Sunday, February 22, 2009

Did You Get the Memo - Wasting a First Round Pick

Well maybe that is a little harsh but the point remains the same, Orlando Hudson is not worth a first round pick. This is the reason Hudson, a highly valuable middle infielder, took until the first week of Spring Training to finally sign a Major League deal.

We have seen over the course of the last year or so that team's are becoming more hesitant to trade expiring contracts of players expected to highly rated by Elias. That is, if the Elias board rates a player as a Type A free agent, and the player is offered and rejects arbitration, the team losing him will receive compensation in the form of a draft pick.

There is a lot that goes into this, but that isn't the point here. What is the point is that the system now appears to be potentially broken, or at least in need of serious restructuring. The reason behind this is that a player such as Hudson should not take this long to sign.

However, when a player like Hudson costs the amount of money he does, as well as a pretty darn good prospect, teams begin to stay away. Not only does a team signing Hudson have to be certain that he is worth the dollar value over an in-house option, but they also have to consider the long term affects of losing a top 60 pick.

It is this prospective value which led the Colorado Rockies to stand pat with Brian Fuentes at last year's trade deadline. A player, whom could have been the difference between the Philadelphia Phillies winning the World Series and not making the playoffs altogether had the Mets pulled the trigger and acquired him.

This inherent value is also causing Major League Baseball to re-evaluate their rules regarding the signing of free agents. That is, under the current rules, free agents are not eligible to be traded prior to June 15th of the year they sign their free agent contract. However, this rule may be changed in order to facilitate a sign-and-trade for Juan Cruz (rumored to be heading to the Minnesota Twins via the Arizona Diamondbacks).

Consider a trade the Twins and Diamondbacks may be able to come to terms on, say Cruz for Anthony Swarzak. Some may argue this is too high of a price, others may argue it is not enough, but consider the alternatives. For the Diamondbacks, it is either Swarzak or nothing; for the Twins, it is either Swarzak or their 23rd overall pick.

However, this is where we currently stand in this market. Teams are beginning to recognize that a free agent is being paid predominantly for what he has done in the past, with only a minor consideration of what he will do in the future. Slowly the long term potential is taking precedence over short term gains. We are in a market where the highly effective Bobby Abreu signed for $5M on a one year deal.

But we are also in a market where full-time designated hitter Raul Ibanez signed for three years at $10M a year-to play in the field nonetheless.

Maybe baseball isn't getting smarter after-all?

Friday, February 20, 2009

New Inadmissable Evidence

The first games of Spring Training are just days away which must excite even the least enthusiastic fan. Here at the Outsiders Look, I am simply beside myself with joy, oh, and the biggest sports trial in recent memory isn't too far off either. Baseball is about to grab center stage and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Via David Pinto's Baseball Musings, an interesting article at CBS Sports which states that much of what seemed to be key evidence against Mr. Bonds has been ruled inadmissible for the upcoming trial.

According to the article,
The decision is a setback for the government in its five-year pursuit of Bonds, who has pleaded not guilty to lying to a grand jury on Dec. 4, 2003, when he denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston said the test results -- urine samples that are positive for steroids -- are inadmissible because prosecutors can't prove conclusively that they belong to Bonds. The judge also barred prosecutors from showing jurors so-called doping calendars that Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, allegedly maintained for the slugger.

The judge said for prosecutors to introduce such evidence, they need direct testimony from Anderson. Illston said Feb. 5 she was leaning toward that ruling.
Not being familiar with the in's and out's of the court system, I decided to contact the author(s) of Sports Law Blog for further information. Once I receive a reply I will be certain to discuss this issue further. However, at this point, it is looking as if Mr. Bonds is going to be set free from these charges. If that is the case, the union's collusion case against MLB will gain that much more steam.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Call

Rare, if ever, will I sign a petition. I always seem to know of a much better way to spend the 30 seconds of my life it would take to put my name on a form.

However this situation is different.

By now everyone has heard that a plane crashed in the east Buffalo suburb of Clarence. The magnitude of this crash was felt immediately as WGR 550 morning radio hosts Howard Simon and Jeremy White reported their respective feelings for the tragedy. It was at this point I took note of just exactly the size of the Buffalo community. You can feel it at Sabres games, even when outnumbered by Leaf fans, Western New Yorkers do not go down without a fight.

As if hearing the cracking voices of Schopp and the Bulldog on my drive home was not enough to remind me how small the Buffalo community is, today I received an email from my college informing me that a Program Counselor had been directly affected from this tragedy. The counselor lost her uncle, who happened to be living in the house that flight 3407 crashed into on Thursday night. Six degrees of separation was just reduced by two-thirds.

So here it is, my official request to sign a 'petition' to get Extreme Home Makeover to assist with the rebuilding of a lost home. While nobody can help restore the life that was lost, we as a community can lend a hand to get two lives back on track.

And where I would typically end with a scene from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, I will instead sign off with Facing and Backing by Hot Water Music:

Instead of resting your legs,
you should be standing up.
Instead of folding your hands,
you should be giving them out.
Instead of turning your back,
you should be showing your face.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Salary Capping

I've never been pro-salary cap. I simply cannot understand the rationale behind enforcing a cap. Yes, the Yankees spend way more money then the lower class citizen's, and yes there is a decent relationship between the playoffs and spending, however it is not a direct relationship.

That is, spending does not invariably get a team into the post-season. It does, ensure the team has a shot at being competitive, but so too does smart management like we have seen in Oakland and Minnesota over the last decade.

Sports fans will point to the other sports leagues as examples of why there should be a salary cap in baseball. As if there isn't competitive imbalance in basketball (Milwaukee anyone?), football (the dynasty-esqe Patriots), or hockey (see Detroit). For the most part, people ignore the fact that the Cincinnati Bengals have been awful for the better part of two decades. That the Los Angeles Kings are not looking to recreate Wayne Gretzky. Or that the Los Angeles Clippers have essentially always been awful.

Let's use a hypothetical cap which Shawn Hoffman of Squawking Baseball suggests in an outstanding article at Baseball Prospectus. Shawn suggests that the cap would sit around $100M and the floor would be over $75M. At a cap of $100M there would only be nine teams that would have to lower their payroll. A floor of $75M would increase the payroll of at least eleven teams. In other words, the rebuilding efforts of the Washington Nationals, Kansas City Royals, etc would be squashed as they would have to dish out money to players without long term value.

Even if those teams could remain on track with their respective building efforts, another issue exists, one which fans ignore, one that is of incredible importance. That is the fact that baseball is simply different then the other sports. In football and basketball there isn't much a team can do with their excess revenue. Sure they can hire better coaches, supply superior medical facilities, but for the most part, teams operate on an even playing field to begin with.

Not so with baseball. In baseball, not every player is involved in the amateur draft. Between professionals from international leagues overseas, or kids from Latin America, the teams with excess cash could simply blow the small market clubs out of the water in those markets.

That is, in basketball a player is drafted, signed, and added to the roster of the pro team. He immediately becomes a contributor, if only marginally. It is very rare for a player to be drafted early and sent to the D-League. For the most part, players are NBA-ready on draft day.

In baseball this could not be further from the case. Even players with three or four years of college experience under their belts will need a year or two (at least) of minor league seasoning before they are ready to be called up. Due to this, a player's salary could not be justifiably added to the Major League payroll.

Adding more confusion to this is in regards to how a player is acquired. Taking a look at the draft we see 'over slot' bonuses handed out all the time. Imagine if the Yankees were spending $100M less on their big league roster? You better believe that they are going to spend it somewhere, the first place being the draft.

Now imagine the Yankees setting aside an extra $40-60M for the first year player draft. Imagine a top-10 player sitting there with Scott Boras as his agent, knowing full well that the Yankees are going to pay whatever the player asks. The $6M+ that Pedro Alvarez received would be half of what the Yankees would have available for the drafts top prospect. Where are the Pirates going to get $10M to sign this kid?

But let's take this a step further. Now we're looking at the top 10 prospects in the first year player draft, each knowing the Yankees have a boat load of cash to spend on draft day. Do you think the teams with lesser financial luxuries will have a leg to negotiate with? No way!

So one will say, 'easy solution, we cap the draft spending'. Well, MLB has tried that, so has the NFL. It simply does not work.

However, let's pretend that this does hypothetically occur. The Yankees still have that additional $100M that they aren't allowed to spend on their big league roster or on the amateur draft. Where does that money go?

How about to the international market, a market which is impossible to cap because of how large of a market we are talking about. Also, what would be capped? Would teams be limited at how many academies they open? Certainly no one is going to argue that the Yankees offer less opportunity (albeit, while being Un-American) to the have-nots of the world.

So now we have the Yankees blowing the lid off the international market. Michel Inoa, here are your pinstripes. Felix Hernandez, welcome to the Bronx. Juan Duran, you never knew the Reds.

The simple fact remains that there are teams that simply have more money then those they are competing against. Is it absolutely fair? I suppose it isn't. But baseball cannot be fair without devastating the sport and it's current player development.

Let's stop this call for a salary cap. Let's remember that the money the Yankees bring in isn't going to stop them from spending, rather, it will cause them to spend money elsewhere. For now, as a fan of a small market club, I don't mind the current financial environment. I don't mind that the Yankees are in a market and a financial position where winning today is everything. That mentality forces the club to spend great sums of cash in order to build the best team possible.

However, that is for today. That is the Yankees building a team of players based on what they have done in the past. Who thinks the CC Sabathia or AJ Burnett deals won't look like atrocities toward the end of their respective contracts?

So I suppose it is unfair that the Indians didn't have a chance to resign Sabathia long term, but in 2013, I'm sure Indians fans coast to coast will be smiling that Sabathia is not 'anchoring' (literally and figuratively) the Tribe's rotation.

Time to re-build.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hey, I Remember You

That's right, today is one of the most important days on the calendar-pitchers and catchers officially begin to gather for Spring Training. What better way to start your day then to know spring is right around the corner. Who cares what the groundhog said, baseball season marks the end of a cold winter and with pitchers and catchers reporting, we are merely weeks away from the start of the marathon we know as Major League Baseball.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I Think I Finally Understand...

So I think I finally get it now. I get, as the video clip says, that "I'll never understand" the steroid issue. Where I associate doing steroids to speeding for a job interview, others see it as stealing answers to a placement exam. I see taking steroids as someone cheating off of your paper, popular perception likens it to bringing in crib notes.

But I get it now. I just don't get it.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Mr. Joe Baseball-Fan

As you all know, Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids back in 2003 when he and the rest of Major League ballplayers agreed to steroid testing under the condition that the results remain private. Of course, to ensure that the "big boss-man fat cat...[can] escape by helicopter" there has to be some promises broken, some goats to be scaped.

In other words Mr. Joe Baseball-Fan, the person (or persons) who have slighted you are not the individuals who have tested positive for a substance that was not banned. Rather, it is the individual(s) who have decided to not step forward for the problem they built.

Via John Brattain's Ground Rule Trouble,
I tend to be more surprised when somebody is completely above reproach or suspicion rather than otherwise--the culture of getting any kind of edge in the sport is as old as the game itself and it’s largely a myth that MLB reflects the best in America; to the contrary, it reflects America as it truly is: winning isn’t everything it’s the only thing, nobody remembers who finished second, if you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t tryin’...
And like usual, I couldn't have said it better.

A Week Today

A week today marks the official start to the baseball marathon. On this date pitchers and catchers begin reporting to the Spring Training facilities of their respective Major League clubs and all that has been put on paper over the previous four and a half months begins to take shape.

This date will also mark the end of my neglect from writing. My schedule has been jam-packed and as my as I enjoy writing, I simply haven't had the motivation to do so.

That said, I have kept up with the on-goings of baseball as I typically do as well as coming up with some great topics to write about.

What can be expected in the coming week:
  • Trade Reflections - A few trades have gone down that I haven't written about. Specifically a swap between the Indians and Cubs, not to mention a swap between the Cubs and Mariners;
  • Award Reflections - I never got around to finishing this up. I plan to take care of the MVP Awards as well as giving out the OLIBy's;
  • Under the Radars - There have been plenty of lesser reported moves, a handful of which deserve mention;
  • Random Articles - These include articles about Salary Arbitration, Salary Caps, wOBA, The Battle Between Boston and New York, Rule V Draft Recap, More on Bonds and Steroids, Analyzing General Managers, among others; and
  • Team by Team Reflections - This year these will be slightly more detailed. In addition to my personal reflection of the team's offseason and what to expect for the 2009 season, the reflections will involve a top 5 prospect list as well as word from a fan of the team.
Articles should begin rolling out with more frequency in the next day or two as I try to get back on track.

Thanks for sticking around.
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