Saturday, November 29, 2014

Lewis Wolff and John Fisher are bad, bad men

Look around baseball and you will see entrepreneurs and smart business people who have purchased baseball teams. Oh, there are some who might have inherited their money but for the most part team owners have gotten into a position of owning a team because they were very good at business. Once they become baseball owners, the expectation is that they are supposed to forget all of that and bring a city a winner at all costs. Take the Josh Donaldson trade as an example.
The two owners of the Oakland Athletics, Lewis Wolff and John Fisher were roasted last night and this morning because Billy Beane traded away Josh Donaldson for a cheaper Brett Lawrie and three prospects. If you don't believe me, check out this article by Jason Leskiw for a major media outlet. How dare Wolff and Fisher save money and run a good business!
But is the assumption this is a money dump realistic? When I looked at the deal last night, I saw a 24-year-old player with upside in Brett Lawrie, two really good prospects and a so-so prospect traded for arguably the best third baseman in the American League if not in baseball. While both players, Donaldson and Lawrie, are heading to arbitration for the first time this season, Lawrie will turn 25 in January and Donaldson, 29 a month from now.
Lawrie has been hurt a lot. Donaldson has been healthy. At least that is the line some angry Twitter people have given me when I said I liked the trade for both teams. The implication is that Donaldson is a "gamer" and Lawrie a "poser." I don't know how you justify or quantify that, but okay. Donaldson does stand to make more in arbitration. But then you have two really good prospects in Kendall Graveman and Franklin Barreto and the throw in of Sean Nolin. Not a bad haul for Donaldson if one or two of those prospects can be helpful.

Lawrie has shown much upside defensively and while he may not be in Donaldson's class, he isn't in the dunce category either. Donaldson has compiled 16.6 rWAR by the age of 28. Lawrie, 11.7 by the age of 24. Doesn't that make this trade look a little better?
People forget that Donaldson was acquired from the Cubs back in 2008 in a deal very similar to this one. Donaldson was a prospect too for the Cubs and I bet there was a lot of consternation when Billy Beane traded away Rich Harden to get Donaldson and three other prospects. Of the four, only Donaldson panned out (though Matt Murton has had a great Japanese career).  Harden was never the same and has been out of baseball for years.
First of all, you cannot judge trades until years after the fact. But with the instantaneous cyber world we live in, people are dying for page views and social media followers by making judgement pronouncements immediately. And one of those is to blast the owners for "forcing" Billy Beane to manage his assets efficiently.
It's okay for the players to be business people. It's okay that their agents are charged with maximizing the players earnings. But it's not okay for baseball owners to do the same thing. Why do the owners in Tampa get a pass and the ones in Oakland scorn? Both have lousy stadium issues and low attendance. They both do the best they can while trying to keep a profit margin. Anyone who thinks owners should not care about making money is misguided.
The sons of George Steinbrenner are facing similar scrutiny. Why aren't they countering the moves made recently by the Red Sox!? Why aren't they spending money like crazy to get back on top!? Old George would never allow the Yankees to go two years in a row without making the playoffs! Um...remember the 1980s?  And the team payroll for the Yankees is just as high or higher under the sons as it ever was with The Boss.
The big complaint in Oakland is that the A's haven't made the World Series. The theory is that if Wolff and Fisher would spend a little more, that World Series would have been in reach. It doesn't matter that the team has won 277 games in the last three seasons, by golly, the goal is to win it all.
Money does not make that happen. A lot has to fall in place for a team to get hot at the right time and win short series to get to the biggest of all short series and win it all. Peter McGowan, the owner of the Giants doesn't like to throw money around either and he has won three titles. All three had people scratching their heads. Getting to the playoffs is hard enough. Winning there is a crap shoot.
I understand that Josh Donaldson was a beloved player in Oakland. I understand that he has been an MVP candidate two years in a row. I also understand that his defensive skills play a large part of his value and I do not trust the current way those defensive skills are valued. I do agree that Donaldson is a great fielder. But give me a better way to quantify it.
Jason Leskiw says himself in his diatribe that Josh Donaldson played hurt most of 2014 and had to wrap his shoulder like a pitcher. Think about that for a second. Yeah, he played almost every game, but at what cost and how will that influence his game moving forward? Who knows.
I don't believe Wolff and Fisher had any part of this deal. Billy Beane made the deal. Billy Beane has made a lot of deals. A lot of them turn out pretty well. Why don't we let this one play out for a couple of years before we start painting a picture of Beane as browbeaten by greedy, Scrooge-like owners.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Sorting out the Red Sox position players

According to my untrained observation, the Boston Red Sox have eleven Major League starting players for eight positions on the field. Then there is David Ortiz who is as designated a designated hitter as there is in baseball. So after signing and anchoring Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez to third and left field with free agent signings, what happens to everyone else? What should happen to everyone else?
Judging from the question marks surrounding the starting rotation, you would figure that some of the excess will be traded for pitching. But what if the Red Sox round out their rotation with free agent signings? You still have to deal with a logjam on the roster.
And I am not even including here guys like Garin Cecchini, who I am convinced is the next Wade Boggs if given a chance. With Sandoval at third for five years, what happens to him? We already know that Will Middlebrooks has fallen out of favor with everyone except Jenny Dell. So he will either be traded or designated. With his power potential in a power bereft MLB, traded seems more likely.
I am also not including catchers here. With David Ross gone, two young unprovens (Christian Vazquez and Dan Butler) are projected for the 25-man roster, so then we have eleven fighting for seven spots.
Perhaps we should list out what we know. Dustin Pedroia will (of course) be the second baseman. There has to be worry about his recent surgery though. Xander Bogaerts will be the shortstop. There is no way the Red Sox are going to give up on him yet. You have Sandoval at third, Ramirez in left, Mookie Betts will get the first crack at center field and David Ortiz will be the DH.
Over at first, you have one year remaining on Mike Napoli's contract. His face has been wired shut all winter with his weird operation, but the guy was worth 3.2 rWAR in only 119 games last season. It would appear that he would be your first baseman with perhaps Sandoval taking over in 2016?
Right field is interesting. There is Yoenis CespedesShane VictorinoAllen Craig and Daniel Nava. Baseball-Prospectus has Victorino projected as the starter. But I'm not on that train. He might be healthier now that he has had a back operation, but I wouldn't count on him being a productive player again. And even if he is healthy, you can't risk him in center field.
Allen Craig forgot how to hit last year, which is weird because he was fantastic in prior years. His ankle has to have been a factor. Is that chronic moving forward?
I think you can count Nava out, which is sad because Jerry Remy won't be able to say, "Nahver." anymore. Cespedes has to be your guy, right? After all, he was the big chip in the big trade last year. Rumors are out there that the Red Sox hate the guy. Who knows. Despite his lack of on-base skills, Cespedes makes a lineup deeper just with the threat of him.
Nava is out of options so he can't be sent down without losing him. Craig is too talented to give up on. Perhaps Craig is your swing guy with time at first and right with hopes of getting him 400 PAs. Or perhaps you just trade both Nava and Craig.
Brock Holt is your most likely utility guy. He played seven different positions last season and despite a fade in September, was productive at the plate. If he isn't overexposed, he is the perfect utility option.  I don't like him at short though, so Deven Marrero or Jemile Weeks (who is out of minor league options) make sense as a roster spot.
If we recap here, we have the following extra players or trade prospects, if you will. They would be Middlebrooks, Craig, Cecchini, Nava and one of Victorino or Cespedes. My gut is telling me that the Red Sox will trade Cespedes if the rumors are true. But we'll see.
I have always heard it said that there is no such thing as too many pitchers. And I agree with that. Pitchers are remarkably fragile. But what about position players? It seems that the Red Sox have too many Major League ready guys for too few positions. You hate to see guys with offensive talent like Craig and Cecchini go to waste. If they do not have a position on the team, then trading them makes the most sense. Cecchini might be the next Jeff Bagwell, though, as the one that got away.

P.S. I haven't forgotten about Rusney Castillo. Baseball-Prospectus has him projected as the starting center fielder. But we'll see what the spring brings.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mayflowers bring fun baseball hours

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. First of all, it usually means family and secondly, it reminds us to take stock of where and what we are and to be thankful. The tradition goes all the way back to the Mayflower and that band of misfits and adventurers that crossed the Atlantic to start a new life. Today, just for fun, I am going to list some baseball players who have had the same name as some of those Mayflower passengers.
Let's start with William Bradford, the second governor of the Plymouth colony (Plimoth is more accurate). His writings gave us most of what we know historically about the fate of the Mayflower and its passengers and crew. Bill Bradford pitched one game in the Major Leagues. He pitched two innings for the Kansas City A's on April 24, 1956 against the Tigers.
It did not go well. He gave up a homer to Reno Bertoia, his second batter. It was the only homer Bertoia hit in 1956. Two batters later, Ray Boone also took him deep. Thus, Bradford finished his career with a 9.00 ERA, a 9.00 hits per nine and a 9.00 homers per nine in his career.
Bradford's given name was William D. Bradford, thus qualifying him for our list. He was not a descendant though as his family came to Virginia in the mid-1650s. Oh, also, did you know that Wil Myers' full given name is William Bradford Myers? No wonder he never played for the "Royals."
William Brewster was the spiritual leader of the Mayflower Pilgrims. Charlie Brewster was a shortstop but his name is not the same. There was a William Brewster who played in the minors in 1941. does not know anything about him.
Edward and Samuel Fuller were two brothers who sailed on the Mayflower. Edward died the first winter in America. There was an Edward Fuller who played two games for the National League Washington Nationals in 1886. He was not a direct descendant of Edward or Samuel, but instead traces back to Lt. Thomas Fuller, a brother of Samuel and Edward who came to Plymouth Colony on a later ship.
There was a Frank Fuller who played for the Tigers in 1915 and 1916 and for the Red Sox in 1923. His full name was Franklin Edward Fuller. But his nickname was, "Rabbit."
Thomas Rogers was another Mayflower Pilgrim who died in that first awful winter in Massachusetts. There was a Tom Rogers who pitched four years in the Major Leagues for some really bad teams like the St. Louis Browns. To be honest, he wasn't very good either and finished with a 15-30 career record.
John Tilley was another Pilgrim who died that first winter in the New World. John Tilley's baseball career fared little better. He played two seasons, one in 1882 and in 1884. He had a career batting average of .138. Oops. The baseball John Tilley was an Irishman whose grandfather came to NYC in the early 1800s.
So far, our Mayflower players aren't very good, are they?
John Turner not only died himself in that first Pilgrim winter, but both his sons died too. Awful. Jerry Turner had a ten year career from 1974 to 1983. His given name was John Webber Turner. But he could not be a descendant of the Mayflower guy. Jeffrey Turner was African-American.
Thomas Williams was another of those unfortunate souls that perished that first winter after the Mayflower delivered its passengers. Jackson Williams got a cup of coffee with the Rockies this past season after eight years in the minors. His given name is Jackson Thomas Williams.
Tom Williams or Thomas C. Williams pitched for the Cleveland Spiders in 1892 and 1893. He did not pitch badly, so you wonder why his career kind of ended there.
Edward Winslow was a fairly prominent member of the Pilgrim group and at least he didn't die that first winter. The closest I could come to him was an Eddie Winslow who played several years in the minors from 1912 to 1922 with a couple of years absent probably due to WWI. doesn't have anything on him.
William Latham was eleven years old when he crossed that Atlantic in 1620. He was an apprentice to first governor, John Carver. Bill Latham, or William Carol Latham, pitched seven times for the Mets in 1985 and then seven more for the Twins in 1986. His main claim to fame was that he was traded to the Twins along with Billy Beane (yeah, that guy).
Not all of the Mayflower passengers were Pilgrims or part of that Separatist group trying to escape King James. Thomas Weston, that unscrupulous financier of the Mayflower voyage sold his own tickets too. One of those passengers was Richard Clarke. He died the first winter in the colony.
Grey Clarke played 63 games for the 1944 Chicago White Sox. He walked a lot and had a .351 OBP and only struck out six times. Even so, it was his only season in MLB although he did play twelve years in the minors. He was a 31-year-old rookie. His given name was Richard Grey Clarke and had the rather comical nickname of, "Noisy."
Another of the Weston passengers on the Mayflower was Christopher Martin, who was a prominent player (pun!) in the History Channel's Mayflower special. Martin died that first winter.
Chris Martin, or Christopher Riley Martin pitched sixteen times in relief for the Rockies in 2014. It appears that he was not very lucky and his FIP was much better than his ERA.
The Mullins family is a fascinating Mayflower story. Father William, Mother and son, Joseph, all died the first winter. The only family survivor was Priscilla, who married John Alden and became the subject of a Longfellow poem as the unrequited love of Miles Standish.
Recent MLB player, Fran Mullins, played three years in the 1980's. His full name was Francis Joseph Mullins.
Miles (or Myles) Standish is a Mayflower passenger many remember from school. He wasn't a Pilgrim though and was a hired military man Thomas Weston employed to teach the Pilgrims the art of war.
Miles Standish was a minor league player in the late 1890's.
Richard Warren was another Thomas Weston man and though he had a family, he came alone to Massachusetts. He survived the initial winter and after some years brought his family over. But he died in 1628 and his wife lived another forty-five years beyond him. His daughters married and had several children and many Mayflower descendants have him in their family tree.
Rick Aguilera had 86 wins and 318 saves in his sixteen-year career. His given name is Richard Warren Aguilera.
William White was another Thomas Weston passenger and died the first winter. His wife married Edward Winslow, who had lost his wife that same winter.
There have been six MLB players with the given name of William White. Four of them played as Bill White including the one who was an All Star and broadcaster for the Yankees. Another played as Will White and the other played as Barney White.
And there you have it. Those are the baseball players that bore the name of Mayflower passengers. Have a great Thanksgiving! Oh wait! I shouldn't forget Squanto Wilson!