Saturday, January 03, 2009

Obscure Signings of the Week

While some familiar names like Tony Clark, Brian Fuentes and Scott Proctor picked up agreements this week, a couple of catchers make this week's Obscure Signings of the Week.

Raul Chavez - Catcher - Minor League Contract: Toronto Blue Jays

Raul Alexander Chavez is a 35 year old catcher from Venezuela. The catcher has had a long career bouncing from the minors to the majors and has actually made it into a few MLB games in ten seasons. In those ten seasons, he has managed to get into 212 games and has acquired 512 at bats. In those at bats, he has compiled 115 hits, 16 doubles, 5 homers, 50 runs batted in and has even stolen three bases.

The catcher has put together a career with a lifetime batting average of .223, a lifetime On Base Average of .260 and a Slugging Percentage of .292. Yes, fans, that gives him a lifetime OPS of .552. Wow! How has he managed to keep his career going? One possible clue is that he has thrown out 47% of all basestealers in his career. That's a pretty good average.

Chavez has played for the Expos, the Mariners, Astros, Orioles and Pirates.

Josh Bard - Catcher - One Year Contract: Boston Red Sox

Bard is thirty years old and was born in Ithaca, New York. He played college ball at Texas Tech and has many more at bats in his career than Chavez. His career has been pretty obscure except for the brief time he subscribed to the Bob Uecker theory of catching knuckleball pitchers when he spent part of the 2006 season picking up Tim Wakefield's pitches after they stopped rolling to the backstop.

Bard's lifetime Batting Average, OBA, Slugging Percentage and OPS look like this: .265/.333/.395 and .728. Bard had two decent seasons at the plate for the Padres in 2006 and 2007 in fairly significant playing time. The numbers in 2006 for the Padres were probably his best and might have been in relief for escaping from Boston where he was Wakefield's designated catcher. His ten Passed Balls in only eighteen games for Boston are amusing.

Bard is not the kind of catcher Chavez seems to be. 355 baserunners have attempted to steal on him and Bard has only thrown out 67 of them, a terrible 19% success rate. Mike Piazza, the standard for poor ability to throw out basestealers, finished at a 20% success rate.

Now that Boston has signed Bard again, will he catch Wakefield?

Elizardo Ramirez - Pitcher - Minor League Contract: Texas Rangers

Ramirez is from the Domincan Republic and is only 25 years old. He has already pitched in five big league seasons, though his pitching coaches might dispute that. He has a 4-15 lifetime win-loss record with a hefty 6.40 Earned Run Average in stints with the Phillies, Reds and Rangers. And so he finds himself at a young age already signing minor league contracts and fighting to keep his Major League dream alive.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Was the Past Really Better?

Or is the Fan just getting old? After doing a Google search, Bobby Murcer's name popped up in one of the results. The name is just one of those iconic names from a childhood filled with such icons. Growing up just seemed different then. Not really wanting to risk being portrayed as one of those fogies who turn off an entire generation with stories of walking four miles to school in the middle of winter, the question still begs to be asked: Was the past really better for baseball fans?

On the face of things, this is the best time ever to be a fan. With bloggers and sites all over the Web, one can easily spend the entire day reading about the game. Sites like and give you lifetime statistics for every player who ever played or the box scores of games in 1969 if one is interested. Yahoo sports has up to the minute box scores so there is no need to wait for the next day's papers. Baseball Tonight shows highlights of every game every night of the season. You couldn't ask for more, right?

So why does the past seem more romantic? In most markets, every game was televised, and even though we all had black and white televisions, it was wondrous and magical, even if your team was terrible. When you couldn't be home, you always carried a transistor radio with the nine volt batteries to listen to the same announcers and you could "see" the game and feel it even if you couldn't be there.

There were double headers on Sunday so you had six straight hours of baseball that didn't go past your bed time. Going to a big league game was not beyond most people's means, nor was getting hot dogs and soda once you go there. Playoff and World Series games were played during the day and teachers, at least the good teachers, would bring in this television on a cart (remember those?) and let the class watch.

We played baseball our entire childhood and practiced at least three days a week. And it was fun and something we wanted to do. When we weren't in organized ball, we made our own games up using dice and complicated pages of what each roll meant. Or, you saved your money and bought Strat-O-Matic and played 162 games. Plus there was stick ball, whiffle ball or stoop ball and a game called "Ground Ball to Short" where two people took turns playing first base and grounders or pop ups were thrown. Outs were recorded for successful plays and runs were scored if the Spalding Red Rubber Ball got past the other player. Nine innings would determine the winner.

The players were mostly regular joes before Curt Flood changed baseball (as it should have been changed). The players didn't make much more money than our dads and worked in shoe stores and the like during the off season. Fitness training wasn't big then like it is now and the players didn't look like polished sculptures.

And then there were baseball cards at a nickel a pack. A few packs were purchased each week and the list cards were faithfully recorded when you found that player in your pack. The cards were flipped or the doubles went in bicycle spokes.

Was it so different then? No good answer can come from this old Fan as he is not a part of the current generation. Bud Selig cannot be helping by starting playoff and World Series games so late every night. And the last time this Fan saw a pack of baseball cards, it was more than two dollars. Recently, announced the beginning of MLB television. The story said the new cable channel was free. But after using the zip code finder, the finder said it was a subscription service. Does that mean less games to watch for the average fan?

Technology has long been viewed as a wonderful thing. And certainly life is much easier with microwave ovens. Getting up to the minute stats and analysis at the click of a mouse is really cool. But those days of living and dying by the transister radio sure are missed. Are things really better or worse for fans of baseball? If you have an opinion, leave a comment. If it turns out that the Fan has turned into a geezer...well...we'll just have to accept it.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Angels Replace K-Rod with Fuentes

The Angels shouldn't skip a beat in the Save department as they have apparently replaced record-breaking closer, Francisco Rodriguez, with Brian Fuentes. Fuentes gets a nice $3 million raise after making $5 million with the Rockies this past year.

Fuentes is what you want in a closer with the strong ability to miss bats. He struck out 82 batters in a little over 62 innings. Over his career, Fuentes has a 10.24 strikeouts per nine innings rate. This ability makes him a better fit than Trevor Hoffman and other closers on the market.

Fuentes drastically lowered his home run per nine innings this past year and walks about a batter every third inning. He has also shown consistency with 2007 his only shaky year in the past five. He briefly lost the closer's job in 2007 after blowing eight saves, but reclaimed it in time for the Rockies improbable post-season run that year.

His numbers should be even better away from Coors Field and this seems like an excellent value for both him (he is a California native) and his new team.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Crystal Ball Speaks to the Fan

The Fan was cleaning out his basement and tripped over a round object covered by a felt sheet. Upon further inspection, it turned out to be a long forgotten crystal ball. After dusting it off, the Fan was amazed to see the following images:

- President Obama will throw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals' home opener to enthusiastic crowds. Security at the game will make El Al look like amateurs.

- Manny Ramirez will sign with the Dodgers and have the following numbers: .312/33/115/.400/.550/.950, the Dodgers will win the NL West and Ramirez will be back in Buster Olney's good graces.

- Kerry Wood will save 38 games after a slow start.

- Sabathia will end up with a 17-12 record for the Yankees.

- Raul Casanova of the Mets will have a chance meeting with Romeo Crennel and they will discuss their strategy with women.

- Ben Sheets will sign with the Texas Rangers and will later credit Nolan Ryan with conditioning tips that helped him overcome his history of injuries.

- Rickey Henderson will be voted into the Hall of Fame, but some bone-headed writers will leave him off their ballot so he won't be unanimous.

- Dan Shaughnessy will write a 10,000 word diatribe when Jim Rice fall short of the votes needed to gain entrance to the Hall of Fame. The diatribe will include at least one Rob Neyer reference.

- Jayson Stark will actually write another baseball post for and finally remove his headline that the Braves have the best chance of signing A. J. Burnett.

- David Wright will win the National League MVP.

- Alex Rodriguez will win the American League MVP and bloggers from coast to coast will complain about the New York media bias.

- Randy Johnson will win his 300th game by June 15.

- Five more minor league pitchers from the Dominican Republic will be suspended for doping and yet the major story of how draftees from that country are mistreated will stay as dead in the headlines as they are now.

- The American Team will be bounced early from the WBC and American baseball fans will yawn and pop open another coke.

- The standings at the end of the year will be:
- AL East: Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, Blue Jays
- AL Central: Indians, Twins, Tigers, Royals, White Sox
- AL West: Rangers, Mariners, A's, Angels
- NL East: Mets, Marlins, Phillies, Braves, Nationals
- NL Central: Astros, Reds, Cardinals, Cubs, Brewers
- NL West: Dodgers, Giants, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Padres

- The Wild Card teams will be the Red Sox and the Marlins

- At least ten homers or non-homers will be overturned by replay.

- There will be two no-hitters thrown during the year. One will be against the Padres.

- Phil Hughes will win more games than Chien-Ming Wang

- Jon Lester will win more games than Beckett

- Mike Hampton will win fourteen games and win comeback player of the year.

- Adam Dunn will hit 40 homers.

- No one will hit 50 or more homers.

- Barry Bonds will finally be convicted and the story will finally be over.

- Ozzie Guillen will have at least four major meltdowns

- Russell Branyon will play for at least two more teams in 2009 and hit home runs for both of them. He's played for eleven teams in the last six years and had at least one homer in every stop.

- The Fan will be watching with interest and pore over every box score as usual

Happy New Year Everyone!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2009 Hall of Fame Ballot

The 2009 Hall of Fame Ballot was released in early December and the Web is starting to buzz with pro and con arguments. Below is a list of those on the ballots, some pertinent stats and analysis:

- Harold Baines (OF, DH, 1B)
.823 Lifetime OPS. 2866 career hits. Drove in 100+ runs only twice. Never scored 100 runs. 384 career homers. Only played 1061 of his 2830 games in the field.
Bottom Line: Good hitter for a long time, but not enough production as DH.

- Jay Bell (SS)
One great year. One more good one. .265 lifetime BA. .759 lifetime OPS.
Bottom Line: Not even close. Should fall off the ballot after one year.

- Burt Blyleven (RHP)
287 career wins. 3.31 lifetime ERA in the DH era. 2.79/1 strikeout to walk ratio. Won 14 or more games 10 times.
Bottom Line: Hard to fathom why Blyleven has not been voted in. One of the best pitchers of his era.

- David Cone (RHP)
194-126 won, loss record. 8.28 strikeouts per nine innings lifetime. .309 lifetime On Base Against. 1.26 WHIP. Perfect Game. Big wins in postseason.
Bottom Line: A very good pitcher for his era. Just not enough longevity to pile up wins required to enter.

- Andre Dawson (OF, DH)
2774 lifetime hits. .805 OPS. 1591 RBI including four years of 100 or more.
Bottom Line: Despite impressive RBI total, Dawson's OPS is simply too low in comparison with other HOF outfielders.

- Ron Gant (OF, 3B)
.802 OPS. 321 homers. 243 stolen bases. .256 lifetime Batting Average.
Bottom Line: Not a chance.

- Mark Grace (1B, OF)
.302 lifetime Batting Average. .383 On Base Average. 433 more walks in his career than strikeouts. 2445 career hits. .825 OPS. Considered a good fielder.
Bottom Line: Low slugging percentage due to little power hurts statistics. A very good player, he was probably not quite good enough to get in.

- Rickey Henderson (OF)
No need to consider statistics. Henderson is a first ballot Hall of Famer with some records that will never be broken. The interesting thing is that he was the Manny Ramirez superstar of his era where his dedication and off-beat personality were constantly called into question. It is only in retrospect that he is appreciated. Lesson?

- Tommy John (LHP)
288 career wins. 3.32 ERA in the DH era. 1.24 walks per nine innings for career. Considerably better his last fifteen years in that category. Surgical procedure named after him.
Bottom Line: His career numbers should be good enough to get him in. He wasn't flashy enough for the sizzle of the memory.

- Don Mattingly (1B)
Bottom Line: Ah! What could have been. Was for four years the best player in MLB. Great fielder. Back problems shortened his career and limited his effectiveness in the last years of his career. Not enough numbers to get him in.

- Mark McGwire (1B)
The Fan's recent post concerning lifetime OPS for sluggers with more than 400 career homers list McGwire near the top of the list. Dirtied by the steroid issue, he was still one of the best sluggers of his era.

- Jack Morris (RHP)
254-186 won, loss record. 3.90 ERA. 13 years with 14 or more wins. 20 or more wins three times. Lifetime WHIP was 1.30.
Bottom Line: Lifetime ERA and WHIP puts him behind Blyleven and Tommy John.

- Dale Murphy (OF, 1B, C)
398 career homers. .815 lifetime OPS. .265 lifetime BA.
Bottom Line: One of the league's best players for six years, his production dropped too quickly and too precipitously.

- Jesse Orosco (LHP)
Pitched for 24 years. 1251 appearances. 3.15 lifetime ERA. 144 career saves.
Bottom Line: Effective pitcher for a very, very long time. Too much of a specialist to warrant consideration.

- Dave Parker (OF, DH)
2712 lifetime hits. .290 lifetime BA. .810 lifetime OPS. 526 career doubles.
Bottom Line: Fearsome hitter for a few years, but too low OPS over the long haul.

- Dan Plesac (LHP)
1064 appearances. 158 career saves. 1041 strikeouts in 1072 career innings.
Bottom Line: Comparable to Jesse Orosco. Again, too much of a specialist to merit consideration.

- Tim Raines (OF)
2605 lifetime hits. .385 career On Base Average. 430 doubles and 113 career triples. 1571 career runs scored. 808 stolen bases in 954 attempts.
Bottom Line: The second best leadoff hitter of his generation. Still suffers from drug talk early in his career.

- Jim Rice (OF)
.298 career Batting Average. .854 lifetime OPS. 1451 RBI. .502 career Slugging Percentage. Drove in 100 or more runs eight times.
Bottom Line: Perhaps too short a career to get enough "magical" numbers to get in.

- Lee Smith (RHP)
478 career Saves. 1022 lifetime appearances. 3.03 lifetime ERA. 1251 strikeouts in 1289 career innings.
Bottom Line: If Bruce Sutter is a Hall of Famer, so is Lee Smith.

- Alan Trammell (SS, INF)
2365 career hits. .285 lifetime Batting Average. .767 lifetime OPS.
Bottom Line: Hard to quantify his fielding compared to period players to justify his very low OPS.

- Greg Vaughn (OF)
355 career homers. .807 career OPS. .242 lifetime Batting Average.
Bottom Line: Good power, but pretty marginal in every other way.

- Mo Vaughn (1B)
.293 career Batting Average. .906 career OPS. 328 homers in only 12 years.
Bottom Line: Mo Vaughn was the David Ortiz of his time. Injuries shortened his career and will keep him out of the HOF.

- Matt Williams (3B)
378 career home runs. .317 lifetime On Base Average. .806 lifetime OPS.
Bottom Line: Injuries and steroid whispers will keep him out of the HOF. Terrible OBA.

If the Fan had a ballot, votes would be cast for: Tim Raines, Mark McGwire, Rickey Henderson, Burt Blyleven, Tommy John and Lee Smith

Monday, December 29, 2008

Penny to Pitch for Red Sox?

In an interesting deal, the Red Sox reportedly have signed former All Star and Dodger pitcher, Brad Penny for one year at $5 million with a $3 million more possible if incentives are reached. The deal is interesting because it will remain to be seen if the Red Sox have found this Penny heads up or tails up.

Without doubt, the deal is low risk for the Red Sox. If he does not come back to his 2007 form, Penny only costs the team one year. But Penny did have shoulder problems last year that may have resulted from his electric All Star appearance when he let loose with a string of 100 MPH fastballs.

If Penny can be near what he was in 2006 and 2007, this deal will be a steal. If Penny is as atrocious as last year or not much better, it could be a lot of wasted outings hoping he'll come around. The deal also seems to indicate that the Red Sox were not comfortable with the youngsters they had at the back of the rotation and could likely mean that the thoughts of making Delcarman a starter are over.

The Brian Giles Video Changes Things

In 2006, Brian Giles was charged with hitting his then-pregnant girlfriend. He plead to a reduced charge, took anger management classes and the story died from view. Now, his former girlfriend is suing the Padres player and a video has been released that is shocking.

Giles has responded by stating that the woman in question is just seeking money. Well, that may or may not be true, but in light of the video, it would seem that his stance should be somewhat more contrite.

Some sportswriters are calling for the commissioner of baseball to take action in light of the video and after viewing the images, this Fan might feel the same way. There is no place in society for anyone to strike a loved one (or not for that matter) and MLB should be indignant concerning this issue.

Though the courts settled the matter and Giles supposedly met the court's criteria, it is hoped that Selig at least addresses the situation with a statement that such behavior will not be tolerated by anyone in baseball.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Is Manny Ramirez the Antichrist?

Buster Olney's latest post for ESPN follows the Fan's man crush, Peter Gammons, and others in a long line of "This is Manny's Fault" type of thought. Is this fair? Does Manny Ramirez deserve this type of antipathy?

The Red Sox are the new model for personnel management. They are now regarded as the elite organization for managing talent and building champions. With two World Series victories in five years, it's hard to argue with the results. But there is a level of ruthlessness that seems to permeate their business practice. They didn't handle Johnny Damon particularly well. They did not handle Curt Schilling's situation with a whole lot of heart and you can't forget Pedro Martinez and now Manny Ramirez.

It is easy to blame Manny for being Manny. The man has one of the most colorful personalities ever to play the game. His adventures in left field are legendary. His mood swings are well documented. But there is no indication that Manny is malevolent or a troublemaker. He has never been arrested, he doesn't appear to beat on women, he hasn't been involved in any drug scandals and he certainly hasn't shot his leg in a bar in recent months. So what's the beef here?

Okay, he received bad advice from Scott Boras and handled his last days with the Red Sox pretty badly. Supposedly, his whole team wanted him gone. But is this one of those bad relationships that ended badly, with blame being available to both sides? Or is this all Manny's fault?

For some reason, Manny Ramirez did not feel respected or wanted by the Red Sox organization. Perhaps that is too much to ask for any business. Have not most of us felt similar things when we wanted to be treated like a human being instead of a business asset (or cost)? Perhaps Manny wanted more than any business gives in the real world. Who knows.

But the story didn't end there. Apparently, his Dodger teammates loved the guy and respected his approach and his work ethic. Was that a different Manny? Do people change that quickly just from changing jobs?

A long, long, long time ago, the Fan worked for Radio Shack. To tell you how long ago this was, it was when calculators first came out and were priced at $350. The Fan started his career there as an assistant manager and worked for a wonderful manager who praised the Fan's efforts and was encouraging. The Fan busted his tail and arrived hours before the store opened to do what he could to make that store successful.

Soon after, the Fan was transferred to a different store and his new manager was just the opposite. Nothing was good enough, fault was always found and the Fan's effort and enthusiasm whithered and died. The bottom line is how you treat people often colors the results you get from people. Could the Manny situation in Boston and then Los Angeles reflect that bottom line?

Without being inside the situations, it's only speculation. But even the possibility should give second thoughts to making Manny the only fault in the mess he finds himself in right now. Frankly, MLB is better off with Manny playing and tearing the cover off a baseball than it is having him in some kind of Sammy Sosa purgatory.