Saturday, November 01, 2014

Joe Maddon jumps sinking ship

Much of the focus of this week's Joe Maddon escapades centers around the benefit to the Cubs and the hose job to Rick Renteria, the (now) former Cubs manager displaced by Maddon. Personally, I can't blame the Cubs for what they did and I think they handled things with Renteria the best they could. The thing is, thus far, this has been a Cubs story. But what about the Tampa Bay Rays?
Joe Maddon became a "free agent" due to the jumping ship of Andrew Friedman to the Dodgers. The two associated geniuses are given much of the credit for building the Rays to a perennially contending team using smarts and research. They were the modern twosome superheroes of the information age of baseball.
Looking at the decisions both made at face value, you could call this a salary grab. The Rays do not have deep pockets and neither Friedman or Maddon were likely to make the kind of money staying in St. Pete than they receive with their new ventures. We could just leave it there if we want since so many of us consider money the most important consideration to humanity.
How many of us have made a truly financial decision without considering the situations we are leaving and the ones we are heading to? Would most of us take a salary leap if we had to work in a no-win situation? I think most of us would hesitate. Would we pause if we were really happy where we were? Many of us would. It's not always about money. The important goals of anyone's pyramid of needs are complex once you get beyond the survival block at the bottom of the pyramid.
All that said, perhaps it can be stated that Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman jumped ship at the right time. The losing record put up by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2014 after a handful of 90+ win seasons could indicate that baseball has caught up to the Rays. The Rays have made hay because they were smarter than most teams and had to be because they could not pay high priced talent. The pipeline of talent from the minors, often enhanced by well-timed trades of expensive talent, may be drying up.
I remember earlier in the season when Maddon was asked about all the teams shifting infielders--something the Rays pioneered. Maddon said that things were getting harder because everyone is using information when the Rays were one of the few in the past to do so.
Friedman and Maddon had to be somewhat discouraged of having to trade away their best talent all the time. David Price had to be particularly galling to jettison due to money reasons. Constantly having to retool after moving talent that gets too expensive had to be exhausting and frustrating.
Friedman can take what he learned in St. Pete and now has unlimited pockets in Los Angeles. That has to feel really good. The chance to turn the Cubs around with so much talent in the system and the Cubs' willingness to spend to get to the next step had to be appealing to Maddon. Plus, it has to be any manager's dream to be the one to break the 107 year drought in Chicago.
My totally speculative suggestion is that perhaps both Friedman and Maddon knew that they had taken the Rays as far as they could take them and that a drought is about to begin anew for the Rays. Ben Zobrist is getting too expensive and a decision will have to be made there and the minor leagues look thinner than at any point in the past five years.
I am not saying that talented people still do not sit in positions of authority for the Rays. There is every indication that Michael Silverman, Chaim Bloom and Erik Neander are talented executives. What I am saying is that financial limitations will always exist for the Rays with their current stadium situation and that they currently have less talent to cull from than in years past.
The Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon years in St. Pete were exciting and fun. Perhaps both men knew the fun would be harder to come by in the next few years and this might be the best time to sell their abilities to new teams. They have sold themselves at the highest peak of their financial worth to teams which could blossom in the next few seasons.
That potential along with what seems to be a sinking of the Rays' current situation make the timing of these moves. The Rays should be watched closely in the next couple of seasons. As for Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman, they have parlayed their success for the Rays to set themselves up for life.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Game Picks and preseason predictions wrap up

Let's put a bow on this. The San Francisco Giants are now the oddest dynasty in the history of Major League Baseball. For the fifth straight season I followed and predicted every game and haven't missed a day doing so in three years. Call me the Lou Gehrig of game pickers. I also made some preseason predictions. And we will see how those went. First the game picks.
I must not count very well because the five seasons all have different numbers of games. I remember auditing last year and this year. But I did not audit my results the years before. So those final tallies are a bit dubious to me. After the audit, here are this year's results and how they stack up with past years:
Season       Record        Post Season    Correct Percentage
  • 2014        1373-1115         14-18              .552
  • 2013        1395-1085         21-19              .563
  • 2012        1350-1037         16-20              .565
  • 2011        1386-1078         24-14              .562
  • 2010        1379-1050                                .568
It is very clear that I had my worst season and certainly my worst post season. I should be getting, should I not? An in-law of mine went to court after a dozen or so speeding tickets. The judge looked at the tally and said, "Slow learner, aren't you?"  I guess I am a slow learner too.
Okay, for my preseason predictions, here they are copied with comments:
  • Derek Jeter will play more games than Jose ReyesNailed it. 145 - 143
  • Phil Hughes will win thirteen games for the Twins.  Nailed it. He won more.
  • Albert Pujols puts up a .900 OPS.  Nope. .790
  • The Angels will be the best team in the AL West.  Nailed it.
  • Don Mattingly will say everything is fine between him and Yasiel Puig at least 64 times during the season.  This was a low estimate.
  • Puig will have more steals than TOOTBLANs, but not by much. Wrong. More TOOTBLANS.
  • Billy Hamilton will have an OBP of .305 and steal 80 bases. Reds fans will still think that's better than Choo.  Nope (lower), Nope (lower) and Yup.
  • My wife will call Dustin Pedroia, "Jammy Pants," at least 78 times during the season. She'll call David Ortiz, "Big Poopy," half as many times.  Under.
  • Brian Roberts will play more games than Steve Lombardozzi and have a higher WAR.  Yup and Yup.
  • Chris Davis will hit 38 homers.  Not even close.
  • Ryan Howard will drive in 100 runs and still be worth less than 2.5 wins.  Missed it by five ribbies (95) and yup.
  • The Rangers will come in third place in the AL West.  Nope. Last.
  • I will win the It's About the Money fantasy league and then will not believe it was my first time ever playing.  I came in third out of twelve. Not bad though.
  • Instant Replay will cut down manager ejections by 67%.  It was actually higher this year: 199-187
  • A.J. Pierzynski will still block the plate and get away with it. Probably right.
  • David Robertson will have 40 saves and blow six of them and people will think he's terrible. 39 / 5, so I was close. And yes.
  • The Padres will play over .500 baseball and the Rockies will come in last place. Nope and Nope.
  • Every team in the AL East will finish the season with an 84-78 record.  This was a joke. But the Yankees did have that record.
  • The Cleveland Indians will push hard for the division despite not being able to beat the Tigers.  Sort of.
  • Starlin Castro will not be the starting shortstop for the Cubs by the All Star Break. Wrong.
  • Wil Myers will have a higher OPS than Evan Longoria.  Wrong.
  • John Mayberry will forever be in in RFD (Ryne's freakin' doghouse).  Yup
  • Adam Dunn gets traded by the trade deadline. The Brewers will get him. Right and wrong.
  • Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion will combine for 80 homers.  69
  • Matt Harvey will pitch in September. Wrong.
  • Madison Bumgarner and Stephen Strasburg will really challenge Clayton Kershaw for the NL Cy Young Award. Not really.
  • Tim Hudson will win twelve games for the Giants. Wrong.
  • For the fourth year in a row, I will have no idea who lives in the MLB Fan Cave and that is fine with me.  True.
  • The Twins' home opener will feature music from the movie, FrozenI have no idea.
  • Several White Sox youngsters will have good seasons and give the fan base hope. Yup.
  • For the fourth year in a row, Alcides Escobar will have more stolen bases than walks. Nailed it. Five years in a row!
  • The NL East finish: Nats, Braves, Mets, Marlins, Phillies.  Nailed it!
  • Josh Johnson will come back and pitch a complete game shutout and then hurt himself flinching from a pie in the face.  Alas, no.
  • Randy Wolf will get ten starts someplace.  Four
  • Max Scherzer will again win the Cy Young Award. But Justin Verlander has better pillow talk. Wrong.
  • At least one of Joe Maddon's road trip ideas will be a complete dud. Yup.
  • The Dodgers will have a Kangaroo Court and Zack Greinke won't want to go. No idea what I was thinking here.
  • A GM will get fired this year. Contenders: Seattle's, Dbacks' or Phillies'.  Nailed it. Dbacks.
  • There will be 3,258,393 hyperbolic statements about Derek Jeter this year from broadcast booths around the country.  More like double that.
  • Giancarlo Stanton will hit 35 homers but miss 40 games due to leg injuries. He only missed 17 games because he got hit in the face with a baseball. But he did hit 37 homers.
  • The NL West will finish: Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Dbacks, Rockies.   Flip the Dbacks and Rockies and it's correct.
  • Matt Carpenter will have a slightly disappointing offensive season.  Yup.
  • Buster Posey will win the batting title. He didn't miss by much.
  • Joey Votto will drive in 90 runs and nobody will be happy with him. Nope and Yup.
  • Adrian Gonzalez will still be my least favorite player. Yup
  • Josh Hamilton will have a very good season. Oh gosh, Josh. No. Wrong. Oof.
  • The Mariners will struggle not because of their offense but because of their pitching. Wrong. Offense not good enough.
  • Ryan Zimmerman will play first more than third this year. He did play more outfield than third, so, sort of.
  • The Yankees will trade a catcher by the deadline. Nope.
  • Bill Cowher and Kirk Gibson will create a new reality show and try to out intense face each other. I still like the idea.
  • The Carlos Santana third base thing will work out okay.
  • The Houston Astros will win 74 games.  They won 70. Not far off.
  • The NL Central will finish: Cards, Pirates, Reds, Brewers, Cubs. Flip the Brewers with the Reds and I had it.
  • Ryan Braun will have a great season.
  • The AL Central will finish: Indians, Tigers, Royals, White Sox, Twins. Put the Indians behind the Royals and I would have been right.
  • Ron Washington will bunt no matter what those numbers guys say.  Yup...until he quit.
  • Adeiny Hechavarria will have a slugging percentage over .300 this year. But not by much.  .356. So I would call this wrong.
  • Aroldis Chapman will throw a pitch 100 MPH and staples will be flying everywhere like that witch in the Bugs Bunny cartoons.  I was too afraid to look.
  • Aaron Harang will make Braves' fans pine for the days of Freddy GarciaWrong. Harang was actually pretty good.
  • Freddie Freeman will have a better season than Paul
  • The Padres won't trade Chase Headley because they will be in the wild card hunt. Traded him to the Yankees. Wrong.
  • The AL West will finish: Angels, A's, Mariners, Rangers, Astros. Flip the Astros and Rangers and I had it.
  • Chone Figgins will be a nice story this season. If he was, it wasn't about baseball.
  • Jose Molina will share his framing secret as pretending the baseball is a moon pie. I'll have to ask Hanigan if he got moon pies.
  • Dexter Fowler will have a season to make the Rockies look idiotic.  Eh. Not really.
  • Manny Machado will surprise us all with how many games he plays and how well he does.  Nuh uh.
  • Yunel Escobar will turn back into Yunel Escobar.  Nailed it.
  • The Phillies will work out trades for both Cliff Lee and Jimmy Rollins and both will say no and refuse to go.  Both were offered up and both said they wouldn't go.
  • Tanaka will win rookie of the year and everyone will say the rules need to change. He would have without the elbow thing. But Abreu gets the same argument.
  • PED suspensions will become tougher thereby punishing Hispanic players even more. Have to study.
  • The Rockies will have a problem with pot in the stands. Did they?
  • And last but not least, Mike Trout will again be the best player in baseball and still not win the MVP Award.  He will win the award, I think.
I hope you enjoyed the baseball season and stopping by here on occasion. I will remain active in the off season and I hope you come back and visit often.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How wrong could I have been? Hey, I was only off by ten runs. No biggie. The Royals truly surprised me. It wasn't a surprise that Jake Peavy struggled or that the Giants would be in big trouble if they had to go to long relief. I am surprised by Yordano Ventura who ended up being every bit as good in this series as Madison Bumgarner. And so we are headed to Game Seven. Everyone's dream scenario is a full series.
My prediction for the series is already toast. My chance of getting even in the post season is gone. After all, this is the last game of the MLB season for 2014. There won't be another one and there won't be a game pick after this one. But perhaps I can make it a good one at least and end with a correct pick. That would be nice.
The pick:
  • The Royals over the Giants: The home field advantage is going to make a difference after all. The Giants can't water down the infield. The Royals can make theirs rock hard. With Tim Hudson and Jeremy Guthrie on the mound, relief pitching will make a big difference. The Royals will have that advantage. The home fans will be rocking unless the Giants score often and early to quiet the crowd. That could happen. This entire series, I had thought that the script had been written with the Giants destined to complete their every-other-year trifecta. But this script has a surprise ending. What you expect does not happen. The Cinderella really will live happily ever after.
Yesterday: 0-1, Post Season: 14-17, Season: 1379-1107

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Tuesday: October 28, 2014

These posts are where I try to objectively pick which teams are most likely to win their games on any given day. For the first time in doing this, I feel like I have painted myself into a corner (cliche alert). I predicted before the Series a six game victory for the Giants. If I pick the Giants, it is a nod to my earlier prediction. If I pick the Royals, I am calling myself stupid. In the words of Oliver Hardy, "Here's another fine mess you've gotten me into."
Some what am I going to do?
The pick:
  • The Giants over the Royals: No, it's not about calling myself stupid. I am usually self-deprecating enough. I can take it. No, this is about a team that has been here twice before. The Giants are going to complete their every-other-year miracle even if Jake Peavy is the starter and they could not hit Yordano Ventura the last time they faced him. It doesn't matter if you do not want history to repeat itself. It's like one of those old films where the character is in a room and the walls are squeezing him in no matter how much he tries to hold them back. Hunter Pence will do something special. Or Pablo Sandoval will do something, or Buster Posey. Pick a name. Somebody who has been here before is going to make sure it happens again.

Sunday: 1-0, Post Season: 14-16, Season: 1379- 1106

Sunday, October 26, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Sunday: October 26, 2014

I was wrong again and I was right again. I was wrong because I did not factor in Yusmeiro Petit and his ability to rescue San Francisco's starter. I was right because I knew the starting pitchers in this game would not pitch well.  They did not. I was wrong because the Royals over-relied on a kid who was pitching for a college team just two months ago and gave him such a large responsibility when he is nothing but a babe and should be at the Arizona Fall League and not the World Series.
I was right that if the Giants had a lead before the sixth or seventh inning, that would spell trouble for the Royals. But I was wrong in my final pick. Oh well.
The good news is that we are getting a nice and long seesaw battle between two evenly matched and flawed teams in this World Series. Let's face it, nobody really wants to see the season end yet. Tonight features the Giants' last home game of the season in a Series knotted at two games each. And we are back to the Game One starters.
The Picks:
  • The Giants over the Royals: Anyone who would pick against Madison Bumgarner in this post season is either the most courageous of souls or knows something I don't know. MadBum has been sterling in every start this post season. I am a bit nervous that he does his best work on the road and not at his home park, but still. He is the best pitcher in this post season and I cannot pick against him. James Shields has never put the fear into me to pick against. Yes, he is a smart and talented pitcher. But I would never call him an ace. Am I the only one who thinks Danny Duffy should have been in the Royals' rotation this post season?

Yesterday: 0-1, Post season: 13-16, Season: 1378-1106