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Archive for November, 2009

The 2009 MLB “Hot” Stove Is Freezing Cold

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Yep, it has been 1 week since I last posted. What has happened?

*crickets*

Well, Fast Eddie decided that Koby Clemens (age 23, 3B/C/DH at A+) .345/.419/.636/1.055 and Drew Locke (age 26, 2B/OF at AA) .338/.389/.531/.920 weren’t worth putting on the 40 man roster because, hey, who needs guys who can hit? You can add some crappy relievers like – and I am NOT making this up – Evan Englebrook, RH RP, age gonnabe 28, 25 IP over 21 G at AA (for his third year): minor league line over 6 seasons – 3.90 ERA/1.40 WHIP; 8.4 H/9; 0.6 HR/9; 4.2 BB/9; 7.3 K/9 over 448 IP.

Or hows about Jose G. Valdez, RH RP (age almost 27) picked up as a minor league FA from the Yankees, who posted this sterling line at AAA – 19 IP over 9 G: 4.19 ERA/1.71 WHIP (yeah, I know, small sample size) with a career minor league line of 3.58 ERA/1.31 WHIP over 518 IP: 8.7 H/ ; 3.6 BB/9; 6.9 K/9.

You don’t wanna hear about the other 2 guys put on the 40 man.

Fast Eddie has this obsession with picking up crappy relievers by the fistful, then signing crappy bench guys, then worrying about what to do with the ML roster. Me, I’d rather give the Bogusevic/Locke type guys a chance than watch tons of crappy ML rejects flounder around. For every Russell Branyan/Carlos Pena reclamation projects that succeed, there are hundreds of Jason Michaels/Matt Kata ones that don’t.

Natually, the Astros have zero interest in either of the 2 primo OF FA, Bay and Holliday, or the primo FA pitcher, Lackey. I’m sure that at the end of the season, we’ll be sure to sign some more Mike Hampton/Russ Ortiz/Shawn Chacon leftover dreck to keep any young guys who don’t have 1.00 ERA at the end of Spring Training off the starting roster. And we’ll also be sure to sign some more Erstad/Michaels/Cruz Jr. washed up bench guys so as to make sure that no young guy really has a chance.

And I know this because Justice has reported that the Organization told him they expect to be competitive – and around here, that means Old Guys. Until I actually SEE a young guy who isn’t one of Fast Eddie’s pets, like Bourn and Wright, being given any sort of REAL chance, I won’t believe it.

And really, the only news is that the Cubs signed some LOOGY for $$$ and that some other FA IF signed somewhere with someone. I suppose you’d call it “news” that Yankee and Red Sox fans are arguing over how Toronto should be grateful to take the Yankees crappy failed ML pitchers or the Red Sox low minor league guys. And the usual stuff about picking players for the Hall of Fame – how nobody is as good as The Guys Back In The Old Days who used to hit .360 and used to throw 300 innings/year for 20 years and 200 pitches a game every 4 days and still end up with a 2.00 ERA.

Last year, a huge vocal Red Sox fan group managed to convince too many voters that steroid-free Jim Ed Rice induced TEH FEAR!!!!! into hitters to the extent that he deserved HOF admission for his 5 good years in MLB. Did I mention he was steroid-free? And his rages were not roid? This year, it is good pitcher Jack Morris (he won the most games in the decade of the 80s!!!!! and beat the Braves 1-0 in a 10 inning CG in the 01 WS!!!!! nevermind the terrible record he otherwise put up in the postseason) who is getting the push from the baseball writers who are rebelling at the insidious, devisive and poisonous presence of the Keith Law/Rob Neyers of the world who use statistics other than ERA, complete games and !!!wins!!! to evaluate pitchers.

Whatever. I just hope that if roid-free “Old Skool” guys like Morris are going to get in, that hopefully the writers will also elect Andre Dawson and Tim Raines and Fred McGriff (hey, ALL steroid-free!!!! and GOOD GUYS TOO!!!!!) Of course, they will again omit guys like Roberto Alomar (too many teams and career OVAH at 33) and Barry Larkin (didn’t hit as well as A-Rod, which is how all modern SS hit) and Alan Trammell (see Larkin, and no MVPs either) and Bert Blylevin (so what if he was a better all around pitcher in every way than Morris? too many teams and Real Men Pitchers Win Games even without any run support when they pitch for crappy teams and besides, Cy Young votes shouldn’t be given to great pitchers on crappy teams.)

But we know that SOMEbody has got to be elected because MLB needs the pub in the middle of football season and the museum needs the money. Always comes back to money, doesn’t it???

And I hope all yall had a better Thanksgiving than we did. We had to put Phat Stuff Dog to sleep. Remember Phat Stuff? It was right after I brought him home from the pound that the Astros went on their 2004 sudden streak to the finish that gave us an unexpected post-season berth and Phil Garner the undeserved reputation as the guy who turned the franchise around as soon as he got here. I just hope that the Astros post season appearances haven’t been buried with Phat Stuff Dog.

Why Some BBWAA Writers Complaining About The Perceived Insignificance Of Pitcher Wins Is So Much Nonsense

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

Tim Lincecum won his second NL Cy Young, edging Chris Carpenter by 4 points. This upset several sportswriters such as Bill Conlin (Phillies) and Bryan Burwell (Cardinals) who complained that Lincecum won only 15 games and that we have fallen into the Valley of VORP or some such un-understandable gibberish in which winning is no longer valued.

Winning is, of course, valuable. And, of course, the point of pitching is to throw the ball in such a way that the other team is unable to reach base and score runs. This goes without argument.

However, the starting pitcher is not solely responsible for his team’s victory. Duh. He can lose a no-hitter if his fielders make errors and allow batters to reach base and come home to score. He can give up only one solo homer and lose if his hitters can’t manage to score.

These guys know this stuff.

They like to pretend that Back In The Good Old Days, every one of the 16 teams had 4 pitchers who pitched every 4th day, threw complete games every time, threw over 120 pitches/start without deleterious effect and pitched for 20 years. They have exactly zero evidence to support their contention that even during their own lifetimes, the majority of pitchers completed even half of their starts or threw well over 120+ pitches every start.

They could, of course, go back to game logs (in Retrosheet) and take a good long look at the quality of hitters in the league and see if, in fact, the other 7 teams had lineups with 8 solid hitters (they didn’t) and they would see that they seldom had more than 2 good hitters. Tango’s pitch count estimator shows that pitch counts Back In The Good Old Days weren’t different than they are these days.

Starting pitchers tire somewhere between 80 – 120 (give or take a few) pitches. With very few exceptions, they always have. If they throw significantly more than 120 in a start, they tend to tire more quickly their next start. Duh.

It is also well documented that the vast majority of the time, that pitchers get hit much harder the 4th time through the lineup and that fresh arms are usually much more effective than tired ones, which is why relievers have much lower ERA+ than starters. Most managers operate Tony LaRussa bullpens, and have a specific person to pitch the 8th inning and another specific pitcher to pitch the 9th.

Even if a pitcher threw 7 shutout innings every time up, he would still be at the mercy of other relievers as well as his hitters and fielders.

These media guys know this perfectly well. Why on earth they propose that essentially, the other team members’ efforts should be treated as totally irrelevant when considering a pitcher’s effectiveness, I do not understand.

Because the starting pitcher is not totally responsible for pitching the entire game he starts, because starting pitchers are no longer used as relievers (and acquire additional wins that way) and because they are dependent on the support of their own fielders and hitters, the pitching W/L record is hardly an accurate representation of the pitcher’s pitching abilities.

And the mainstream media guys KNOW this – and it is, in fact, why they didn’t award the 2003 Cy Young to Russ Ortiz with his NL leading 21 victories (and 4 something ERA.) Instead they gave it to Eric Gagne, who didn’t blow a save all year but lost more games (3) than he won (2). And, of course, a miniscule 1.20 ERA and (shudder) 0.692 WHIP, a sky high 6.85 K/BB ratio, and only 2 HR/82 IP.

Personally, I think they know only too well that the “best” pitcher is not always the one who has the most wins. They just want to grouse that those stupid dorks in they mama basement and their endless stupid acronyms are explaining why the ancient standards aren’t totally appropriate for evaluating the modern game. Yes, the modern game. Because some people want to pretend that there is no difference whatsoever between the baseball game that was played in 1900 and any baseball game played in 2009.

The hard cold facts are that there are more differences than similarities, in spite of the continuity of the rule book (with only a few changes.) Times change, people change, the way things are done change. And pitchers these days seldom pitch complete games because even if they are good pitchers on losing teams, Organizations want to be able to use those pitchers at a high level for a long LONG time instead of wrecking their arms by having them pitch 300 innings to demonstrate testicular capacity.

AND pitchers don’t want to throw their entire careers down the drain attempting to duplicate Mark Fidrych’s only glorious season. Some people hate the fact that ballplayers are paid more than, say, minimum wage employees, but they are, and they are going to be until this society no longer values athletes as entertainment, and the ballplayers are going to consider the consequences of their actions in light of their future employment.

Truth is that in spite of all the crying, the BBWAA members no longer believe that “Wins” are the best measurement of pitching excellence. They know very well that the best pitchers prevent hitters from reaching base, and prevent any men who do reach base from scoring by getting subsequent hitters out. They also know perfectly well that this ability may or may not be correllated to run support, fielding excellence and quality relievers. I know they hate the acronyms (or, like me, don’t fully understand them) but I also know they actually DO know that they are significantly more accurate than merely ERA or “Wins.” I know they are cognizant of changes because they use them in their columns to describe pitchers and because they no longer automatically award Cy Youngs for the most wins.

It’s that there is this Vision of how Things Used To Be – and back then, everything was Done Right. I understand. Back In The Good Old Days when I was a kid, MTV played videos 24/7 instead of the stupid un-reality shows and Baseball Tonight hosts discussed ALL the teams instead of 45 minutes of the Big 6, 5 minutes of 15 second excerpts of the Washington Generals’ games and 5 minutes of homers/web gems AND the networks/commissioner didn’t think it was a terrible thing if neither Yankees nor RedSox qualified for the playoffs (which they seldom did.)

Of course, the difference is that my vision is The Truth and theirs isn’t…

11/20/09: Houston Astros 2009 Least Valuable Player Award

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Joe Posnanski, the best baseball writer out there now that John Brattain has passed, has a blog entry awarding the LVP award to the most deserving player from both leagues.

It’s a good idea.

Now Joe, he figured money into the deal, and I understand his reasoning, but I prefer to use the word “valuable” only in reference to the player’s actual performance notwithstanding his salary. ESPECIALLY this year, as only Michael Bourn and Wandy Rodriguez far exceeded their salaries as determined by WAR (from fangraphs.com) in which 1 WAR (win over non-existent replacement) = $4 million.

Now me, I decided to select a player whose appearance on the field not only yielded NO value, but actually cost the team wins.

And the winner is

JASON SMITH!!!

Don’t ask me why he was even put on the 40 man in the first place – some very VERY bizarre idea of Fast Eddie. Not only was he placed on the 40 man, but he was actually called up and unfortunately used in place of Edwin Maysonet, a far superior player, but, unfortunately, a rookie and we can’t be using Those People on a baseball field when we have the likes of Jason Smith and his lifetime 48 OPS+ hanging around.

With the Astros, he had 27 PA over 21 games (!!!!), NO hits, NO walks, 1 GIDP and 1 RBI groundout for a grand total OPS+ of negative 100. And no, it don’t get no lowern dat, it surely don’t. He also soaked up 34 innings in the field making 8 putouts and turning 5 DP (and not managing to turn 2 more, from my notes.)

I did consider Wilton Lopez, but by the time he was called up, the season was in dreadful shambles and hey, any live body who could get on the mound and throw the darn ball was a blessing.

11/18/09: Astros 2009 Minor League Free Agents: Any Keepers?

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

From Baseball America, here’s the list:

RHP: Kenny Baugh (AA), T.J. Burton (AA), Jose Capellan (AAA), Casey Daigle (AAA), Tip Fairchild (Hi A), Abraham Gonzalez (R), Ryan McKeller (AAA), Billy Sadler (AAA) – I’ll talk about this guy because for some unknown reason, Fast Eddie picked him up offn the scrap heap – was a reliever most of his minor league career, was pretty decent. Made into a starter at Round Rock, had a 5.12 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, didn’t even average 4 IP/Gs; Charlie Weatherby (AA): the rest of the guys can be summarized as – um, massive suckage.
LHP: SP Mark McLemore (AAA) – injured a LOT, missed all last year, half of this year, unusually low K rate for him; SP Josh Muecke (AAA) – low K, high BB, WHIP 1.59 – as bad as last year at AAA; SP/RP Andy Van Hekken (AAA) – age 30, spent most of the year at AA, unremarkable except for low walk rate
1B: John Gall (AAA) ; LH Mark Saccomanno (AAA) – age 30, local boy, lead glove, minimal power for a 1B, .765 OPS his 3rd year at AAA
2B: Drew Meyer (AA) – age 28, a well paid 1st rounder, has a minor league OPS of .682 and had a .757 OPS at AA after 3 straight years at AAA. What is called a “bust.” Felix Molina (AA) – age 25, very little power, won’t walk, minor league OPS .699
3B: Chad Spann (AA) – age 25 – don’t know how his glove is, but I can tell you that Michael Bourn has more power
SS: Ronald Ramirez (Hi A) age 22 – pitcher turned SS who hits like a pitcher
OF: RH Reggie Abercrombie (AAA) age 28 – would have produced with glove and bat better than Erstad fer SHER, at 1/4 the price, but unfortunately, Reggie’s to Black to supply needed Grittiness; RH Ray Sadler (AA)- age 29, had 845 OPS at AAA last year, had no place to go with the ML club seeing as how we got Jason Useless Michaels, was let go, went to the Rays, sucked, came back, spent a few weeks at AA, sucked

How can I put this – any AAA guys who are allowed to become minor league FA very very seldom go on to become useful major leaguers. I mean, it’s possible, but hey, let’s be real. THIS Organization doesn’t have ANY useful AAA guys. And don’t hand me Reggie Abercrombie unless you have a lineup like the Phillies and need a PR/DR in the OF. He does hit some homers, but he strikes out more than Mark Reynolds. And while I am usually not real too upset about strikeouts, there IS a time and place to point out that poor strike zone judgement is not a good thing.

I’m going to check out the list from other teams, see if there just might could be anything good among the scraps.

And no, I don’t want Elizardo Ramirez.

What Will The Astros Do With The 2010 Payroll?

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

I’ve been looking through lots of articles, trying to get even the faintest sniff of any Astros news/rumors because I am figuring this is an honest way to keep putting off writing up my evaluations of the Astros 2009 season, which is, um, ugly.

To be nice about it.

Basically, almost everything I’ve glanced through has said something like – how the Yankees/Red Sox are going to trade for the young, cheap stars of other teams (Adrian Gonzalez, Curtis Granderson, Edwin Jackson, etc) for some cheap-o prospects/cheap rooks who aren’t exactly Evan Longoria type Grade A+ guys. And this is because San Diego needs to cut Gonzalez’ 4.5 mill salary (you GOTTA be kidding me, right???) and because Detroit needs to get rid of (of all people) Curtis Granderson’s 5 mill salary, which is choking the team (not Magglio Ordonez’ 18.5 mill) or some such nonsense. And besides, the Yankees/Red Sox deserve to be allowed to accumulate all of the good players (check out all the talk about how Joe Mauer IS going to be a Yankee in 2 years because the Yankees deserve the best and besides, Mauer must want to go to a winner, right?)

Part of it is that most of the national baseball writers are out of the closet Yankee/Red Sox fans.

but

Part of it is that a whole lot of owners are, in fact, at least talking about cutting payroll. (Like Drayton, you know.)

I happened across this article written by Nick Cafardo, which I found in a pile of Red Sox articles (you know that each paper has like FOUR reporters who write about baseball during the entire offseason. Our ONE reporter is lucky to be able to talk about the Astros getting some players to sign baseball for some charity or play golf or something. It feels like 2002, except that year’s team was a little better, but going nowheres. And there was almost nothing in the off-season Astros news. If ONLY we could find another Rojah.)

where was I?

Oh yeah.

Anyway, Cafardo was interviewing/quoting Scott Boras. Yeah, that guy. I know that a whole lot of people think that if he just up and disappeared then ballplayers would all want to play for free and the owners wouldn’t care if they made any money and would spend their OWN money and seats would all be a dollar again. Just enough to pay the electric and groundskeepers, right? (Enter the guys with the butterfly nets)

But if there is one thing Boras knows, it is money and how much money teams get and how much money teams spend and on what and on who. Yes, he has a few occasional screwups, who doesn’t, but his judgement of the market and who will pay what is simply outstanding. Check out a few quotes:

“We heard a lot last year about the impending doom of the economics of baseball, and they had another record year of revenues, $6 billion again this year, and the economy is better… So the real truth of baseball right now is a lot of teams are starting to identify their ownerships from the following perspective: that they have an ownership that’s going to pay off their debt by getting the revenue sharing and money they’re getting from central baseball – $80 million-$90 million a year – and they’re going to turn around and draw 1.5-2 million, make $40 or $50 a head. All of a sudden, they’re sitting there with $200 million in revenues and they’re spending $50 million, $60 million, $70 million on players.

“We have clubs who aren’t successful getting $80 million before they ever sell a ticket. The question is always going to be, in the end, what are they doing with that money? For most of them, they’re paying off their debt to purchase the franchise. So they become owners, debt-free, but they have not done a lot to contribute to the success of the game…. (they are) basically using our industry as a method for acquiring hundreds of millions of dollars in assets on the backs of the industry.’’

The fans have to look at it and realize that kind of revenue is available. The other part of it is I think we’ve proven time and time again that investment in players produces revenue streams and success points for franchises. Even in an economy where many businesses are struggling, in our industry, as I said last year, we’ve been able to keep revenues at a record level.’’

Cafardo didn’t suggest this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if many owners are cutting payroll and intend to pocket the difference to pay off their OTHER debts, and leave baseball fans in the lurch for the simple reason that they will not lose money if they lower payroll under what they will receive from MLB. They have zero reason to even try to p0ut a winning team on the field. So what if the Big 6 go out and get every single good player? So what if we end up in the “Golden Age” of the same 3 teams getting in/winning the WS? It would make the media deliriously happy and none of the owners would lose a penny.

Would the fans of the other 24 teams finally just lose all interest? Would all stadiums look like Marlins’ Stadium? You see how badly it has cut into Jeff Loria’s profits. NOT.

I think it will take a while before Drayton could get himself seriously into thinking – so what if this team is a bad losing team like the Pirates/Royals? Would he trade Oswalt/Berkman/Lee for a bunch of minor leaguers and have a 40 mill payroll and not care a bit that no one would show up to the stadium to watch that lousy team, even if he just made himself 40 something mill more? Not just yet, I think.

As I always say, people who insist that he sell the team had darn well better come up with the name of someone who will spend even more AND agree to spend HIS OWN MONEY and not mind that he loses HIS OWN MONEY every year. Yeah, surrrrrrre.

We all know that Drayton is not going to trade the Big 3 (unless they demand it, and we all know that Berkman and Lee are not going to agree to be traded and we all know that Oswalt isn’t going to fetch much, not with his injury history of late and not at that salary. We have no one to replace Wandy and any FA is going to cost a LOT more and require a longer contract and Pence is the fan fave who at least isn’t a serious negative on the team (like Francoeur with the Braves) and trading him would be dumb at this particular point. Fans WANT favorite players. Unless they are A’s fans and like Billy Beane trading off everyone every 2 years – how exciting!!!

But the fact is that Drayton either needs to commit to a team of young guys this year, even though they probably won’t be real too much better than last year, or he is going to have to go out and get more Jason Smith/Matt Kata/Mike Hampton type crappy fringe major leaguers. I don’t mind if he scrimps IF he agrees to buy good players in the draft. Thing is that he also knows that if he has a losing team for too long, that top FA aren’t going to want to sign – and it really WON’T be about the money (see Carlos Beltran.)

But

if he has gotten to where he understands, like David Glass/Jeff Loria that it really doesn’t matter if your team is terrible and will suck for the rest of eternity, he’ll still make money getting beat up by the Big 6 every year, then I don’t guess it will matter.

Meanwhile, Drayton and Pam have decided that putting butts in seats is good, and they are offering a nice deal for the Cheap Seats – Buy 2 season tickets, get 2 free. I swear if we had the money I’d go for it.

Yes, I know. I admit it. I’m not ready to kick the Astros habit and I’ll pick up that phone and call Astros Anonymous some other time. Hello, my name is Lisa and I’m an Astrosholic. But I promise that if Drayton decides that David Glass has been right all along, I’ll be the first in line to make that call…

11/13/09: Tango Tiger’s Scouting (Fielding) Report On The 2009 Astros

Friday, November 13th, 2009

Here it is!!!

Check it out.

I would copy and paste the tables, but unfortunately I have absolutely no idea how to do it with this new software.

I was a bit surprised to see how many people evaluated Tejada as being a better fielder than I did. I know everyone complains about the Gold Glove awards – and, by the way, anyone notice that in both the NL and the AL, 6 of 8 guys in both leagues who received Gold Gloves also received Silver Sluggers – and say that guys way past their prime keep receiving awards based on past performance.

Well, that’s Tejada. And Pudge, too.

For all yall who took the time to fill out evals, I thank you (and so does Tango.)

11/11/09: Michael Bourn Raises His BA Enough To Win His First Gold Glove

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

We Astros fans have enjoyed watching Michael Bourn devour the enormous center field in the Box for these past 2 years. He gets excellent jumps, seldom misjudges a ball, catches almost anything and even though he doesn’t have a bullet arm, seldom misses the cutoff man.

We all know that no matter how good a fielder is, he must have a high batting average to earn recognition (see Everett, Adam – THE best defensive fielder in all of ML for 3 years running who never received recognition because of his limp bat and complete failure to flash.) This year, Michael got his batting average up to .285 and stole a NL high 61 bases (getting CS 12 times, 4 of which were blown calls) and also made 4 of those all important number 1 Web Gems, including 3 on The Hill.

He certainly deserved his award (unlike Jeter, who gets his for simply being saintly.)

He had 371 putouts over 385 chances, had 11 assists and made only 3 errors (all fielding) although at the end of the year, I must say that both he and Pence looked tired and a few more than usual balls dropped in right center. He had an unspectacular RF of 2.48 (league RF of 2.28) but he made an extrordinary 113 OOZ plays (next highest was Kemp, who also won the GG, with 82) and had an RZR of .949 (4th in the NL among all OF.) These are BIS numbers, and according to their system Mike Cameron, who we all know is a superlative CF, had the best numbers. However, he didn’t qualify with the BA, as usual.

Michael won the Houston BBWAA award for Astros MVP. Michael, in fact, is everything that Astros fans (wrongly) thought Willy Taveras was, only better. He should do pretty well in arbitration.

2009 Type A/B Free Agents And Astros Choices

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

First, please accept my sincere apologies about no posts over the past week – I didn’t realize that what I thought was posting actually WASN’T posting.

So here I go with rewrites.

sigh

Here is the list of current Type A and B FA (and remember that because the Astros ranked in the bottom half of MLB teams, we don’t have to forfeit a draft pick to sign a FA.)

Type A free agents (with former team):
Jason Bay, OF, Boston
Rafael Betancourt, RP, Colorado*
Orlando Cabrera, IF, Minnesota
Johnny Damon, OF, Yankees
Octavio Dotel, RP, White Sox
Jermaine Dye, OF, White Sox*
Chone Figgins, IF, Angels
Mike Gonzalez, RP, Atlanta
John Grabow, RP, Cubs
Kevin Gregg, RP, Cubs
LaTroy Hawkins, RP, Houston
Matt Holliday, OF, St. Louis
Orlando Hudson, IF, Dodgers
John Lackey, SP, Angels
Bengie Molina, C, San Francisco
Darren Oliver, RP, Angels
Placido Polanco, IF, Detroit
Marco Scutaro, IF, Toronto
Rafael Soriano, RP, Atlanta
Miguel Tejada, IF, Houston
Jose Valverde, RP, Houston
Billy Wagner, RP, Boston
Randy Wolf, SP, Dodgers

Type B free agents (with former team):
Garret Anderson, OF, Atlanta
Rod Barajas, C, Toronto
Erik Bedard, SP, Seattle
Joe Beimel, RP, Colorado
Ronnie Belliard, IF, Dodgers
Adrian Beltre, IF, Seattle
Doug Brocail, RP, Houston
Marlon Byrd, OF, Texas
Kiko Calero, RP, Florida
Mike Cameron, OF, Milwaukee
Doug Davis, SP, Arizona
Carlos Delgado, 1B, Mets
Mark DeRosa, IF, St. Louis
Justin Duchscherer, SP, Oakland
Scott Eyre, RP, Philadelphia
Jon Garland, SP, Dodgers
Brian Giles, OF, San Diego
Troy Glaus, IF, St. Louis
Vladimir Guerrero, OF, Angels
Rich Harden, SP, Cubs
Ramon Hernandez, C, Cincinnati*
Bob Howry, RP, San Francisco
Nick Johnson, 1B, Florida
Randy Johnson, SP, San Francisco
Jason Kendall, C, Milwaukee
Adam LaRoche, 1B, Atlanta
Braden Looper, SP, Milwaukee*
Felipe Lopez, IF, Milwaukee
Brandon Lyon, RP, Detroit
Jason Marquis, SP, Colorado
Guillermo Mota, RP, Dodgers
Melvin Mora, IF, Baltimore
Xavier Nady, OF, Yankees
Will Ohman, RP, Dodgers*
Miguel Olivo, C, Kansas City*
Vicente Padilla, SP, Dodgers
Chan Ho Park, RP, Philadelphia
Carl Pavano, SP, Minnesota
Andy Pettitte, SP, Yankees
Joel Pineiro, SP, St. Louis
Fernando Rodney, RP, Detroit
Ivan Rodriguez, C, Texas
Brian Shouse, RP, Tampa Bay*
Russ Springer, RP, Tampa Bay
Fernando Tatis, IF, Mets
Yorvit Torrealba, C, Colorado*
Jason Varitek, C, Boston*
David Weathers, RP, Milwaukee*
Randy Winn, OF San Francisco
Gregg Zaun, C, Tampa Bay

There you have it – an unprepossessing lot if ever I did see one. There are a couple of expensivo FA who will naturally be gobbled up by one of the Big 6, but the leftovers aren’t much.

The Astros have 3 Type A FA – Valverde, Hawkins and Tejada. Drayton McLane apparently wants to re-sign Valverde and Hawkins, which will cost him a GOOD 14 mill in 2010 alone, and Valverde has said he wants a K-Rod contract (4 years, 13 mill a year.) You talk about a waste of money for a lousy team. With the 60 or so mill we will already have wrapped up in Pence, Wandy, Lee, Oswalt, Berkman, Matsui and Blum, if sure doesn’t leave real too much left for any other holes.

Of course I know that the Astros blew more saves (games lost by the pen) than any other NL team not named the Nats, but Valverde and Hawkins were members of that losing bullpen.

Spending 12-15 mill on the 8th and 9th inning is, well, not the best use of money. I’d rather try Sammy Gervacio/Jeff Fulchino, or any other young guy and spend the money on a starter. I’d certainly offer arb to Valverde and Hawkins – Valverde would almost certainly decline and at the worst, we would re-sign Hawk and (hopefully) trade him at the deadline. I certainly would never offer arb to Tejada as he was paid 14.5 mill this year and I wouldn’t want to pay him even 20% less than that. He would be a fool to turn it down. Of course, anyone who writes checks to his drug dealer ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed…

but I digress…

As I understand it, Drayton has decided that Tommy Manzella IS going to play SS this year (YAYYYYYYYY) and even if his bat is as lousy as Adam Everett’s was, his glove will certainly atone for it. Therefore, Miggy would have to play third and he doesn’t have particularly good range to his left or a particularly accurate arm any more. I can’t see paying Mr. GIDP 10+ mill for a fairly empty .300 BA.

We have already re-signed Blum to, uh, back-up (ahem) Chris Johnson – not sure how long a leash the guy has, but I sure hope that Drayton isn’t gonna start vomiting all that “we’re gonna compete” crap. At least, not without signing a decent starting pitcher.

Which brings me to – FA pitchers. Lackey is going to get an AJ Burnett contract and he’s really the only elite starting pitcher. Drayton blew his chance to get Randy Wolf last year, preferring cheap gambles who didn’t pan out (and there was no back-up plan, naturally.) Harden is more fragile than a china doll, Duchscherer is recovering from surgery and depression, Bedard is the nutcase everyone thinks Milton Bradley is, Padilla isn’t particularly good in spite of his short run with the Dodgers, Pavano is not very good and Pettitte is staying with the Yankees. Garland had one good year – 2005, and the rest of the time, has been a 92 ERA+ starter who throws 200 lousy innings a year.

This leaves someone who gets very little notice – righty Doug Davis, who we all remember from his years with the Crew. Over the past 6 years, he has thrown at least 200 innings (except for 08 when he missed a few months) and his ERA+ have been 129/111/92/112/108/111. Only trouble is that he has lost every single start at the Box and his ERA here is 5.56 over 56.2 innings. But hey, small sample size, right? He is NAILS against the C*bs, has a 3.12 ERA at Miller Park, is OK vs the Cards and does fine vs the Reds and Pirates.

Not sure how much he’d cost, but I’d sure rather spend some of that 15 mill which is apparently earmarked for 8th and 9th inning guys on a decent #3 guy instead of expecting Norris/Wesley Wright/Wilton Lopez to be up to the task. And I wouldn’t mind having Ramon Hernandez sign a 1 year contract – he’s less cooked than Pudge. I also wouldn’t mind Miguel Olivo – not that he’s any Piazza, mind, but he’s had OPS+ of 87/72/90/103 over the past 4 years and he doesn’t GIDP often – about 8/year with 430 ABs – a nice and welcome change. Only problem is that he wants a multi-year contract and I don’t know for how many years.

Unlike many Astros fans, I doubt that Castro will be ready for the Bigs in June (magical mark to make sure that the ML team keeps the player for 7 years instead of 6) and on the other hand, I don’t want him rotting in the minors (ala Burkie-poo and Jason Lane) past his expiration date.

As for all the talk about Ben Sheets, well, it would depend on his demands, as he’s coming back from shoulder surgery and his ability to pitch is an unknown quantity. I think I’d rather try a minor league FA. Ed Wade found some useful parts on the scrap heap and the good thing about scrap heap guys is that unlike Kaz Matsui, you don’t feel you HAVE to keep playing them because of their salary, regardless of their abilities.

And speaking of Kaz Matsui, I’d rather use him as a PH/PR/DR and play Maysonet instead. And the rest of the money saved from Valverde should be used buying decent bench players instead of Grit and Michaels. We already have MORE than enough Veteran Presence.

11/5/09: The Yankees Win And All’s Wrong With The World

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

My Daddy said he was worried because I hadn’t called him in the past few days, so he dropped by. Translation – yeh, I know all about that cholesterol stuff, but Baby Grrrrl, this is MY birthday party and I don’t want none of that no taste, no sugar, no fat stuff you thinkin of cookin up. So I told him I hadn’t started cooking anything, what did he want, and he said he wanted to know why I was sitting there, all unhappy (and not cooking.)

So I told him I was depressed because the stupid Yankees outspent everyone else by like a hunnert million bucks and bought up all the best players, like back in the bad old days, bizarrely known as “The Golden Age” by even baseball fans who didn’t live in NYC (which always housed all the winners of the WS), and that I had a bad feeling that the umps and MLB and the media were all accidentally on purpose encouraging this to see that the Big 6 teams (heavily hyped by the media) got into the playoffs as much as possible at the expense of the other 24 non-glamour teams. It is only different from the old days when the players threw games for the gamblers because the vast majority of players aren’t benefiting at all from this inequity. And it is even worse because I grew up during the age of somewhat more parity.

He looked at me. He said – you are too damm old to be that damm dumb. Money always talks and everything else always walks and it always has been and will be. The rich and pretty people will always be more popular that the poor, ugly people, regardless of their other qualities. The owners are in it to make money, not to “win.” They aren’t billionaires by accident. People will attach themselves to whatever team they think is a winner and will spend money on that team. People always have tried to attach themselves to the rich and the winners in spite of the fact that it has nothing to do with their own character. They just like believe that if they associate with a winner, then they too are a winner. The poor people hang around the rich hoping for crumbs, like those swarms of little fish around a shark. What did you expect? So what are you gonna cook?

sigh

I know that life isn’t fair, that there is no such thing as equality, that there is not really anything that can be done about the fact that the Yankees make more money through their network and new stadium gifted to them by their #1 fan ex-mayor Guiliani than any other team does or possibly can. I know that as much as I hate their very existance, that they draw away crowds and that they are taxed enough that other owners can make their 20-30 mill a year and agree to send forth their Washington Generals teams for the Yankees to kick.

The other unfortunate fact is that there is absolutely no way to deal with the enormous media bias that has inexorably built up over the past 10 or so years – they try very hard not to mention any team besides the 6 biggies, unless they can somehow drag out the subject of steroids, which, for some reason, still manages to get a little bit of rise out of some people. I knew things had really really gotten bad back in 05, when McCarver and Buck made it more than obvious that they were sulking because the WS had teams from the 3rd and 4th largest cities in the country, not the teams they wanted. And, of course, neither the Sox nor the Astros had any players who were, shall we say, “media-worthy” like Jeter, except for the few ex-Yankees like Clemens, Pettitte and Jose Contreras.

I haven’t even begun to touch the subject of the execrable umpiring, in which every single bad call (except one) went against the team that MLB and the media wanted to win. I don’t accuse definitely without proof, but I sure am one suspiscious person, let me put it that way. Of course I know that the quality of umpiring has gone rapidly downhill since Sandy Alderson left MLB for the Padres, as the umps are no longer accountable to anyone for essentially anything.

What really troubles me is that I see absolutely no solution to what I can the Yankees Problem.
1 – they have at least twice the resources/income of any other team.
2 – the media and MLB absolutely positively WANT them to win. They put down contests which lack Yankees, present them to their audience as inferior, unworthy of much of any interest, of lacking of “storylines” – seeing as how the baseball itself isn’t THE story line.
3 – the other owners are absolutely positively NOT rebelling in any way, shape or form. Three strikes, and we’re out.

I understand that even if every single penny of income of any team derived from every single source there is was split, it wouldn’t necessarily make for parity, as owners wouldn’t HAVE to do anything to make money, just send 25 males out on the field. Salary caps certainly haven’t created the slightest bit of parity in either football or basketball. And I seriously doubt that the baseball owners even WANT a salary cap any more, as they have managed to reduce the percent of revenues spent on ML player salaries from 60 to 40% over the past 15 years, while still managing to convince both the media and the public that the reason that ticket prices are so high and class barriers like the Legends Seats With Surrounding Moat To Keep Out The Trash, is that the greedy players are taking up all the money.

Thing is, I think that in the end, this is an ominous sign for fans of the remaining 24 teams, including my Astros. They have to beat the Yankees, the media AND the owner has to value winning over making money. I can’t see how it could happen, except for a sudden streak of luck, such as the one started in 04 by the serendipitous “retirement” and signing of Clemens. The media, of course, would be delighted by the appearance of some unexpected underdog, as long as it went to the back of the bus where it belonged by the end of the first round of playoffs.

I know that Drayton is happily giving out the appearance of starting from scratch with a New, Improved coaching staff. I know that a lot of fans and media would be so happy if we would just trade off Oswalt, Berkman and Lee (ignoring the no-trades) to I don’t know who for I don’t know what (not real too much because no one is going to take players of that age with those salaries and give anything back and Drayton is not going to eat all that money for nothing) and then we would have all that money (?!?) to go out and buy, like WHO? Free agents of the same age who would have even longer contracts?

I can’t see the Astros getting to .500 this year either with the lack of power and the lack of starters – and no, Wilton Lopez/Bazardo/Wesley Wright are NOT gonna be quality ML starters. And unfortunately, I can’t see the Astros winning much of anything again for many many years, especially as the media/MLB will be heavily backing the Cubs. Storyline, you know.

Yes, I do know that I am really gloomy, but unfortunately, sometimes, bad times really ARE coming and pretending that All Is Well really is a fool’s errand.

And speaking of fool’s errand, if Daddy thinks I am gonna cook him all that stuff he KNOWS he is not supposed to eat…