Saturday, December 27, 2008

Obscure Signings of the Week

Mixed in with the superstar signings this week (Teixeira, Johnson), are a couple of not-so-superstars who hope to hang on and continue their MLB dream:

- Joe Nelson - Pitcher - Tampa Bay Rays
Nelson is a 34 year old Californian who was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the fourth round way back in 1996. He got cups of coffee with the Braves in 2001 and then with the Red Sox in 2004. In those brief appearances, he gave up 13 runs in four and two thirds innings. After pitching in the minors all of 2005, he won a job with Kansas City in 2006 and appeared in 43 games with them, all in relief, and actually saved nine games despite a 4.43 ERA. He did strike out 44 in his 44 and 2/3 innings.

Then last year, he pitched incredibly for the Florida Marlins with 59 appearances good for 54 innings. He saved a game and collected three wins while striking out 60 in 54 innings. His ERA, WHIP and Batting Average Against were all excellent (2.00, 1.19, .205 respectively) in what had to be a surprise for the Marlins. Since the Marlins get little press and even less national TV coverage, his efforts went under the radar, but weren't enough to keep his job with the Marlins who did not offer him a contract.

According to reports, many teams were interested, but he signed a $1.3 million, one year deal. Was last year a fluke for the pitcher, or a true case of a late bloomer?

- Kevin Correia - Pitcher - Minor league contract with San Diego
Correia is another 4th round draft pick, this time for the Giants in 2002 after a college career at Cal-Poly. The right-hander actually made it to the Giants squad in 2003 and had a successful debut, pitching in 10 games, 7 as a starter and posted a 3.66 ERA to go with a 3-1 record. He pitched every year for the Giants after that with a couple of serviceable years to go with some real awful years. Last year, the Giants gave him the ball for the most starts of his career and he was dreadful, going 3-8 with a 6.05 ERA.

Now the Padres are hoping to add a cheap pitcher with big league experience. Good luck with that. Correia is still only 28, but the odds are against him.
Giants Sign Randy Johnson

In what seems like a perfect situation for both the Giants and their new pitcher, Randy Johnson signed with the San Francisco Giants. For details, click here.

The move is perfect for Johnson as he grew up near where the Giants play and the Giants' spring training camp is in Arizona, where the tall pitcher lives. Plus, he stays in the National League, which is much easier for pitchers and gives him the best chance to quickly get to the 300 win level he obviously covets.

The signing will give the Giants three former Cy Young award winners. Granted, one of them is Barry Zito, who has been a shell of his former self the past couple of years. The statement listed in the linked article: “He’s looking forward to pitching between Lincecum and Cain and serving as a mentor for the young pitching staff,” attributed to Johnson's manager, seems like a semi-slap at Zito by Zito's absence from mention. Interesting.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Post Christmas Wrap

Well, the presents are given and received (thankful for both) and the Christmas lasagna (you gotta problem wit dat?) is digested and the Fan is ready for a big weekend of the NFL after reading Guru Michael Silver's column on Yahoo. Hey! Just because the Fan's passion is MLB, doesn't mean that there aren't other passions in life. Woo! Ms. Fan liked the sound of that!

So...what is the Lowe-down? Where are the rest of the Manny free agents going to land? There is still a Wolf in sheep's clothing hiding under the Sheets somewhere. Perhaps the Yankees won't have any Pettitte four leftover in their Christmas buffet...or maybe they will. We need something to happen after the Teixeira hangover.

Is it just the Fan or does there seem to be more MLB players signing with Japanese teams this off season than usual? The latest is Kevin Mench, which means there will be at least one good person in Japan. case you missed the pun, "Good person" is what "mench" means in Yiddish.

It's hard to understand the attraction of playing in Japan if any MLB team will still consider signing you. Perhaps the money is motivation enough, but the stats won't count and they kind of speak funny over there. The fan doesn't have any yen for visiting over there any time soon.

Okay...okay! No more puns. The Fan can hear you groaning over here. I guess it's time to play the new Paper Mario (you gotta problem wit dat?) that Ms. Fan gave for Christmas. Carry on, and enjoy the rest of your Halladay weekend.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sports Writers Should Be Careful About Vacations

The Fan understands that even sports writers need a vacation now and then. Of course, many would argue--and not without merit--dream jobs like sports writing are already vacations. But be that as it may, it sure looks funny when a famous writer goes on vacation when the last piece he wrote is a speculation piece long since old news and incorrect. For example, see here. Unfortunately for this writer in question, his last posted article sits like a red herring next to his picture on the site's main page. Oops.

Anyone who follows this blog knows of the Fan's man-crush on Peter Gammons. The man is...well...the MAN when it comes to sports writers. Some of the other Fan favorites:

Gammons, Buster Olney and Rob Neyer (not because the Fan always agrees, but at least they are interesting and write ALL the time), Keith Law, Jayson Stark (though he has gotten a bit lazy lately, but it's hard not to like a big time writer who answers e-mails personally and faithfully), Gordon Edes, Tim Brown and Bill Madden. Least favorite big time writer: Jeff Passan.

Michael Silver (the best of the best), Gregg Easterbrook (despite his pomposity...or because of it) and Charles Robinson (whose Winners and Losers column is excellent and always on point).
Let the Gnashing of Teeth Begin

The Yankees landed their third big fish this off season by grabbing free agent, Mark Teixeira, out from under the Red Sox' noses. Let the gnashing of teeth begin.

The Yankees are one of those polarizing franchises in sports. Flashing the most money, the best history and in the best market, the team is either loved passionately by its fans or hated acrimoniously by all other fans.

To fans of the team, this is the prize they've been hoping for. A big bat from both sides of the plate, a la Mickey Mantle, Teixeira is also seen as a clutch performer and his playoff experience last year seems to Yankee fans like the anti-A-Rod.

To those who hate the Yankees, this will be one more spike in the Yankee voodoo doll hanging in each sports den. The critics will say: "Nine of their players make more than any other TEAM in baseball." Calls for a salary cap will come clamoring across the land and Internet pipe.

But, in reality, the Yankees pay their dues. The same day the deal was announced, the league assessed a $29 million "tax" on the Yankees that will be distributed to other teams around the league. The team's "tax" tab the last five years exceeds $100 million.

The Yankees also have a new stadium to fill and expensive seats to justify. Filling their glaring needs when they have cleared enough payroll to do so is their right and, face it, two of these acquisitions are for the best players on the market.

The deal should also settle A-Rod down a bit as he no longer has to be THE big bat in the lineup. Now he has his tandem in Teixeira. He should have a big year.

And so the two polarized camps will be having different reactions. To those that hate the Yankes with boundless passion, a raised fist and a "Damn Yankees!" will reverberate. To Yankee fans, fists will be pumped and a gigantic, "Yesssssssssssss!" will fill the land.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Giving Up the Game of a Lifetime

To any of the Fan's generation, Pee Wee Leagues led to Little League (or P.A.L.) and then to Babe Ruth to High School ball, and then for the fortunate few, on to college ball or a selection to a minor league team. For the rest of us, we had to graduate to league softball and once our wobbly legs and overfed bellies got in the way, we "retired" from our childhood game.

Imagine how hard it must be for a major leaguer, especially one with a long career, to give up the game of a lifetime. Besides being all the player has done since youth, there is the loss of the crowds, the camaraderie and, of course, the money. It's no wonder so many MLB coaches are former players.

All this comes to mind from the story that Bernabe Figueroa Williams has begun playing winter ball for Puerto Rico in anticipation for playing for that country in the WBC.

Bernie Williams had a distinguished career with the New York Yankess that did not end on Williams' terms. As is the case in baseball as a business, the Yankees were finished with him before he was finished with baseball. It's a reality that is hard on a player and on the fans who root for them.

Williams was not just an ordinary player. He was a fixture on a team of champions, playing centerfield and batting .297 for his career with 2336 hits and a lifetime On Base Percentage of .381. He drove in over a hundred runs five times. He scored over a hundred eight times. He won two gold gloves. Williams hit 22 post season home runs.

But suddenly, he didn't fit in. No longer agile enough for centerfield, he wasn't valued enough for other positions and when he declined to accept a minor league offer from the only team he ever played for, he sat out. But he never officially retired.

And now he is 40 years old and still has the desire to play. And so in his native Puerto Rico, he went 1 for 3 in his first winter league game as a DH. Only Williams knows whether he is simply doing this for the love of Puerto Rico or for the fun of it, or whether he still hopes to catch the glory for one more season.

Either way, Williams at least provides one solitary reason for watching the entire WBC. The Fan would love to see him in uniform one more time. He is missed.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Interesting List for All Time Sluggers

The things one will do in the middle of a blizzard. With time to kill, the Fan took all the sluggers with 400 or more home runs and made an all time OPS list. For those who don't know. OPS equals On Base Percentage (OBP) plus Slugging Percentage. Slugging Percentage equals Total Bases divided by At Bats. The list is interesting:

  1. Ruth 1.159

  2. Ted Williams 1.116

  3. Gehrig 1.074

  4. Bonds 1.051

  5. Foxx 1.034

  6. M. Ramirez 1.004

  7. McGwire .982

  8. Mantle .979

  9. Musial .976

  10. F. Thomas .974

  11. A. Rodriguez .967

  12. Thome .966

  13. Chipper Jones .956

  14. Bagwell .948

  15. Ott .943
    Mays .943

  16. Aaron .929
    Delgado .929

  17. Robinson .926

  18. Piazza .922

  19. Griffey .920

  20. Snider .919

  21. Sheffield .910

  22. Schmidt .907

  23. J. Gonzalez .904

  24. McCovey .889

  25. Stargell .889

  26. Palmeiro .886

  27. McGriff .886

  28. E. Matthews .886

  29. Killebrew .885

  30. Sosa .878

  31. Canseco .868

  32. Billy Williams .853

  33. R. Jackson .846

  34. Yastrzemski .841

  35. Murray .835

  36. Banks .831

  37. Winfield .828

  38. Dawson .805

  39. Darrell Evans .792

  40. C. Ripken .787

  41. Kingman .780

Some comments about the list: First, many of the current players on the list will drop if they continue playing past their peak. For example, Sheffield showed a big drop in productivity this past year and his lifetime OPS dropped and will continue to do so as he plays out his career. The same can be said for players who played longer than they should have such as Willie Mays, Winfield and Reggie Jackson. Secondly, the list proves out what the Fan has always believed: Cal Ripken, Andre Dawson and Carl Yastrzemski were vastly overrated as sluggers shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. Hey, if that statement is true for Dave Kingman, it is true for Ripken and Darrell Evans.

The surprises on the list are Mantle at number 8 and Manny Ramirez at number 6. There is no surprise that Musial is at number 9. He is the most overlooked superstar and is the greatest living player of the bygone era. If OPS is more important than home run totals as most stat heads now consider it is, then the case seems to be made that Jeff Bagwell is a hall of famer as is Mike Piazza. It also seems to indicate that Ruth, Gehrig and Ted Williams are the greatest sluggers of all time.