Saturday, January 31, 2009

Joe Torre Strikes Back at the Empire and the Cubs Change Their Mind

I have decided to include the word "and" in every one of my Post titles now. I don't know why but it makes me chuckle and lest you forget, this entire blog revolves around what makes me chuckle.

If you need an example, here you go: Joe Torre says Yankees players call Alex Rodriguez "A-Fraud." How is it that baseball fans, people who are among the most intelligent, creative and crass human beings on the planet could not realize that "Rod" rhymes with "Fraud" while Pin-stripe-wearing morons like Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon and Jorge Posada (for the record, I don't know if those three are morons. They are just the first three that came to my mind) hatched one of the best sports-related nicknames of all time?

For shame, Major League Baseball fans, for shame.

In all seriousness, I try to not bite on big "national media" gossipy type stories that involve big market teams but this one is just too fun to ignore. The truth is always hard to come by in professional sports. We all suspected that the Yankees's locker-room in the Torre era was probably a freak show but now, thanks to Joe Torre himself, we know it for a fact. The big thing that I take away from this story is not anything about the Steinbrenner's and Brian Cashman's villainy and it is not anything about Joe Torre upending clubhouse folkways. What I take away from this story is that Alex Rodriguez really is as strange as we think he is.

If A-Rod weren't making $30 million a year, the scenario would even seem kind of sad. Here he is, perhaps one of the most talented and wealthy athletes of his day, yet he wants nothing more than to be the Hometown Hero that Derek Jeter is. Torre's comments seem to indicate that Alex followed Jeter around like a sad puppy, trying to be everything he was. A-Rod has all the money, all the success, all the talent and all the Madonnas in the world, but he doesn't have the respect that Derek Jeter has. Poor guy...he is probably out there right now riding down a chocolate waterfall in his $239,000,000 mansion bawling his eyes out.

Elsewhere in Major League Baseball-land, there was a development that may interest only me. The Kansas City Royals signed their 25-year-old gem of a right-hander, Zack Greinke, to a 4 year, $38 million deal. I am not really surprised about the length or value of this deal. 4 years seems fair for a 25 year old pitcher who has never had significant physical issues and his mental issues even seem to finally be behind him as well. As far as cash goes, you can't tell me that you wouldn't pay a guy who had a 3.47 ERA in 2008 and still has his best years ahead of him less than $10 million a year in a world where Andy Pettite is getting $10 million. So the deal doesn't surprise me. What surprises me is the team who made the deal.

The Royals? The Kanas City Royals? This is the same team last year who were in a constant debate of whether they should trade Greinke for more parts to start over. But they didn't, and now they have a potential Ace in the fold for the next four years, Gil Meche for two more years, Brian Bannister and a combo of youngsters and veterans with something to prove to fill the #4 and #5 spots. The Royals finally seem to be sick of losing. They are adding instead of subtracting and if everything falls into place (a big IF) the Royals just might crawl out of the AL Central cellar in 2009 and finish higher than 4th or 5th for the first time since 2003. And if the Royals can finally reclaim an air of respectability, the AL Central may eclipse the NL West as the most competitive Division in baseball. Read Tim Kurkjian's latest article over at ESPN if you don't believe me.

Detroit signs RP Brandon Lyon to 1 year, $4.25 million deal
This is a deal for Tigers fans to feel rather lukewarm about. Brandon Lyon is not a bad pitcher, but I wouldn't pay $4.25 million for his services. I think there is just as good a chance that someone from AAA Toledo or from the dregs from their bullpen could have turned in similar production to Lyon, but for about $3 million less. Ultimately, the bullpen is marginally better with Brandon Lyon than without him but making only one move for that beleaguered bullpen is nowhere near enough to make Jim Leyland confident beyond the 6th inning. The Tigers defense and starting pitching is going to be slightly improved, but their bullpen might still end up being their undoing two years in a row.

New York (AL) signs SP Andy Pettite to 1 year, $10 milion deal
If Indians G.M Mark Shapiro made this deal, I would slap him across his pretty face. But this is Yankee-land and in Yankee-land, things run a bit differently. In Yankee-land, $10 million for a 36-year old coming off an uneven season may seem like a bargain, but to every one else, that just seems a little crazy. Oh well, the Yanks could have done a lot worse. Take it from someone whose team was nearly mowed down by Pettite in the 2007 ALDS: Pettite can still chuck it on occasion. This deal is far more reasonable than A.J Burnett's, considering that Pettite has no significant injury history, is comfortable playing for the Yankees and is only on a one year commitment. $10 million may seem like a lot to pay for a #4 or #5 pitcher, but Andy Pettite is at the very least a good #4 or #5 and the Yankees are clearly comfortable spending that money. More power to ya, New York.

Chicago trades SP Garrett Olson and IF Ronny Cedeno to Seattle for RP Aaron Heilman
I am really not sure what the Cubs are trying to do this off-season. What is their plan? How are they trying to get better? It seems like they have made a lot of moves, but I don't know if a single one made them better. The Cubs had one of the best bullpens in all of Major League Baseball last obviously, the immediately dismantled it in the off-season. Kerry Wood? Off to Cleveland? Scott Eyre? Off to Philadelphia (in the interest of full disclosure, that actually happened last season). Bob Howry? Off to San Francisco. In order to remake the bullpen, they traded 22-year-old prospect Jose Ceda to Florida for Kevin Gregg. They traded their #5 starter Jason Marquis for journeyman Relief Pitcher Luis Vizcaino. And they traded Mark DeRosa for RP Jeff Stevens and two other prospects. Their bullpen looks about as good this year as it does last year with Carlos Marmol closing along with Stevens, Gregg, Vizcaino and Jeff Samardzija setting him up. Now they have traded a young and useful (albeit with limited potential) middle infielder and the potential #5 starting pitcher, that they had to trade Felix Pie to get, to receive yet ANOTHER  bullpen piece. The Cubs seem to be obsessed with fortifying a bullpen that needed absolutely no fortifying whatsoever. Yes, Lou Pineilla will have plenty of options for the later innings, but look what it cost them. Kerry Wood, Bob Howry, Jose Ceda, Felix Pie, Garrett Olson, Ronny Cedeno, Scott Eyre, Mark DeRosa, Jason Marquis: it should not cost 9 players to craft an above average bullpen. You throw the Milton Bradley signing in there and you might have the worst off-season in baseball this year. As far as the Mariners are concerned: jackpot. The Mariners are going nowhere this year. Just get younger, get cheaper and cut away all the fat you possibly can. Garrett Olson and Ronny Cedeno will not bring the M's any closer to a Division win but at least they will be losing with young, cheap position players with slight upside and not with relatively expensive 30-year-old bullpen pitchers.

Arizona signs SP Jon Garland to $8.5 million deal
Jon Garland is a Javier Vazquez, Livan Hernandez-type inning eater pitcher. He is consistently healthy and you can practically pencil him in for 200 innings right now. The problem is what he does in those 200 innings is consistently mediocre. His K/BB ratio is not very impressive. He pretty much gives up a hit an inning year after year and his career ERA is an uninspiring 4.47, which is already diminished by an outlier-like season of 3.50. You have to appreciate his consistency but for $8.5 million you would probably want a little more pop. Strangely enough, Jon Garland would have been the type of pitcher you would want to sign to a longer 2 or 3 year deal if it meant driving down the price. I think something like a 2 year, $12 million deal would have made far more sense for a guy who doesn't have much upside, but who also has a consistent track record and who isn't 30 years old yet. I can confidently say that I would prefer Brad Penny for 1 year and $5 million than Jon Garland for 1 year, $8 million.

Now that this Blog is done, I would like to let you in on the preliminary schedule for the rest of our Saturdays up to Opening Day. Here are some big Post ideas that I have tentatively scheduled for certain dates. If a date has nothing listed, than it will be a by-the-seat-of-my-pants blog entry like the one you are currently reading.

2/14/09 - NL Offseason Review
2/21/09 - AL Offseason Review
2/28/09 - World Baseball Classic Preview
3/21/09 NL Season Preview
3/38/09 AL Season Preview
4/4/09 MLB Season Preview

Well, those are the big ones. Come back next week for another obligatory and unsatisfactory entry!

1 comment:

Curiousgab said...

Nice overall summary, thought you were writing directly to me about Pirates