Saturday, December 15, 2007

Wandering Thoughts

It has been a weird couple of days. Normally, I can't wait to read my favorite on-line sport entities (do people still buy sport magazines in print?). The last two days have been difficult to pull the trigger and go to my familiar haunts. How many more painful stories and analysis will there be today? Who will admit what and who will deny anything and everything. Pettitte came clean, which is good...I guess.

For long-time baseball fans, our game is rooted in our psychology. The memories of the past are part of the fabric of being a human and a Fan today. We naturally compare batting stances to those registered in our memory banks. We remember when today's currently good teams were bad and vice-versa. And, for many of us, we compare statistics of today's players to those we watched and treasured in the past.

Today we find that only two out of the three are sort of the same. So it is, in this post Mitchell haze, that I note the Edmonds trade--which should only help the Cardinals, by the way--without bothering to check his stats for the past few years. That's really odd for me.

But doggonit, I'm not going to give up a lifetime of passion for all of the ugly truth that was revealed, or at least revealed by the pond scum that Mitchell interviewed. Babe Ruth is given credit for saving the game after the Black Sox scandal, but though he did help with his Herculean feats, it was the fans who loved the game enough to keep coming and supporting it. Many who read about the game fixing and the gambling knew that the White Sox players from that infamous team were the only ones from that era who got caught. Many more got away with it and isn't that a parallel to what happened with Mitchell's report?

Nobody should consider Jose Canseco any kind of hero. He is the worst kind of spectator of this whole mess. Not only was he the cheerleader (and in many cases, the ringleader), but then he made a few million more writing about it when he was finished making millions by cheating. But even so, we all know deep inside that he is right that this report was a joke. A handful of players were indicted by hearsay while dozens more got away with their mischief. We know he's right. We just hate he is because of who he is. Can we believe A-Rod's denial? Should we? Does it even matter any more?

The scandal will pass and it will be a milestone looked back upon darkly, much like the "Say it ain't so, Joe." But, the bottom line is that, as much as it sounds like simplistic thinking, we fans are going to start reading our stats again and focusing on the hot rookies, the comeback players and which team will be this year's surprise. I may be an idiot, but this is my game and it has been for decades. I'm not throwing it away with all the other empty syringes.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Arizona's Diamonds!

I'm sitting here shaking the Mitchell dust off my clothing and trying to pretend that if I hope hard enough it will all go away. Oh well, it's not. But I've said my piece and others (including Jayson Stark) will say it much better. So thank goodness there were some trades today to think about!

Arizona! Those Diamondbacks just got themselves a top of the rotation pitcher by prying Dan Haran from the Oakland Athletics along with a middle something prospect pitcher named, Connor Robertson for six player, one of which was their best prospect, Brett Anderson. The Diamondbacks used some of their best prospects, but got a proven and still young (and relatively cheap) pitcher.

Haran has been remarkably consistent while also improving his ability to win games. His WHIP (walks and hit per inning pitched) has remained at 1.21 for three consecutive years but has improved his batting average against for three straight years while increasing his strikeout percentage. And unlike other A's starters, he's remained healthy and has been in the 220 innings pitched range for three straight years.

Oakland is retooling and there is no doubt that Billy Beane got the prospects he coveted.

But Arizona wasn't done for the day. They also traded their league leading reliever, Jose Valverde to Houston in another big swap of players. Valverde may have been the best kept MLB secret last year. Valverde saved 47 games last year for the Diamondbacks who always seemed to be playing one-run games. While Valverde's strikeouts are off the chart, he has control issues and walks a batter every other inning. Perhaps the Diamondbacks got tired of the nail-biting? That is the only thing that makes sense with this trade.

The Astros unloaded Chris Burke, who was awful last year, Chad Qualls, a serviceable reliever, but with no closing track record (he did save five games last year for the Astros). The Astros also sent Arizona another reliever, Juan Gutierrez. Gutierrez is a roster-filler and not much of an addition.

While the addition of Haran is exciting for the pitching rotation to give the Diamondbacks the back to back punch of Webb and Haran, time will tell if they gave up too much. A proven pitcher is a proven pitcher and it's hard to fault Arizona for this deal.

Trading away their closer is a little more confusing considering they got little value in return. The must be more to this story than the headlines.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mitchell Report Addendum

After checking my post after it was published, I read through some of my most recent ones and found that nearly all of them talk about players named today in Mitchell's report. Boy do I feel like a dork!
The Mitchell Report

The Fan is a fan first and a blogger second and as such, the Mitchell Report did much to sadden me. Some of my favorite players were implicated in the report and thus, a major part of the joy in watching them over the years is diminished. I certainly agree with Mitchell who echoed what I have said many times over the years: the past should be the past and put behind us. Amnesty should be granted to those in the report. They will have enough to deal with concerning their legacy, and for some, their Hall of Fame credentials. Some will lose endorsement deals and others their television careers.

Much of the report was not surprising. What makes it difficult for fans like me, who would rather see the issue dealt with privately and report a few suspensions here and there, is to see such jarring blatancy that makes this a sad day for all involved.

There are several things that bother me about the report. The first is that despite months of investigation, it appears that little traction was gained until two indicted ex-employees were culled for information. The result is that even though 80 players and ex-players were named, there are untold dozens who undoubtedly used and will get away with it. Thus the playing field is uneven and the punishment of testimony partial and crippling to the few who were named. I'm sure there are many players of the past and present who are sighing with relief for escaping the firing squad.

The second thing that bothers me is the glibness in naming the names in the first place. In effect, these players and ex-players are indicted without the due process of law. It would be similar to me as an employer posting in the newspaper when an employee is accused of sexual harassment. The names should have been reported privately to Selig and Fehr and handled on a case by case basis. The NFL has a similar policy when the league announces a suspension for a player for breaking the substance abuse policy without naming the substance or the details. The one benefit of such a breach of privacy is that Selig will now have more leverage to get the players union to cooperate with policy.

It was comical in an ironic way how politicians automatically jumped into the fray after the report was issued. Their duplicity and self-aggrandising knows no limits. During the last hearings, they basically told MLB to clean up its act or face further scrutiny. MLB has done that with this report and these politicians still want to drag it all back to Washington for more hearings. What a waste of time and political energy. Solve the energy crisis and lower green house gases for Pete's sake and let MLB deal with this.

Any action from here on out needs to be discussed by Selig and Fehr and both better be serious about restoring public faith in the game. Will baseball survive today? Certainly. Will the fallout continue? Most certainly. Will fans and writers get crazy and stand on soap boxes? They already are. Let's hope that all parties in leadership and the players themselves get in their fox holes and quietly restore order to baseball. And let's hope that Spring will arrive quickly so we can get a new season started and the bad taste out of our mouths.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Baltimore Orioles Trade Miguel Tejada

Baltimore finally pulled the trigger and sent Miguel Tejada away. In a big trade today, Tejada went to Houston for five players. Keith Law, who is always excellent with analysis of personnel and how teams fared with their trades, outlined what Baltimore received for their days work.

Law wasn't very high on how much the Astros benefited from the trade. He gave them two games at best for improvement from the deal. I think it will depend on if Tejada, in a new atmosphere, will revive his career and return to the kind of form that previously made him part of the Jeter/Garciaparra/Tejada debate during the 1990s. If he does come to Houston with new life and new enthusiasm, the Astros could benefit much more than two games.

Law also pointed out that with Tejada, Houston will probably non-tender Adam Everett, one of the best fielding shortstops in baseball. Everett has had a couple of really awful years at the plate. I would keep Everett, bat him eighth and move Tejada to third. Tejada doesn't want to move from shortstop, but a few million in the bank and an escape from Baltimore might change his mind. Tejada at third is a much better deal than as a shortstop.

Tejada also gives protection to Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee, giving the Astros a potent middle of the lineup. I think this is a better deal for the Astros than Law allows, but time will tell.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Some Quick Musings

Baseball writers are not enthusiastic about the Brewers signing of Gagne for a one year, $10 million contract. To me the risk is worth the signing because it's only one year. Is that a lot of money for the Brewers? Sure. But it's a better risk than $46 million over four years for Cordero. If it works and he saves a lot of games for them, then they are geniuses. If it doesn't work out, it's only a one year dud.

The Cubs are reportedly close to signing Japanese outfielder Kusoke Fukudome. Now there is an unfortunate name for a guy playing in Chicago. I suppose it would have been worse if he were playing in Minnesota with the Metrodome. Imagine all the fun New York fans will have when the Cubs come into Shea Stadium. My Sicilian brethren will probably hammer him.

Fukudome's stats in the Japanese league do not look all that impressive. He has less power than Matsui and hits only around .300. I don't see this as much of a deal for the Cubbies.

The Twins signing of Craig Monroe seems like a good deal to me. The guy is a monster who had some good years for the Tigers. He fell out of favor with Jim Leyland and fell off statistically the last two years. I can remember watching some of the moon shots he hit in the past and this seems like a good risk for Minnesota as a DH or spare outfielder.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Nationals signed 35 year old Paul Lo Duca to a one year, $5 million contract. The one year is not a bad risk, but Lo Duca wore out his welcome in New York, has diminished defensive skills and has a lifetime slugging percentage of .414. I don't see much production in this deal.

Bully for the Padres as they appear to be in the final stages of signing Jake Peavy to a long term contract. The news item today indicated he was taking a physical to finalize the deal. Good for them and for him. Peavy is a class act and a terrific pitcher.