The announcement came as a shock to many. If this actor sticks with the announcement and is serious, will the Academy Awards some day give him a Lifetime Achievement Award? Doubtful.

Should not this award be maintained only for those announcers and analysts who at least continued their passion for baseball until their retirement age? Nice guy and all, it seems odd to give Kubek this honor after he has spurned the game in every other way for fourteen years.