Thursday, May 27, 2010

Joe West Makes Another Scene

Joe West has done something new to get some media attention. I blogged about what he did last time, when he made some comments about the Red Sox and the Yankees being an embarassment.

This time, Joe West had some comments about Mark Buehrle and Ozzie Guillen after West ejected both of them in a game earlier this week. The ejections were probably deserved, in that Buehrle was demonstrative in protesting calls on him about balks. It's somewhat understandable he was upset, because in video (at least in my opinion) they really do not look like balks, and it's the move Buehrle has ALWAYS had. Guillen was ejected arguing about the first balk.

These two ejections are not really what bothers me. Instead, I am bothered by the fact that Joe West always seems to feel the need to come out and make comments following things that happen in games. I can really not think of any other umpire who does this. While I understand to a degree, because both Guillen and Buehrle attacked West stating that he was just looking for publicity to promote his CD (West is also a country singer) and also saying that he just likes seeing himself in the media. West's decision to reply THROUGH that very media, in some ways shows that Guillen and Buehrle were right. And just for the record, I don't frequently agree with Ozzie Guillen. While what West said was not exactly inflammatory, and he was just sticking to his story stating that he did nothing disrespectful and was not trying to promote himself, the fact that he allowed himself to even be interviewed about it in many ways should not be happening. They should be his calls, and it should be that.

It doesn't help that there are also rumors going around that Joe West has a publicist, and also a schedule available to his fans of what games he will be umpiring, something else that violates the rules of umpiring.

It should also be noted that the MLB is investigating the incident, because they also seem to be a little tired of West's actions. It should be interesting to see what happens.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Poll Results: Salary Cap

Here are the results from this week's poll.. a day late. I got a little distracted by the Roy Oswalt post, apparently.

Should there be a salary cap in baseball?

Yes 7 (63%)

No 3 (27%)

Undecided 1 (9%)

The majority of readers seem to think that a salary cap is necessary, but there is still a fairly sizable minority that seems to think a salary cap shouldn't happen.

This is a hot topic right now because Bud Selig's "special committee" may recommend such a thing, and during the next collective bargaining agreement (after the 2011 season, I believe) it may become an issue. Currently, baseball salaries are the highest of any sport, and that's because it's the only major American sport without a salary cap. Every other sport functions with a salary cap, why can't baseball?

The main reason for that the Major League Baseball Player's Union, which seems to carry considerably more weight than any other player's union in any other sport. As players, the Union obviously wants to insure that players get the most money possible, and really this seems to be their primary concern. The MLB Player's Assocation would have a hard time agreeing to a salary cap.

Would a salary cap help baseball? I think in many ways it would. It's probably the easiest way to bring parity back to the game, and put everyone at the same (or close to the same) level. People would no longer be able to complain about the Yankees and Red Sox "buying championships". All teams would have the same amount of resources to pay their players. The question gets more complicated when you consider whether or not signing bonuses paid to draft picks and international signees, as well as money put into the scouting department, counts towards the salary cap. If those things don't count, the major league teams with deeper pockets would still have an advantage, albeit a smaller one that they have ever had.

Another major question about it is where a cap would be set. Currently, only 8 teams in major league baseball have a payroll over $100 million, meaning 22 teams are already underneath that. One could probably set the salary cap at around 100 million, but there are a lot of teams that can't even afford that (see: Pittsburgh Pirates, Oakland Athletics), that's the reason they don't approach $100 million anyway. Although, it's conceivable that in a world where everyone had to be under a salary cap, GMs would have an easier time asking their managers for money because the over-powering teams in each division would not be as powerful, for the most part. I think a reasonable place to set the salary cap is somewhere in the middle, something like $80million. Only 12 teams in the major leagues seem unable to reach $80 million at this point, and the extremely deep-pocketed teams would be on the same playing field.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Trade Talk: Who will want Roy Oswalt?

Most of you probably know by now that Roy Oswalt has requested to be traded. He seems to be fairly frustrated with the management of the Astros, in that he asked them what their plans were for the future, and Oswalt claims that they didn't really have an answer that he liked.

When you look at Oswalt's numbers for the year, you can understand his frustration. Oswalt has only managed a 2-6 record this year in 9 starts. If you just look at that, Oswalt appears to not be a very good pitcher, but when you look at his other sparkling numbers - like his 2.66 ERA and a 8.9 K/9, it becomes clear that he has gotten next to no run support from an underperforming Houston Astros line-up. It's understandable that he is frustrated by that.

The real question though, is who the potential trade candidates are for Oswalt. Oswalt has stated that he wants to be traded to a contender, and will only waive his no-trade clause if the team that the Astros are in talks with is a team he views as a contender. So far, the only team to officially announce interest in Oswalt is the Washington Nationals, who are sitting one game above .500 and are 4 games back in a closesly contested NL East. It's hard to see Oswalt considering them a contender, especially because many people (including myself) have a hard time seeing the Nationals even finishing the season above .500, Strasburg or not.

As the trade deadline gets closer, it's likely other teams will express interest in Oswalt, because he is pitching so well this season and is a genuine ace in many rotation. However, there is one other obstacle to Oswalt being traded, and that is the amount of guaranteed money left on the contract of a 32-year-old who got injured in 2008 and 2009. Whoever trades for Oswalt will be forced to pay him a prorated amount of the $15 million he is owed this season (depending on when they trade for him), and are also on the hook for $16 million in 2011. They will also be forced to either pick up a $16 million option for 2012 or pay Oswalt a $2 million dollar buy-out. That means whoever trades for Oswalt (assuming the Astros don't eat a portion of the contract), will have to have a lot of payroll flexibility next year to accomodate the $15 million Oswalt will have to be paid. This means that only some very large market teams, or teams who seem to be wanting to expand payroll (like the Nationals) seem like tradely candidates. Obviously, teams will also need to have a pitching need. The fact that there needs to be payroll flexibility seems to rule out teams like the Phillies, who clearly need pitching, but seem to be stretched to their payroll limit.

I could see a team like the Red Sox pursuing Oswalt if the injury to Josh Beckett proves to be more major than is currently thought. The Red Sox certainly have some more payroll flexibility, and will have plenty of money coming off of the books next year between the impending free agencies of Mike Lowell and David Ortiz. However, I can only see this happening in the event that the Red Sox continue to climb up the AL East ladder, and only if Beckett is out for the rest of the season. The rotation the Red Sox would put up for next year would also be completely devastating, assuming everyone pitches to their ability. It would be something like Lester-Beckett-Oswalt-Lackey-Buccholz, and that's not even accounting for a resurgent Dice-K.

It should also be noted that the return that the Astros receive will probably be effected by how much money the Astros decide to take on of what remains on Oswalt's contract. If they trade him as is and expect the team to pick up that colossal amount of money, they'll probably only get one top-shelf prospect.

Who do you think Oswalt will get traded to?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hanley Ramirez's Recent Actions

On Monday, Florida Marlins manager Fredi Gonzales benched Hanley Ramirezfor what he viewed as not playing his hardest. Ramirez made a horrible error in the game, where he booted the ball clear across the field, and then ran slowly after it.

Ramirez countered that fouling a ball off of his knee earlier in the game prevented him from running at full speed. Gonzalez fired back by saying the 24 other guys on the roster would have ran hard after that ball even if they had fouled a ball off of their knee.

Now, to this point, I don't view Ramirez's actions as that bad. It does appear he was loafing in the game, something someone should efinitely not do, especially when in many ways they are the leader of the team. However, it does happen time to time, and his head just may not have been in the game.

The real problem I have is how Ramirez has responded to being benched, by saying things such as "It's his f---ing team, he can do what he wants with it." and saying that he wasn't in the wrong at all. Ramirez is easily the best player on this team, and probably one of the 5 best player sin baseball in terms of Wins Above Replacement, he should not be acting this way when he served as a role model for the other players.

It's a difficult spot for the Marlins, since they locked Hanley up in a six year, $70-million contract that runs through 2014. Obviously they don't want to alienate their superstar, and end up with a Manny Ramirez in 2008 situation, so it's very difficult for them to find a proper way to respond.

Of course, Ramirez could simply have had a better attitude about the situation and admitted his wrong-doing, instead of pouting in the way he is. Hopefully Fredi Gonzales can find a way to smooth things over, that's really the only route that can be taken now.

Who do you side with?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Who is the Best Player in the Major Leagues?

Who do you view as the best position player in the major leagues?

Albert Pujols 9 (56%)

Alex Rodriguez 2 (12%)

Hanley Ramirez 1 (6%)

Miguel Cabrera 1 (6%)

Prince Fielder 0 (0%)

Joe Mauer 3 (18%)

Other (specify in a comment on the blog) 0 (0%)

I did this poll because (obviously) I was curious to see who people thought the best player in the Major Leagues is. The overwhelming numberof votes for Pujols is fairly typical of what I was suspecting, but there are some interesting things that can be found in this poll.

The fact that Joe Mauer received the next highest number of votes (albeit, he was behind by a lot) indicates to me that people really view him as great. Understandably, the man hit .365 last year, which is higher than anything Pujols has ever done, although not by much since Pujols hit .359 in 2003. If Mauer continues to hit around .360 every year with about 30 home runs, like he did last season, it would be much easier to argue for him as the best player in the Major Leagues. The real problem is the fact that he hasn't done this consistently. He bats north of .300 pretty much every year, but he only developed power last year, and hasn't shown that he is going to around 30 home runs again this year. Mauer is undoubtedly the best Catcher in the Major Leagues, though.

I think, as do most of the people who voted on the poll, that Pujols is easily the best player in baseball because of his consistent excellence. At this point, Pujols looks like he is probably the best player of this generation. He is only 30, and looks to be pretty close to a lock for 600 Home Runs with a career batting average over .330. This is something that hasn't been done since the days of Babe Ruth. Just be sure to take in every Pujols at-bat you can, because he's truely remarkable.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What does "Pat the Bat" do now?

Pat Burrell was released by the Rays this week. He was still owed a lot of money by the Rays, who signed him to a 2-year, $16 million dollar contract before the 2009 season. He didn't perform well the for the Rays at all, only managing to hit 16 Home Runs in around 500 at-bats in his time there, to go with a .218 batting average.

However, it should be noted that "Pat the Bat", who is a former first-round pick, hit 29 Home Runs or more in every season from 2005-2008, with an OBP of .380 during that time period. Obviously Burrell is not very far removed from his good seasons with the Phillies, but he did suffer an injury last year that may have decreased his hitting ability.

The question, now that he's been released, is what happens to him now. More than likely a team really hurting for offense (the Seattle Mariners and the White Sox come to mind) will take a risk on Burrell and pay him around the league minimum and give him a shot to produce for them.

I think that Burrell has got to have something left in the tank, because he's only 33 and he's not that far removed from being a very good player. I really hope that he can catch on with someone and prove the Rays wrong, but the Rays did take a risk investing so much of their tiny payroll into a player with as limited a skill-set as Burrel has. Not that it matters for them right now, considering they have the best record in baseball.

Best of luck to Pat Burrell in finding another team to play for, it'd be a little odd if someone nicknamed "Pat the Bat" was currently employed in an occupation where he uses a bat.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Griffey's Nap

Most of you probably know by now about the situation with Griffey, where a couple of young players on Mariners apparently told the press that Griffey had been sleeping in a late-inning situation where Wakamatsu would have otherwise used Griffey.

Apparently, Wakamatsu and Griffey both came out today and said that the situation is not exactly as described. Griffey simply denied that he had been asleep during the eigth inning of the game, and never said that he wasn't sleeping at some point during the game.

Obviously, this implies in a way that Griffey was sleeping at some point during the game, but realized that he might be needed late in the game and woke back up. Either way, this situation is a little ridiculous. In my opinion, this is another case of the press making way too big of a deal about nothing. I understand that if Griffey really was sleeping, then it doesn't look too great to the young players, but Griffey may have had his own reasons for needing sleep, somethign the press failed to catch up on. I also highly doubt that this is the first time a bench player slept during a certain part of the game, especially if there are extenuating circumstances.

The unnamed younger players on the team who said Griffey was sleeping said that he had a hard time sleeping because he's away from his family. There could well be more to the situation than we know, such as a family issue for Griffey that has been keeping him up at night. At any rate, the point of this blog is simply that the press makes far too big of a deal about Griffey having (possibly) slept once during a game, and probably shouldn't report things when they don't have the entire story. Obviously, that's not how the world works, especially with a 24-hour sports news network like ESPN.

This is much like the situation I talked about an earlier post where David Ortiz was quickly scrutinized for his bad start to this season. Of course, it has turned out that Ortiz has started the season on a prolonged slump, but the point remains that the media jumps on things far too quickly.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Slotted Draft Poll Results

Hey everyone, sorry for another kind of weak week of blog posts. Luckily the semester is almost over.
Anyway as has come a pretty regular Monday activity around here, here are the results from last week's poll:

Do you think the MLB should force teams to only pay slotted amounts to draft picks to increase parity?
Yes 8 (61%)

No 5 (38%)

As some of you may know, Bug Selig's Special Committee has had discussions about making it so that teams could not pay over certain amounts for picks in the draft, depending on where they are drafted. It seems that the majority of you, although deifnitely not a strong majority, seem to be interested in this system being implemented. I think I'll list the basic arguments for each system as I see it now.

Arguments for forcing teams to pay slotted amounts:
-Teams with less money will definitely be able to sign high draft picks. The Royals frequently shy away from the players who should really be taken high in the draft because of the amount of money they demand. Sometimes players slip extremely far to big-market teams because of their demands (Clay Buchholz is the first person that comes to mind).
-As is kind of suggested above, big market teams will not have a draft advantage. The draft is intended to award the best players to the teams with the worst records so they can improve over time. The way the system works now, that isn't really happening, especially for teams like the Royals and the Pirates.

Arguments for keeping things the way they are:
-The Tampa Bay Rays and the Florida Marlins. The Rays and Marlins, despite having two of the loewst payrolls in the majors, are perennial contenders as of late, and always seem to manage to grab good players in the draft. This appear in large part to be due to their scouting, since they don't sign too many players for ludicrous amounts of money, they just grab undervalued players who seem to develop really well. Of course, both of these teams are also helped by some brilliant non-draft front office moves (Carlos Pena for the Rays, and Hanley Ramirez for the Marlins).
-Many argue that there is plenty of parity in the game today, especially since even in a big market dominated division like the AL East, there have been three different AL East champions the last three years. This is indicative of things all over the major leagues, as most divisions (with the exception of the AL West) don't seem to be dominated by any one team when looking at the last 10 years or so.

Personally, I'd like to see this plan implemented, because I thinkt he way the draft works is unfair to small market teams, because the deeper pockets of big market teams are making it so they essentially get the players that the smaller-market, perenially losing teams are really supposed to get.
It should be noted that a change like this would have to be implemented after 2011, when a new Collective Bargaining Agreement has to be made with the Player's Union. Should be interesting to see what the Union's resposne is to something like this. It's somethign that means players make less money, so I can see it being a challenge for Selig.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Alex Rodriguez-Dallas Braden Saga.

I don't know if you guys have been paying attention to the whole Dallas Braden-Alex Rodriguez thing, but it's getting a little ridiculous.

If you don't know, a couple weeks ago A-Rod walked over the pitcher's mound after a ball went foul and he had to go back to first base from third base, and the Oakland A's Dallas Braden (who was pitching) kind of freaked out on him, talking about how it's an unwritten rule of baseball for non-pitchers to stay away from the mound. A-Rod applied with a typical A-Rod response of "How many wins does this guy have again?" and saying that he didn't know of this "rule".

Now, to begin with, I kind of agreed with Dallas Braden's being upset about A-Rod's actions, because you really don't EVER see a player on the opposing team even get kind of close to the pitcher's mound. The fact that A-rod replied the way he did also makes it hard to side with him.

But now, a couple weeks later, Dallas Braden is bringing up the issue again essentially threatening A-Rod that if he does it again they are going to fight. Now, you have to give the kid some respect for being bold enough to threaten someone as big in the game as A-rod, but overall I think he's being a little ridiculous now. I know that baseball is a game with lots of revenge in it and long memories, and guys get beaned for things that happened years ago..but for the most part no one talks about it before it happens, threats aren't handed out. The guy just gets beaned next time, and people then remember what happened the time before.

Honestly, Braden should probably have kept his mouth shut about the issue, and should have just hit A-Rod with a pitch the next time he faced him. Making a threat the way he did creates all kinds of issues, and it wouldn't be overly shocking to see him get fined by the Disciplinary Committee.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Poll Results: Giant Contracts

Hey everyone, here are last week's poll results:

Which of these giant contracts is the worst?
Alfonso Soriano (8 years, $136 million) - 11 (61%)

Vernon Wells (7 years, $126 million) - 5 (27%)

Barry Zito (7 years, $126 million) - 1 (5%)

They are all so bad, I don't know how to choose. - 1 (5%)
Total votes: 18

Thanks to everyone who voted!

The results for this are very interesting indicate that the vast majority of the people who read my blog think Alfonso Soriano has the worst of these three contracts, which basically means he has the worst contract in baseball. I'm going to do an analysis of what all three of these players have done since signing their massive contracts with their respective teams, and then come to a conclusion of my own.

Note: For anyone not familiar with "slash lines" for stats, they indicate Batting Average/On Base Percentage/Slugging Percentage

1. Alfonso Soriano - Since signing his 8 year, $136 million contract with the Cubs before the 2007 season, Soriano's numbers have essentially been going downward. His first year with the Cubs, in which he managed to hit near .300 with 33 home runs was his best season, and his OBP was pretty terrible that year. He has also become a defensive liability.
Here are Soriano's numbers since he signed his contract before the 2007 season:
.276/.330/.512 with 86 Home Runs and 213 Runs Batted In. He also has 366 Strike Outs and only 122 Walks in that time span.

While Soriano's numbers are not exactly horrible, he is definitely not performing the way someone being paid as much as he is should be. His downward trend in every single offensive category is also alarming. In the first three years of the contract he hit 33 home runs, 29 home runs, and 20 home runs respectively. His average has also dropped from .299, to .280, to .240 last year. He has never had a great deal of patience, and seems to be getting worse at drawing walks as his career progresses. The good news is, as if in response to the poll I posted at the beginning of last week, Soriano had a big week. Maybe he can find some consistency this year and make the Cubs not look as bad for signing him. If Soriano can find a way to get back to how he was with the Yankees and the Nationals, this contract might look a lot better. The chances of that are pretty low though, considering he is 34 years old.

2. Vernon Wells - Since signing his 7 year, $126 million dollar contract before the 2007 season, Wells has really only had one good season (2008, when he hit 20 home runs in 108 games), and it was cut short by injury.
Here are Wells' numbers from 2007-2009:
.268/.321/.440 with 59 Home Runs and 241 RBI.
Wells' numbers are worse than Soriano's in quite literally every way but RBI, and that can be explained by the fact that Soriano was mostly leading off while Wells was mostly hitting in the middle of the order. His ceiling is also not as high as Soriano's, in that Soriano has hit 40 home runs in his career among other impressive feats. Like Soriano, Wells is off to a good start this year, and might finally put all of his talent together. However, as poorly as Wells performed in the first three years of his contract, it is going to be pretty difficult for this to ever look like a good contract.

3. Barry Zito - Since signing his 7 year, $126 million dollar contract before the 2007 season (how crazy was the free agent market that year?!), Zito had what could be characterized as two completely horrible years (2007, 2008) and one rebound year (2009). Like the other two, he is off to a good start this year.
Here are his numbers from 2007-2009:
Zito has gone 31-43 with a 4.56 ERA and only a 6.4 K/9.

There's no denying how horrible those numbers are. The one difference that Zito has from the other two guys on the poll is the fact that he actually had a rebound year last year, while last year was a low point in the careers of both Soriano and Wells. This probably accounts for the fact that Zito's contract only received one vote, despite the fact that he had two horrible seasons in a row before last year. One could even argue that his two horrible seasons were even more horrible that Soriano's and Wells' worst seasons, but it's hard to compare position players and pitchers.
If Zito can carry his momentum into this year (which he has done so far) he could very easily prove his worth to the Giants, and he is also only 32 years old, meaning the possibility is certainly there.

Well, now I have to choose which of these under-achieving athletes with massive contracts actually has the worst contract. After analyzing all of their numbers, I think I have to come to the conclusion that Vernon Wells is the least valuable to his team, especially for the amount of money he is being paid. He has only hit 20 home runs once in the three seasons since signing his contract, where Soriano has done it every year since signing his contract. As stated in the earlier analyses, Wells also has a lower Batting Average, On Base Percentage, and Slugging Percentage in that span. While it's true that Soriano has an additional year on his contract, and $10m more invested in him than Wells, Soriano still seems able to produce more in his down seasons than Wells can.
Zito, while having some horrible years in San Francisco, has still managed to make 100 starts in the span from 2007-2009, meaning he has missed very few starts, and has at least been an innings-eater for his team even when he has underperformed. He also seems to have the most potential to rebound of these three players.

I find it interesting that Wells received as few votes as he did, but I think this is probably due to the amount of his press his giant contract gets when compared to Wells, who plays in a considerably smaller market. And there is also no doubt that Soriano's contract is only slightly less bad than Wells'.

Well, that's it for now. Don't forget to vote on the new poll!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Contract Analysis: Is Ryan Howard overpriced?

Most of you probably know about how the Phillies have extended Ryan Howard's contract through 2016 for a massive $125 million that kicks in in 2012.
Many sports analysts, including Buster Olney feel that this is very much overpricing Ryan Howard, and I think I may agree.
Olney brings up the good point that literally no one would be willing to trade for Ryan Howard now, just because his contract is so massive. While the man is a virtual lock for over 40 home runs a year and is arguably the best non-Pujols first basemen in the league, there are a number of things that worry me about him and his contract:

1. While Howard has improved his ability to hit breaking balls over the last few seasons, the Yankees proved in the posteason that he is still not able to recognize breaking balls at a high enough rate. He went 4 for 23 last World Series with a whopping 13 strike outs.
2. Howard's walk rate has decreased the last two years and, while it's early this year, has continued to decrease into 2010. He still walks quite a bit, but if the trend continues, things could look pretty bad for him.
3. The Phillies now have Howard signed through his age 38 season, and are going to be paying him a massive sum of money for those late seasons where his production is all but certain to decrease. There's a chance he ages well and continues to produce, but even great future Hall of Fame players (see: Chipper Jones, Ken Griffey, Jr.) run out of elite production around that age. It also seems likely that someone with his frame will put on weight, making him a liability in the field, but that's just speculation on my part. Some of you might argue "Well, A-Rod is signed by the Yankees through an even older age", and I also have a feeling that A-Rod's production is going to be horrible for the massive amount of money he will be getting paid in the last 2-3 years of his contract.
4. They already had him signed through 2012, and could have waited to see where he is in 2012 to give him an extension. Why not wait until then? Who knows what could happen between now and 2012.

Personally, I think in the end this contract will end up being a bust, at least in the later stages of the contract. I don't think Howard will be producing numbers that correlate with his pay grade as his contract continues, and the Phillies will be hampered by his contract. I feel the same way about A-Rod's contract, but I will save that for a post another time.

Anyway, what do you think? Is Ryan Howard's extension worth it for the Phillies?