Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The New Year + MLB Trade Action (Its 'Called Better Late Than Never')

In this weeks MLB Action report, I will look at two trades (I know, a lot behind). The first, a trade the Minnesota Twins made with the Tampa Bay Rays (sidenote: I'm a fan of the new Rays hats). As well, the trade the Texas Rangers made with the Cincinatti Reds.

Minnesota Twins trades Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett and Eduardo Morlan to the Tampa Rays for Delmon Young, Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie.

The first major trade that occurred during the Hot Stove league was not one of the trades that many were expecting. No Santana, no Bay and no Bedard. This trade was also one that is not frequently seen. That is, rarely do we see two teams trading players whom are or were rated as top prospects within their organization. Both Garza and Young were rated as the top prospect in their respective organizations the final year they were eligible to be rated by John Sickels.

I'm not going to really get into Morlan, Bartlett, Harris or Pridie, but in my opinion, it appears as if the Twins got the better of this deal. Bartlett had a terrible season while Harris showed he can handle the bigs adequately. But not one of them stick out as an impact player anytime soon. Morlan may be a player to watch though as he has been successful at a young age at relatively high level of competition.

Matt Garza is a bona fide ace in the making! Given a full workload in 2008 and he should take the first steps to giving Tampa Bay one of the best, if not the best, one-two punch in the majors. Here is what scout.com had to say about Garza in 2006:
"His heater sits in the low to mid 90s, and it has been clocked as high as 96 miles per hour. As is not the case with his other pitches, Garza relies on his fastball, and has confidence in it when he throws it.

...his slider is a good one, being clocked in the mid 80s, and his changeup is showing the potential to be a solid pitch in his arsenal. Add those pitches to a high 70s curveball, and you have the makings of a pretty lethal repertoire.

If there is one thing that the scouts would change about Garza, it is his reluctance to trust his pitches."
At the time Garza was just 22 with all of 56 professional innings. He will enter the season as the Rays #3 or 4 pitcher although he will perform more like a slightly mediocre #2. Didn't the Rays have NO pitching just a couple years back? Between Kazmir, Shields and Garza the Rays are set up nicely for years to come. And if some of the top prospect pitchers (subscription required - teaser: Price, Davis, Morlan and Niemann ranked #2, 3, 6 and 7th in the organization respectively) pan out, watch out for this already ridiculously young and deep team.

However, its not as if the Rays sent a borderline replacement level pitcher to the Twins for Garza. They sent one of the most highly regarded high school hitters to be drafted since Alex Rodriguez! Delmon Young is exactly what a young, highly regarded prospect is supposed to be - toolsy and raw! He is also exactly what the Twins need and a player who with a few years development, could team with Morneau and Mauer to form a deadly middle of the order for the Twins. Marc Hulet has the following to say about Delmon:
"Young reaches that level, he should be a star because all the tools, that led him to be taken No.1 overall in the nation, are still there. But many thought he'd already be at that level, including himself."
Not the greatest praise yet, but projecting any 22 year old to become a star in just his 3rd professional season has to say something.

So you may be wondering who won this deal? Typically I would take the team that traded for the everyday player. And even though I believe Young is going to develop into an all-star and become a RFer to remember, I will give this trade to the Rays. The Rays acquired what every team in the majors searches high and low for, starting pitching. Add in that Garza looks like a mighty fine starting pitcher, maybe not a #1, but a very skilled #2. Also, consider that the Rays traded from a position of incredible strength (Crawford, Baldelli and Upton man an already dynamic OF) and really, are no worse offensively then they were prior to the trade, makes this an obvious win for them.


Let me take this moment to let everyone know that the two trades I am looking at here are not what I feel are the BIGGEST trades of the Hot Stove League, rather, they are trades that I feel will show the most immediate improvement to the individual ball clubs. I will discuss other trades and moves at a later date.

Texas Rangers trade pitchers Edinson Volquez and Danny Herrera to the Cincinatti Reds for outfielder Josh Hamilton.

What is to not like about this trade? Well, a lot! The Rangers were just beginning to develop a decent core of young pitching and the last thing the Reds need is another fly ball pitcher - hello Eric Milton!

Josh Hamilton has all the talent in the world and put it on display in 2007 in his first extended playing time of professional baseball since 2002! Not only that, but he decided to do so after under 100 plate appearances above A Ball. Everyone heard how incredible his come back story was, as a kid he made some terrible decisions, here is an awesome article from the washingtonpost.com which goes over the ups and downs of what this 26 year old has already endured - I would actually suggest reading that over most, if not all, of my pieces. A lot of people forget he was the #1 draft pick of the Rays in 1999, but as a toolsy OFer, Hamilton impressed, even though he had a tough time staying healthy - which could be attributed to his drug use.

Hamilton is said to be capable of playing CF and it sounds as if that is where the Rangers are going to play him. Bill James projects an incredible line for Hamilton of .302/.382/.598 (31HR in 410 at bats!) and I can't wait to see where others project him. But playing in Texas with Kinsler, Young and Salta-You're-Not-Going-To-Be-Working-Here-chia should give Hamilton ample opportunities to prove Bill James' projection correct - hopefully with more at bats. However, there is always the possibility for a (knock on wood) relapse or injury.

The Reds, like the Rays, traded from a position of depth. How this team keeps pumping out prospect after prospect of solid hitters is beyond me, especially considering their inability to find pitching. However, things appear to be going in the right direction with Bailey and Cueto. They still control Griffey Jr and Dunn, and they have a young core of talent leading with Brandon Phillips (also know as 'my boy'), Edwin Encarnacion, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce.

I have two major complaints of the Reds. The first, is why they wanted a fly ball pitcher. Edinson Volquez, while having an impressive minor league track record that is made up of solid strikeout rates and average walk rates, Volquez has failed to live up to the hype in the majors, mostly due to his propensity for giving up free passes. While he should improve being in the NL, moving to Great American Ballpark is not going to help his cause - check out that link and the HR rates at GAB the last 5 years!

My second complaint to the Reds is their trading of Hamilton. While he is still raw and no sure thing, I am confident that the team could have gotten a great haul for Adam Dunn at the trade deadline. At this time, the team should have know what they had in not only Hamilton, but also in Votto and Bruce. Also, given Dunn's price tag and soon-to-be-expiring contract, the franchise would have been better served investing that money in say, the draft? They could have landed this years Porcello.

I guess as you can see, I'm definitely favoring the Rangers side of this deal, but not by much. The team was going to have a hole either way you look at it and I suppose getting a nearly certain everyday player for an uncertain pitching prospect is not a terrible trade off. Even though the team could have had Hamilton for nothing - that fact, is what makes this deal close, in that the Reds essentially acquired a top pitching prospect by allowing Hamilton to make the big league roster last April.


So there is my review of trades that happened a while ago and have undoubtedly been hammered into the heads of everyone. The New Year is around the corner and I have some big ideas for the rest of the off season and entering the 2008 big league season. What you can look forward to for 2008 - Minor League Mondays, Team by Team pre-season reports, more opinion articles and much more. Thanks for reading, and enjoy the rest of the holidays.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Baseball's Dundy Awards for 2007

Welcome to the annual Outsiders Look Dundy Awards. I will reflect on what happened in Major League Baseball during the year - not only checking in with the season, but also the off season - giving out award for instances which a performance was either the best or worst. The 2007 MLB season may have been one of the most exciting in recent memory. In the middle of May most had written the New York Yankees off, worse yet, almost everyone outside of Denver had written off the eventual NL champs up until the second or third last week of the regular season. We had one of the most prestigious records in all of professional sports broken, multiple milestones, and yet another Roger Clemens un-retirement. We had a major scandal involving Jason Grimsley and the closing of a 22 month investigation into baseball's involvement in steroids. All in all, the year 2007 provided some excellent baseball and plenty to discuss.

Leading off with the Best team of 2007. This team will be rated both with their success on the field as well as in the front office. Recently, the NL West has been one of the worst divisions in baseball. Arizona and Colorado seem to be perpetually rebuilding. Los Angeles and San Francisco do just enough each off season to keep filling their ballparks and San Diego had put together a strong enough nucleus to take advantage of the weak division. However, in 2007, things began to shift. The rebuilding efforts in Arizona and Colorado finally came full circle giving both teams an extremely promising and talented young core. Both the Rockies and Diamondbacks fell in the bottom six in overall team payroll, averaging approximately $500,000 per win - contrast that with division rivals the Dodgers and Giants whom spent approximately $1.3M per win and the Yankees and Red Sox whom spent $2.1 and $1.5M respectively per win.
But that isn't it even half of the reason that the Colorado Rockies are my pick for best team in 2007. Rather, their run to close out the season which included a 6 and 1 record against San Diego (3 and 0 at Petco Park), only 8 loses the entire month, an 18 and 4 record against the division (only 3 games of which were against the lowly Giants) and a 13 and 1 record to push themselves in a single game elimination game with division rival San Diego for the wild card birth. If you missed that, the Rockies had to more or less play perfect baseball for half of a month, adding a loss or two down the stretch would have taken them out of the playoffs and subsequently the world series.
As I mentioned, the Rockies had to play perfect baseball down the stretch to simply have a chance at the playoffs. In the teams wild card playoff game against San Diego, the Rocks were within one strike against one of the most accomplished closers of all time from being eliminated. But as per the Rocks season closing run, they managed to scratch out another win and make the playoffs. Riding high, the Rockies made an incredible run through the NL side of the playoffs winning every game they played. Unfortunately, the run ended swiftly as the Rockies were manhandled by the Red Sox and ousted from their first ever trip to the world series.

How about we turn the tables a little? The Worst team of 2007. This is a tough call, do we go with a team like the Pirates, who were just altogether terrible without having much hope for the future? Or a team like the Orioles who spend like a winner but play like the Pirates? No, I'm going with the team that also owns the Biggest Choke Job of 2007, thats right, the New York Mets. A double Dundy! The Mets, had the $1.3M per win payroll, that seems to be consistent with non-playoff teams. The Mets were essentially the anti-Rockies, deciding that the last two weeks of the season did not matter. From September 16th onwards, the Mets won a total of 5 games compared to 10 losses - this against not one team with a record above .500. The Mets also managed to throw away 5 games against the lowly Nationals, including 3 at Shea. But to make matter worse, the Mets did this while team ace, Pedro Martinez, had returned from injury and by all measures, pitched some pretty solid baseball. The combination of choking and spending is what puts the Mets as 2007s Worst team.

Continuing, the Best individual performance of 2007 goes to Justin Verlander's June 12th start against the Milwaukee Brewers. The starting pitcher of the Detroit Tigers whom at 24 became one of the youngest pitchers to throw a no-no, doing so against a team that had not been no hit since 1994 in front of splendid defensive play.
(Update 12/29/2007 - 11:50am) I received some justified flak for this award as I have been hard on Verlander up to this point. Why Verlander's no hitter instead of Garrett Anderson's 10RBI? Or Buchholz or Buehrle's no hitters? Well, Buehrle's no hitter was an impressive feat for a team who's season was meaningless. Buchholz's no hitter is hardly the third or forth most impressive story in Red Sox nation. And while a no hitter is extremely lucky, 10RBI's is that much more fortunate. So I decided on Verlander as the best individual performance as this will undoubtedly be the highlight of any Tiger fans 2007 while also being an excellent individual performance.

This season baseball fans were also witness to what many are saying will be the last time, possibly ever! Of course I am talking about the 300 win milestone that Tom Glavine achieved on August 5th at historic Wrigley Field on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. Drink it in San Diego, here is your Dundy Tom Glavine, for Becoming the Last of a Dead Breed.

We also had a handful of other achievements which will be given the Honorable Mention Dundy. Alex Rodriguez, Jim Thome and Frank Thomas both joined the 500 HR club, but unlike 300 wins, this club has lost much of its allure. Alex did so at the youngest age of all time, which leads one to believe that the current home run king may not have as long of a reign as did his predecessor. Continuing with home runs, Sammy Sosa parked #600 on June 20th at the Ballpark in Arlington. Of course, we can't talk records without remembering Barry Bonds breaking the all time home run record which stood for over 30 years. As I mentioned, its reasonable to believe he won't hold it for as long as he predecessor.
Continuing with the honorably mention category is Trevor Hoffman's continued assault on the all time saves board. Hoffman's current total of 524 seems unreachable by any current pitcher and seems like an impossible feat for any future pitcher.

Lets change tones for a moment, the Dundy to the player with the Worst statistical season in 2007 goes to Minnesota's Nick Punto. Punto received a demanding negative 27.1 according to Baseball Prospectus' Vale Over Replacement Player. That means he was worth approximately minus 3 wins versus a player the Twins could have gotten off the scrap heap - well done Terry Ryan.

Thats not fair, but without the bad there would be no good, so heres the good: The award for Most impressive statistical season in 2007 goes to Curtis Granderson for putting together a 20-20-20-20 season. That is, a season with at least 20 home runs, steals, doubles AND triples, joining Willie Mays and Frank Schulte. Doing so for the first time in 50 years (source).

Briefly I will give my Individual awards for 2007 (I will go into more depth at a later date):
American League:
MVP - Alex Rodriguez
Rookie - Jeremy Guthrie
Manager - Joe Torre
Executive - Mark Shapiro
Cy Young - Fausto Carmona

National League:
MVP - Matt Holliday
Rookie - Troy Tulowitzki
Manager - Clint Hurdle
Executive - Josh Byrnes
Cy Young - Brandon Webb

Closing with what I considered to be the Best moment of 2007, that moment in which a lifelong memory was created. How could it be anything other than Barry Bonds breaking the all time home run record? A record that stood for over 30 years was broken this summer by one of the most despised sluggers in recent history-if not all time.

Honorable mention, and arguably the Best story of 2007, was the return of Josh Hamilton. Hamilton was a very exciting prospect when he was drafted in the first round by the Tampa Bay Rays. There has been a lot of writing about Hamilton, so I will keep this brief, his return to baseball and having an impressive rookie season was nothing short of spectacular. Lets hope he keeps his nose clean and lives up to the potential he had as a teenager.

Lastly, the Kicking a Dead Horse award for the 2007 season goes to the Mitchell Report. Much has been said about the Report, including my personal reaction towards it. This story has already been beaten to death and I don't see it finishing up anytime soon as players deny or accept the allegations made from the report.


So that is what happened in 2007 in Major League Baseball. I was asked to write a piece on my favorite sports story from 2007, of which, there were plenty. However I decided to go with a story about underdogs; Boise St. and Appalachian St. football doing what nobody expected. and doing so in dramatic fashion! All in all, 2007 was an excellent year in sports and there was so many exciting stories top to bottom in every league. Feel free to let me know what your favorite baseball story of 2007 was. Enjoy the holidays and thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Love Rock

This is a test.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ticket Brokerage

Who here loves paying higher then face value for a ticket from a person who bought the tickets with absolutely no intent of going to the game? Type in Ticket Brokerage into your Google search and you will come across 160,000+ hits, Sports Ticket Brokerage, 200,000+. Obviously this is a large and growing business, one that needs to be closely monitored by the professional sports before it becomes too late.

At TheSportsEconomist.com the author visits this topic briefly in response to an article at ESPN.com. In the article from ESPN.com, Greg Easterbrook writes, "Imagine how high prices might skyrocket if hot teams such as the Patriots or Colts, or perennial-sellout teams such as the Broncos, Giants, Jets, Redskins, Chiefs or Steelers, took bids for their 2008 season tickets rather than selling them at face value." Sounds scary, right? Well despite this comment, Easterbrook seems to have no real issue with ticket brokerage, affirming that it is here to stay and that it is only a matter of time before professional sports franchises and music promoters begin auctioning their tickets - considering this year ticket brokerage profits, as The Economist writes "are expected to top $3 billion" - and as I write this, states are appealing the anti-scalping laws that, in some states, have been in place since the 60s.

Apparently he is forgetting that the Chicago Cubs have already begun doing such - and legally! Their excuse, according to James Klenk, "we think it offers consumers a better product, at better prices, than other ticket brokers."

But is this right? Is this what we as the sports attending fan want? Certainly there are luxuries of brokerage firms - such as being able to forget when tickets are going on sale or the possibility of purchasing the tickets for less then face value or even obtaining the unobtainable. But lets be honest, brokerage firms are around to make a buck, so while you may luck out occasionally with the golden ticket, more often then not it is going to be the fan who loses out - and is that something event organizers want, the paying customer to lose out?

Let us also consider, that ticket brokers who buy up tickets - presumably seasons tickets in order to maximize their profits - that may or may not have been otherwise purchased which invariably drives up the cost of the tickets to start with based purely on supply and demand (not to mention the loss of the true fan from some sporting events). As it stands, I'm not certain why, as Easterbrook writes, franchises give discounts to season ticket holders if they are confident they will simply be resold, why give scalpers a break? According to Stephen K. Happel and Marianne M. Jennings who wrote a lengthy piece on The Folly of Anti-Scalping Laws, "Jerry Colangelo, president of the Phoenix Suns, spoke to a group of students at Arizona State University and indicated that he disliked scalpers because "they made money off of him without his permission, and that was not right.''" FINALLY someone in the upper ranks being honest, lets just hope the Suns don't lead the ticket bidding wave.

Clearly the ownership group of a franchise wants a sell out, that is where they make their money. As Happel and Jennings write "One reason for the full capacity desire centers on the demand dynamics associated with the crowd effect. The perception that an event will be a sellout attracts consumers into the ticket market who would not attend otherwise, and the ambience from a sellout may intensify the demand by consumers for future events." Let me focus on this idea of the fan who would not otherwise attend. I believe the writers are talking about bandwagon jumpers, or worse spotlight fans. You know, the fans who go to the game to say they were at the game, the ones who leave early to "beat the traffic" or accidentally show up late.

So according to the research and articles printed, scalping is not going away anytime soon. However, it is my belief that if organizations do not effectively do something about this situation, it may end up biting them the hardest. In closing, this is the introduction to the aforementioned The Economist article, hopefully reason and ration will win this war...
IT WAS an expensive but instructive paper clip. Earlier this year a Missouri man ostensibly broke the state's anti-ticket-touting law by selling two tickets to a Cardinals-Cubs baseball game for $79 above their face value. When confronted he explained that he had not marked up the ticket price: the $79 purchased a “decorative paperclip” to fasten the tickets.
Oh, and as hilarious as it may seem, there is a National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB). As if being a criminal was not enough.

Monday, December 17, 2007

What I Think of Barry Bonds...Or at Least Thought I Thought

The following is a piece I wrote in March of 2006. I wanted to keep the steroid issue ingrained in the minds of the readers...

It’s that time of year again; “buds spreading and jackets unbuttoning.”

Literally, things are beginning to open…and…well…it’s Major League Baseball's OPENING DAY.

The start of a new season; a new beginning. Baseball is unlike the other professional sports in that its beginning means that summer is around the corner, school is almost over, and there are 30 teams all with the possibility to start over.

Each team begins the season with an undefeated record—they are neither a game behind nor a game ahead. The lowly Royals need not remember that last year they lost 100 games, while Chicago’s South Siders pray it won’t be another 80 years before they win the World Series again.

And that is baseball—an annual chance to start over.

In Joe Morgan’s Long Balls, No Strikes: What Baseball Must Do to Keep the Good Times Rolling, he discusses how great the 1998 season was for baseball, stating that the New York Yankees' record setting win total was given “second billing to baseball’s new home run heroes” (9).

Even if you don’t follow baseball, it was difficult to miss the home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in the summer of 1998. Joe Morgan—an inductee into baseball’s Hall of Fame—wrote his book in 1999, after baseball had gone through one of its most productive seasons ever. Baseball had failed to find its way back into the hearts and homes of fans after the strike that cancelled the World Series in 1994, and the 1998 season was—according to Morgan—just what the league needed, thanks in large part to the inflation of home run totals.

I’m going to talk about Barry Bonds and the unnecessary criticism he is taking. I feel his records and statistics should not be tarnished by what some have accused him of doing off the field. There are even sports writers who are lobbying for fans to not react when Barry Bonds continues to break records, going as far as stating that they will not be voting for him in the MVP ballots should he perform as the league's most valuable player, and more importantly, will prevent him from being elected into baseball's Hall of Fame.

Barry Bonds—one of the best slugging outfielders of all time—has been looked at as a criminal; in 2003, he was accused of taking steroids. Although he admitted to unknowingly taking steroids, the media did not care and has not forgiven him.

I feel that Barry Bonds the baseball player should have his personal life separate from his baseball career, and that he has Hall of Fame credentials without question. Taking into account the league's executives, the media and fans looking the other way on the steroid issue, and Bonds’ pre-suspicion numbers, he is, without question, worthy of the Hall of Fame.

First I will begin with a brief timeline of Bonds’ career and the suspicion in what some are calling, “the steroid era”.

1986 – Barry breaks into the league as a leadoff hitter, hitting 16 home runs and stealing 36 bases.

1994 – Baseball cancels the World Series; fans are alienated and angry at both the league and its players.

1998 – Baseball's “revival;” the home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. They break Roger Maris’ 37 year home run record of 61 by hitting 70 and 64, respectively. During the home run race a bottle of “andro”—a substance that gives steroid-like results—was found in McGwire's locker.

1999 – According to the recently published book Game of Shadows, Bonds is enraged by the recent league-wide home run spike in the league and decides to take matters into his own hands. The owner of BALCO—whom Bonds allegedly took steroids from— argues that most of the information in the book is false, suggesting Bonds did NOT know he was taking steroids.

2001 – Barry Bonds breaks McGwire's home run record after hitting 73 home runs, 24 more than his career-high recorded the previous season.

2003 – Baseball begins testing its players for steroid use. However, there is no penalty handed out. Up to 7 percent of players test positive according to MLB records. Later this year, a company being tried for selling steroids states that Barry Bonds was one of their clients. Bonds admits to taking “the cream” and “the clear,” though he did not know they were steroids.

2005 – Testing with penalties begins. A dozen Major League players test positive a single time and get suspended for 10 days—no player tests positive twice. Bonds is not among the players who test positive, however he spent a majority of the season injured. League home run totals are at a decade-long low.

A new testing policy was recently put in place with a “three strikes and you are out” punishment. No players have tested positive since.

2006 – An investigation is taking place in order to discover how long steroids have, in fact, been in baseball. Barry Bonds enters this season seven home runs shy of breaking Babe Ruth’s record—2nd all-time—and 48 from surpassing Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record.

(MLB.com Time Line and ESPN.com Time Line)

Now that we have a brief timeline of what has been going on in baseball, I would like to explain how the league and its fans have ignored this timeline up to the last couple of years.

In a Sports Illustrated article in March of 2005, Todd McFarlane—a fan and baseball memorabilia collector—states: “Baseball can’t get pompous about it now. It turned a blind eye to its steroid problem. Fans (who cheered) can’t start being hypocritical now” (44).

Aaron Gleeman of The Hardball Times shares the same sentiment, stating, “It’s a little hypocritical to demand the players be banned for life while the people who created the environment are given a free pass.”

However, Tom Verducci—the baseball beat writer for Sports Illustrated—stated only a month ago that Bonds should be put in baseball purgatory due to the steroids scandal (52).

His point of view has switched sides, however. He stated in 2002 that throughout the home run boom of the late 90's, sluggers were “cheered in every park” (469). Similar thoughts were expressed by Rick Reilly in September of 1998 when he expressed his joy at the increase in home run totals with quotes such as, “the home run race is as American as a corvette,” “the whole nation was brought together by a giant playing a kids game,” and “our games were as pure and shiny as I’d ever seen them.” (143-45).

It is difficult for me to read these comments and think that the media, league, and fans were ignorant enough to think that these home run totals were not artificially inflated.

So if they didn’t have a problem then, why do they have one now?

And that’s my point; in my research I have encountered both sides of the story. The first is the players denying intentional use of steroids and the fans stating that they would not have taken steroids. Dan Le Batard gives a good analogy in an early March issue of The Miami Herald: “Let's say you are an accountant, mailman or secretary. And there are two people in your business who aren't as good as you are (let's call them Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa) getting a lot more rewards because of some secret potion, powder, or pill that isn't against the rules of your workplace. You aren't going to go looking for that secret elixir that might make you better and add five years of money to your career? You are going to fall behind your competition by applying ethics? If so, good for you. You are a noble person. And, rather literally, a loser. You are going to be devoured for being less competitive and cruel than your cutthroat surroundings.”

Todd McFarlane agrees with this comment when he discusses that when he was in college, if he was offered a pill that would have gotten him into professional baseball, he would have said, “I’ll take two”.

So Major League Baseball’s officials ignored the steroid problem, which is discussed in Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits and How Baseball Got Big, by Jose Canseco. The book asserts that steroids have been a part of baseball since the late 80's, and is simply a part of the game's evolution.

The fans turned a blind eye and cheered for the home run boom of the late 90's, buying t-shirts with slogans such as “chicks dig the long ball.” And the media is the one who continued to put emphasis on home runs by pushing home run contests in the off-season and during the all-star break.

Although there is no hard proof that Bonds did steroids, experts in the field are still stating that his performance in recent years has been aided. There are some who disagree however.

Before the BALCO trial, Tom Verducci stated that “Bonds’ development as a power hitter accelerated when baseball entered this post-Camden Yards age of long-ball worship and he learned how to lift the ball,” continuing with “this transformation (of hitting more fly balls as opposed to ground balls) would not be possible without Bonds putting more arc in his swing—he’s LOOKING to go deep.” (317-8).

So even if Bonds and the rest of the league steps forward and admits that the last decade has been filled with steroid use, Bonds’ pre steroid statistics are still solid enough that he deserves to be inducted into the Hall of Fame and considered as one of the best all-time.

From 1986 to 1998, Bonds hit 411 home runs, or 32 home runs per season. Had he played just another four seasons at that rate, he would have broken the 500 home run threshold and been a surefire Hall of Famer. Added to that, he is the only member of the 400 home run and 400 steal “club” for a career, and is one of only three players to be in this “40-40 club” for a season. These impressive statistics would have put him in the Hall of Fame had he retired after the 1998 season.

So baseball is back—today is day number four of 182. A new beginning.

If Barry Bonds did indeed take steroids or another performance enhancing substance, he is not alone. Yet because of the blind eye that the league, its fans, and the media has shown along with Barry Bonds’ pre-suspicion statistics, he deserves to be elected into baseball's Hall of Fame.

Bonds is simply a product of his environment, a product of a game that went through an era that needed steroids in order to inflate home run totals, which as Joe Morgan explains, is what saved baseball and what continues to keep people going through the turnstiles.

There have been many different eras in baseball which have helped affect statistics. Records are kept to be broken. Bonds has helped keep this sport alive.

Sources

Brattain, John. “My Big Fat Steroids Column.” The Hardball Times. Feb. 2005. Available: http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/my-big-fat-steroids-column/.
Canseco, Jose. Juiced: Wild Time, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big. New York: Harper Collins, 2005.
Fleder, Rob, ed. Great Baseball Writing. New York: Sports Illustrated Books, 2005.
LeBatard, Dan. “Steroid Story a Case Study of Situational Ethics.” The Miami Herald.com Mar. 2006. Available: http://miami.com/mld/miamiherald/sports/columnists/dan_le_batard/14043754.htm/.
Morgan, Joe. Long Balls, No Strikes: What Baseball Must Do to Keep the Good Times Rolling. New York: Crown Publishers, 1999.
Verducci, Tom. “The Consequences.” Sports Illustrated March 13, 2006: 52
(April 3, 2006).

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Diamondbacks With a Busy Busy Day

Speculation finally becomes reality! The Diamondbacks (how long before the team name is changed simply to "The Backs"?) made a trio of trades today, most notably, a trade for Dan Haren. The team also traded closer Jose Valverde and acquired Red Sox favorite Billy Buckner.

The Diamondbacks trade "pitchers Brett Anderson, Greg Smith and Dana Eveland, along with outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and Aaron Cunningham and first baseman Chris Carter" (MLB.com) to the Athletics for pitchers Dan Haren and Connor Robertson. On the surface, an excellent deal for the A's whom are said to be rebuilding for the opening of their new ballpark in 2011. To me, this looks similar to the haul the Indians received from the Expos in the Bartolo Colon deal.

In Haren, the DBacks receive a bonafied ace. His 56.4 VORP (value over replacement player) ranked him #12 overall with the 16th best RA+ (park and league normalized run average). However, a great deal of Haren's damage was done in the first half of the season - similar to 2006. The difference for Haren this season was his ability to strike hitters out at a much improved rate while keeping his walks relatively low. I assume that keeping those numbers up with the Diamondbacks fielding should allow Haren to repeat what was a fairly impressive season. Add in that he will be facing a pitcher about 3 times a game, and as mentioned, the club has acquired an ace to be their #2.

The team also acquired Connor Robertson, whom I am seeing has some nice minor league numbers - 11.96k/9, 2.81era, 7.65h/9. He presumably was not an integral part of the deal, but could end up being a nice piece to the DBacks bullpen for the next couple of years. I wonder how much his inclusion depended on the team moving Valverde (or the other way around).

For Haren and Robertson the main piece of the pie the A's acquired was 22 year old Carlos Gonzalez. The kid appears to have some impressive pop in his bat at a very young age. PECOTA (Baseball Prospectus' projection system) projects him to hit .472, .466, .475 and .464 the next four years. On the negative side, they also project around 120 strikeouts annually, which should come as no surprise given Gonzalez's track record. Either way, the kid is a top prospect and should be patrolling the outfield in Oakland (or Freemont) from 2009 until 2014 or later.

The team also received one of the Chris Carter's. The young Carter whom the Diamondbacks recently acquired from the White Sox looks to have incredible power potential (TheBaseballCube.com) and will presumably force Barton to DH when he is called up in 2010. Hes a nice addition to the package and definitely did not cost as much as he will provide for the A's down the line.

In addition, the Athletics received the very young Aaron Cunningham. Having only limited success in AA (albeit at a young age), Cunningham is a prospect to keep an eye on for 2011 given his excellent minor league OBP of .378. Adding Dana Eveland was an impressive move by Beane, in that he acquired a major league ready lefty whom has had solid success in the minors despite being shuffled between the rotation and the bullpen. Greg Smith is in a similar boat in that he is nearly ready for a full time role in the majors. If minor league numbers translated identically to the majors, Smith would be a strong starting pitcher. However, they do not, so we'll have to see. Lastly, the A's received another arm in Brett Anderson. Hes a lefty who had a solid k/9 in his first season as a pro. He's at least three seasons away from doing anything in the majors, and there is too little about him for me to pretend I know what I am talking about.

The Diamondbacks trade "closer Jose Valverde to the Astros for pitcher Chad Qualls, infielder/outfielder Chris Burke and pitcher Juan Gutierrez" (MLB.com). In my opinion, an excellent deal for essentially both teams. The Diamondbacks did well to move the Valverde's 'save value' in exchange for a solid, if not spectacular set up man in Chad Qualls. Chris Burke has been a personal favorite of mine as I patiently wait for him to breakout - thats what 123 career minor league steals coupled with a .369OBP and the ability to play multiple positions will do.

The Diamondbacks gave up the best player in this deal, however coupling Qualls with Burke and a young pitcher whom was rushed through the minors is not a bad exchange. It appears as though the Diamondbacks are ready to hand the reigns over to the young Tony Pena, although given the addition of Haren, it wouldn't surprise me if they have something else in the works. This is a break even type deal where the Astros bought a reliever at his highest value whom is going to cost an arm and a leg in arbitration due to his league leading and career high season in saves.

"The Royals acquired infielder Alberto Callaspo from the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday for right-handed pitcher Billy Buckner" (MiLB.com). To be honest, when I first saw this on ESPNews this evening, I was shocked. The first thing is, there is no way to be really impressed with what Buckner has done throughout his minor league career. Sitting at over a hit allowed per inning with under a strikeout an inning and an average walk rate, as a righty, he really doesn't do much for me. Although, according to the sourced article from MiLB.com, Buckner has a solid curve ball, so I suppose with some mentoring from Dan Haren as well as the switch to the NL, he may just end up being an average starter - not a bad exchange for a middle infielder whom had little chance to provide impact in 2008, but not a great one either.

But for Callaspo? A young middle infielder whom has walked more then struck out. A player with limited power but excellent bat control and the ability to hit doubles. I'll hand it to Dayton Moore on this one, as he has found the heir to Grudzielanek at 2B for 2009 and possibly even improved his minor league system if Callaspo proves ready for the majors this coming spring - that is, who wouldn't be interested in Grudzielanek for some high ceiling low level prospects?


There were a fair amount of moves today and I don't intend to talk about everyone in such detail - or possibly at all. However, I felt compelled to report this as well as give my opinion on the barrage of trades orchestrated by the Diamondbacks. I can't remember another time where a team completed three trades, all of which will have immediate impact, on the same day. As well, with the Haren move, it is only a matter of time before Blanton goes and I imagine this helps improve the price tag of both Santana and Bedard (although some have suggested Haren was already the most valuable available pitcher, given his contract situation).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mitchell Report - Steroids in Baseball & Sports

I won't claim to know a whole lot about Senator Mitchell, nor do I have much understanding of the report, however, today is the day that the report is released. David Pinto over at Baseball Musings writes an interesting piece summarizing an article from ESPN.com. It is ideas such as these that worry me as to the credibility or really, the rationale behind this investigation. That is, say I had a personal trainer whom I trusted, however things didn't work out for whatever reason and was forced to fire this trainer. If the Mitchell investigation was satisfied with hearsay, what is to stop a disgruntled ex-employee from 'making up' some facts about me? Now I assume the investigation went a little further then that, but for arguments sake, we really don't know (at least yet).

Essentially, Senator Mitchell is retroactively investigating which players used steroids at a point when steroids were not against the rules of baseball. I'm not certain what relevance I see, or how the naming of names can fix the steroid problem that is(or was) in baseball, but I suppose it was the threat of the investigation that brought upon Bud Selig and the MLBPA's decision to hand out more intense punishments - or a punishment at all. So we are about 10 minutes from the official hearing and Baseball Digest Daily has released names that they have gathered. Names highlighted on this list include:
Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Aaron Boone, Rafael Bettancourt, Milton Bradley, Albert Belle, Paul Byrd, Ken Caminiti, Mike Cameron, Ramon Castro, Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, Lenny Dykstra, Johnny Damon, Ryan Franklin, Troy Glaus, Jason Grimsley, Juan Gonzalez, Eric Gagne, Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Giambi, Jeremy Giambi, Jose Guillen, Jay Gibbons, Clay Hensley, Darryl Kile, Matt Lawton, Raul Mondesi, Mark McGwire, Guillermo Mota, Andy Pettitte, Mark Prior, Neifi Perez, Rafael Palmiero, Albert Pujols, Brian Roberts, Juan Rincon, John Rocker, Pudge Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Alex Sanchez, Gary Sheffield, Miguel Tejada and Julian Taveras.
Many of the names come as no surprise given some of the players had already received a suspension (Betancourt, Franklin, Guillen, Gibbons, Lawton, Perez, Palmiero). Others were always going about things with a cloud of suspicion over their heads (Bonds, Belle, Sheffield, Tejada, Pettitte, Clemens, Prior). Some had even admitted to taking a substance prior to the substance being banned by the majors (Byrd, Giambi, Grimsley).

In terms of my take on performance enhancing drugs (PED's), I am at a loss. On one hand I recognize that it does cloud this era of what has been record setting baseball - both financially and historically - on the other hand, I agree with Todd McFarlane who states that if he was offered a pill that would have gotten him into professional baseball, he would have said, "I'll take two." I will revisit this issue later, as it is time for the hearing, check out an article by John Brittain over at The Hardball Times here.

Update - 12/13/07 - 5:24PM EST
So the cat (or cats) are officially out of the bag. As expected, the report appears to be full of flaws and lacking meaningful premise. ESPN has had experts (both in baseball and in law) analyze what they can of the report (found here). I can't understand how an investigation headed by a Senator would focus on the opinion and recollections of trainings, strength and conditioning coaches, etc. Possibly I have a skewed opinion and I don't want to see things for what they are, or, maybe the case against the players just don't seem that strong. Why, if it was, would the Senator suggest not retroactively punishing the players for this? Does he too believe the case is not strong enough. It will be interesting to hear how the Players Association reacts to said charges.

One of the most interesting opinions came from John Kruk's mouth. Kruk said that he did not understand why players who were out of baseball were named in the report if the objective of the report was to move forward. Lets see how things pan out over the next couple of days. What do you think is going to happen?

Update - 12/14/07 - 12:29AM EST
With more information becoming available, opinions being posted and ideas of what will happen thrown around, I wanted to figure out: "Who is Kirk Radomski?" Here is a section from USA Today in late May:
"Even with baseball's drug-testing program up and running, selling steroids to major leaguers was still profitable enough for Kirk Radomski to put in a pool behind his Long Island house and a pair of pricey cars on the driveway. Although those expenses barely amounted to more than walking-around money for most of his customers, real cops learned long ago that sometimes the best way to build a big case is to start small.
Neighbors thought Radomski was some kind of athletic trainer, and one of them told The New York Times that grown-ups and children alike referred to him as the Hulk. The feds, though, already suspected Radomski as the supplier of performance-enhancing drugs to dozens of current and former players when they showed up at his door in December 2005 with a search warrant."
So essentially, as the baseball public, we are to trust a drug dealer? I thought this whole investigation was fishy to begin with. I was curious as to why they choose to investigate MLB instead of say, Hollywood. I can understand that there is a steroid issue in North America, but is it more prevalent than other drugs? What about violence? DWI? Whatever happens in the coming days will only occur because of how public this issue has gotten and the names of many of MLB's stars are now tarnished - some, whom would be considered the best all-time. I find it a shame that this is going to occur simply because of what two men who were looking down the barrel of a loaded gun said.

Another concern I have in this situation is why they named the names of the players who purchased (maybe) PED's from Radomski? This would be like the Colombian government searching out Pablo Escobar in search of those who he sold cocaine to in the 70's and 80's. That is to say, since when is the government more concerned with the taking of drugs over the selling of drugs?

Update 12/15/07 - 4:15pm
Finally, a satirical response from the baseball community. Baseball Prospectus writer Jim Baker chimes in with an excellent - albeit "premium" - article summarizing the Mitchell Report. Here are some highlights of his highlights from the report:

"Bolivar Hudson
Bolivar Hudson was signed by the Toronto Blue Jays as a 14-year-old in 1998. He has been in their instructional program since that time.

Radomski produced a check from Hudson dated November 1, 1998 that covered the cost of two human growth hormone kits. It was written in crayon and decorated with Hot Wheels stickers."

"Danny Scaldoy

Danny Scaldoy pitched several innings in the Phillies chain in 2002.

Scaldoy became interested in self-improvement when he met professional bowler Lawrence Terlecky, a.k.a. “Larry the Leaner.” Terlecky is known around the PBA for his pronounced asymmetry--he's so large is his right side that he must carry a 25-pound dumbbell in his left hand for balance. Scaldoy befriended Terlecky and the two trained together in a program that included purchases of equine growth hormone and the consumption of baboon parts. Within a year, Scaldoy’s pitching arm and shoulder were huge, so much so that he was forced to steal a cart from the A.V. department of a nearby high school so that he could rest his arm on it while walking, lest its weight topple him sideways. The desired increase in pitching speed did not coincide with this increase in size, as evidenced by his 9.68 ERA and subsequent release."

There is nothing wrong with a little fun, especially with this issue which seems to be stirring up a flight or fight response. The flight being those who have completed disregarded the report, the fight being those who apparently feel justified in calling the report factual - well done media!

Monday, December 10, 2007

The First Post

Here it is, the official first posting...

This blog will focus on what occurs in and around baseball. It will pose questions for the readers as well as thoughts and outlandish predictions. There will be plenty of bias and a substantial amount of rhetoric about the Cleveland Indians - although, not enough to make this a Cleveland Indians blog. I will come forward and admit my bias towards the American League, however my attempt is not to suggest that Team A is worse then Team B simply because they play in separate leagues or won last weekends series, rather I will utilize a statistical approach at such.

Another aspect of this blog will be as a reader-response to articles and topics that are suitable. Websites with altering opinions or theories will be given, as well as those whom simply offer an enjoyable read.

Disclaimer: I do not claim to be an expert or all knowing. I am a fan of the game and all of its happenings. To ensure my opinions have a semblance of credibility I do a great deal of reading and research.

Thank you, and feel free to leave comments or feedback at any point.
Brandon
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