Saturday, November 15, 2003

The general managers meeting broke up with only one trade plus a faux pas from the Mets' Bill Singer. The one trade was a great one for the San Francisco Giants as they picked up the Twins' catcher, A.J. Pierzynski for Joe Nathan and two minor leaguers. At first, I was upset for Twins fans at this trade until I broke it down a bit.

Pierzynski is one of the true leaders on the Twins. He is a great defensive player with a lifetime batting average over .300. He has had clutch hits in big games and is in the same class--though he is rarely mentioned that way--with Jorge Posada and Jason Varitek. So why would the Twins trade him other than for money reasons?

First, the Twins have Matthew LeCroy who only caught twenty games last year, but between catching and at DH, LeCroy had 17 homeruns and 64 RBI in only 345 at bats. Pierzynski was great, but he wasn't a big power guy. But even more exciting for the Twins is the world's best catching prospect ready to step in: Joe Bouer. Bouer was the minor league player of the year last year and has all the tools and then some. He is considered "can't miss." That's why the Twins could expend the arbitration eligible Pierzynski.

And! The Twins received big time arm, Joe Nathan. Nathan has pitched through some injury but has a lifetime (four years) record of 24-10. This past year he had more strikeouts than innings pitched and can be downright nasty. Nathan, minor leaguers and the ability to plug in Joe Bouer makes this trade a good one for the Twins and the Giants as Pierzynski will give them a solid presence where few are available other than Bonds.

The most embarrassing moment of the general manager meetings had to be the Mets newly hired Bill Singer making stupid guttural noises to mimic oriental speech in response to meeting Kim Ng, the Dodgers assistant general manager. How childish and boorish can you be? It will be interesting to see if the Mets fire Singer for this really stupid act despite Singer's public apology.

Former players are former players and they all have had sheltered lives. Pampered, set apart and sheltered from the real world for most of their early lives, players can get away with asinine attitudes and be somewhat excused for their lack of exposure to more enlightened thought and experiences.

The trouble comes when a former player now has to act in the real world of business. Let's face it, MLB is a business and general managers are on the business end of things. Singer, a former 20 game winner, now has egg on his face as he has made a major transgression that probably would have generated guffaws in major league locker rooms.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Major League Baseball finally started down the correct path by deciding to test all players for steroids. Random testing found that five percent of players tested positive for steroid use. Though that percentage is better than expected, it is enough to cause the fan to wonder about the performance of MLB's players.

I don't believe this will go smoothly and some players will be sure to attempt legal action to stop what they will call a loss of privacy. If players knew the minds of the fans, they would know how important this issue is. I don't believe that steroids help a player any more than cork in a player's bat. But if the perception is there that the competition is unfair, then MLB needs to take this stance and this action.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Many fans of MLB point to the parity of the NFL and how the salary cap is responsible for that parity. MLB on the other hand tried to deal with the issue by issuing a luxury tax on teams that spent more than a set amount. Neither method would help the current state of team payroll levels in baseball. No team proves that point better than the Milwaukee Brewers.

Today it was announced that the board of directors of the Milwaukee Brewers recommended that the Brewers cut their payroll from $40 million to $30 million. The recommendation means that the Brewers will probably have to trade their two best players: Geoff Jenkins ($8 million) and Richie Sexson ($8 million).

The plight of the Brewers is complicated as the community put up a lot of money to build the Brewers a stadium. They have a right to expect the Brewers to be entertaining. Sexson and Jenkins play hard, play well and play exciting ball. Now with Podsednik and pitching starting to fall in place, the team had a chance to be much better. Will it be able to now?

One of the reasons given for the cut is the drop in attendance to 1.7 million. Geez, the Devil Rays would have a celebration for that kind of attendance. Even if the average ticket price was $10--and it has to be higher--that's $17 million. Add in the TV rights, MLB products and their results from the same luxury tax the Yankees are paying and you have to wonder why the team would need to cut payroll.

What's the answer? Put in a salary cap? Make the cap $80 million? The Brewers are still going to spend only $30 million. How is that going to help poorly run teams? There is no provision that the poor owners spend the luxury tax on their teams. Then what good is it? For every George Steinbrenner there will be a Carl Pohldad or Bud Selig's daughter. The Brewers story is a sad one and is a lightning rod of warning for the storm that baseball still faces.

So far, the awards seem to be going to the players that earned them. Berroa and Dontrelle Willis are the correct choices though I wouldn't have argued if Podsednik had won the award in the National League. Halladay won the AL Cy Young award. The National League will announce theirs on Thursday. If that decision follows the common sense winners to this point, Eric Gagne will win that award.