Monday, October 29, 2007

Hello, Joe

So, it turns out the Yankees will spurn Steinbrenner's golden child, Don Mattingly, in favor of Joe Girardi as their next manager. Another Yankees legend burned. Maybe they figure hiring another Joe will make people forget it's not Torre.

Tigers score as offseason begins

The Tigers traded for SS Edgar Renteria, giving up two top prospects, and served notice they are not going to sit around and hope 2008 is better than 2007. Renteria's arrival is an upgrade defensively over Carlos Guillen, who will play first base next season. Plus, Renteria hit .332 in 2007 and had the third highest OPS among NL shortstops behind Hanley Ramirez and Jimmy Rollins.

Detroit gave up highly regarded CF Gorkys Hernandez, but with Curtis Granderson already in center and another more highly regarded prospect in Cameron Maybin waiting in the wings, Hernandez was dealable.

The other player in the deal was SP Jair Jurrgens, who pitched well in seven starts for Detroit and seems to be regarded as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter. Again, the Tigers dealt from a position of strength, at least if you figure Andrew Miller fulfills his potential.

No doubt, Atlanta got two very good prospects and filled its own needs, especially with Andruw Jones pending departure via free agency.

This is a deal the Tigers had to make regardless of how good Hernandez and Jurrgens end up.

Here's what the trade means to the Tigers lineup since Renteria essentially takes the place of Sean Casey: Renteria batted .332/.390/.470 in 494 AB; Casey hit .296/.353/.393 in 453 AB. This now gives Detroit 3 of the top 6 hitters (in BA) in 2007 -- Magglio Ordonez, Placido Polanco and Renteria.

It also means Pudge Rodriguez drops a spot lower in the order. He could drop farther if the Tigers sign Geoff Jenkins to play LF, which is one of the rumors floating around. Jenkins certainly would be another worthwhile addition because he provides some lefty power.

As much young talent as the Tigers have, they must play to win now because Pudge, Guillen, Maggs, Polly, and Gary Sheffield aren't getting any younger and have had injury issues. The time is now, and GM Dave Dombrowski is acting accordingly.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I hate to pick a team coming off a long break to win the World Series because I think it’s a tough task. But it would not be a shock if Colorado upends Boston. It sure would have been nice to see this series without this ridiculous layoff for the Rockies.

Here is something to consider, especially given the fact these games will be played in two hitter-friendly stadiums. Colorado’s pitching staff was second best in MLB in groundout/flyout ratio (1.39) while Boston’s was tied for 21st (1.09). Lineups do far less damage hitting balls on the ground. This perhaps takes greater importance given Colorado’s extremely good defense.

Boston and Colorado met for 3 games this year, so this isn’t a significant sample, but the Red Sox posted their lowest slugging percentage against any team in MLB vs. the Rockies (.327).

Game 1 means nothing if Colorado loses, but it's huge if they win. That's the attitude Colorado should bring to the dance. It's almost like when they faced Webb in the opener of the Arizona series.

Rockies in 7.

Donnie Baseball

Reports indicate that Don Mattingly will be the next Yankees manager.

Sure, he doesn't have any managerial experience, but he does have all those World Series appearances to draw upon as he looks to lead NY to the promised land.

Oh, I mean playoff experiences.

Oh, nevermind.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Next Yankees manager: Failure

I don't know who will manage the Yanks next season, but I have to believe they're pretty much ripe for failure. In truth, leaving NY now is the best thing that could have happened to Joe Torre. He leaves a hero.

New York is heading into a transition period. In all honesty, it was probably as natural a time to break with Torre as any. The championship core is aging and/or will be leaving via free agency. The Yanks could look very different as soon as next year, but definitely by 2009. It might be unlikely, but it's possible NY is without A-Rod, Posada, Abreu, Pettitte and Rivera next season.

Hopefully, struggles await the Yankees. I believe that could be quite possible.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Joe says goodbye

Joe Torre turned down the Yankees' 1-year offer today. But here is the great thing about our Internet age -- the ability to get stories wrong and send them worldwide in an instant.

I did a Google News search on Torre and found this story, which was listed as being posted "one hour ago" at around 5 p.m. EDT. The headline read: Torre back as Yankees skipper. It was put out by Sports Network and stated, "Joe Torre will return to manage the New York Yankees in 2008. The Newark Star Ledger is reporting that Torre is in Tampa, Florida to finalize the deal and the team will make it official with a Thursday afternoon conference call."

Then I noticed the story above it was posted "56 minutes ago," and it was an Associated Press bulletin that said: "Joe Torre has rejected an offer for a one-year deal to return as the New York Yankees manager."

What a difference four minutes can make.

I remember attending a journalism conference where Pete Hamill was the guest speaker. He was discussing the way 24-hour news and the Internet changed reporting. He basically implored people to remember, it's not as important to get the story first as it is to get it right.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Third is not first among problems

There's a lot of talk about the Phillies' need for a 3B. It is true that Wes Helms and Greg Dobbs do not remind anyone of Brooks Robinson (aside from being white) at the hot corner. Helms, Dobbs and the departed Abraham Nunez commited 25 errors in 2007. They combined to form the worst offensive/defensive 3B in the NL. Ryan Braun also commited 25 Es, but he batted .324-34-97 to help offset it.

One name that popped up today was Garrett Atkins. I have no idea why Colorado would trade him, and I have no idea what the Phils could possibly offer. If the Phils can get him, they should do so. Otherwise, I think they need to stop worrying so much about 3B. They've got power everywhere else in the infield, so they don't need a power bat, even though 3B is traditionally a power spot.

I'd take a shot at free agent Pedro Feliz and if that failed, ride it out. If anything, the Phils should make a minor deal to get a good fielder at 3B and not worry about the offense. They really need to be concentrating on the pitching and outfield situation. Those are bigger worries, in my mind.

Who Am I?

With last night's 7-3 victory over the Red Sox, Tribe starting pitcher Paul Byrd became only the 2nd pitcher in history to record post-season victories over both the Red Sox and Yankees in the same post-season.

I am the first.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Garko the Graceful

In the 2nd inning of last night's Game 3 tilt twixt the Red Sox and Indians, Tribe 1st baseman Ryan Garko committed a fielding error with runners on 1st and 2nd and none out.

The blunder started simply enough with a ground ball bouncing off the heel of Garko's glove and caroming off towards second base. It was the finish, however, that I laud in this post. In an effort to recover the baseball, Garko executed a piece of footwork that landed him on his backside. I am unable to describe the move with any additional detail, except to say it was presidential (in the tradition of President Gerald R. Ford).

I laughed. Til I cried. It is my favorite play of the 2007 postseason.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The AL pick

The Red Sox won the season series, 5-2, but they haven't played since the end of July. Yet this might foreshadow what the ALCS could be all about: Daisuke Matsuzaka went 7 to beat C.C. Sabathia, who also went 7 innings, 1-0 on July 24. The next day, Fausto Carmona went 8 in outdueling Josh Beckett, who also went 8 innings, 1-0.

I give Boston slight edges across the board in pitching, hitting and defense. The Sox also have experience on their side. Cleveland does, however, have the gnats, which already have proven an equalizer.

For the year, Boston had a .806 OPS while its pitching allowed .706, making the Sox +100. Cleveland had a .771 OPS while its pitching yielded .729, making the Tribe +42. If OPS is such a great stat, I figure that means something.

Sox in 6.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The NL pick

I really like Arizona and Colorado in terms of their young talent. Colorado won the season series, 10-8, but we've already seen that doesn't matter much in the playoffs.

If you look at Arizona's offensive numbers, it seems the D-backs do nothing exceptionally well other than be consistent. They hit .250/.321/.417 vs. RHP and .250/.319/.402 vs. LHP. If there is a reason for concern, it might be that they hit only .248/.320/.386 vs. Colorado pitching and batted just .244/.310/.344 at Coors.

Colorado seems to have a young, colorful group. The Rockies batted .281/.355/.443 vs. RHP and .277/.352/.420 vs. LHP. Pretty balanced. They hit .280/.361/.404 vs. the D-Backs, including .282/.365/.401 at Chase Field.

It's remarkable that the D-Backs don't have a .300 hitter (excluding pitcher Micah Owings, who honestly might be the best hitter on the team) or 100-RBI man, and just one player, rookie Chris Young, hit more than 21 HR. They scored 20 fewer runs than they allowed! According to Hardball Times, Arizona should have won 79 games.

Colorado is not only a team that's been on a roll, but I think it's the better team. I'd give the D-Backs a slight edge in starting pitching (only because of Brandon Webb, plus Owings as a hitter), maybe a slight edge in the overall bullpen, too. But I think Colorado is better offensively and defensively.

If Jeff Francis beats Webb in Game 1, the D-Backs are in big trouble. Otherwise, they've got a chance to force a 7-game series. I have no faith in Livan Hernandez. Owings could be the unknown here. He is expected to pitch Game 4, but hasn't thrown in a while because of Arizona's sweep of the Cubs.

Rockies in 7.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Hello, Charlie

The Phils gave manager Charlie Manuel a 2-year contract with a club option for a third year. As a Charlie supporter, I agree with the move.

According to the Associated Press, Manuel is 262-224 in three years in Philadelphia. Among Phillies managers, he reached 250 wins in the fewest games since Pat Moran managed the club from 1915-18.

Of course, there's been a lot of bad baseball in Philadelphia between then and now. And Charlie inherited a pretty decent squad. But I really believe that the people who get so caught up in in-game decisions -- while no doubt important -- are missing the big picture. Give Manuel credit for goodness sake; he lost four-fifths of his starting rotation, two closers, the reigning MVP and potential MVP to injuries at some point during the season and still won 89 games. I'm not saying the man is a genius or one of the game's all-time greats, but c'mon. That stuff doesn't happen by accident.

I've seen Manuel still being criticized for the Kendrick-Lohse move in Game 2 of the playoffs. The prevailing theme is Lohse shouldn't be put into a situation with that much pressure when he's unfamiliar with it. There might be some logic to this, but Lohse had pitched relief previously, and it seems guys get thrust into these situations in the postseason on a fairly regular basis.

No one probably blinked when Joe Torre brought in Mike Mussina with first and third and no outs in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against Boston. It was Mussina's first relief appearance of his career. He got a K and DP to end the threat. Yanks won in 11. Aaron Effing Boone.

Glove me

These are the players I think should be rewarded for defense in the AL, by position, based on almost nothing but statistical analysis:

C -- Victor Martinez, CLE
1B - Kevin Youkilis, BOS
2B - Mark Ellis, OAK
SS - Tony Pena, KC
3B - Brandon Inge, DET
LF - Shannon Stewart, OAK
CF - Curtis Granderson, DET
RF - Nick Markakis, BAL

Hello, Pudge

Pudge Rodriguez will return to the Tigers in 2008 as the club announced it has picked up his $13 million option. That's a lot of money, but 1) Detroit figured it wouldn't find a better replacement, and 2) I think ownership feels it owes Pudge for being the catalyst for the team's turnaround.

I think what you'll get from Pudge now is .280-10-65, which hardly seems worthy of $13 million, but it's only $2 million more than Pudge made this season (and Jason Varitek made $11 million for nearly the same production, and worse defense.) Pudge had a tough year behind the plate in 2007, but still managed to throw out 29% of baserunners, which was 4th among AL regulars. Most alarming was his .510 WP/PB per game, 2nd to only Jorge Posado (.530) for worst in AL. Hopefully, that's an aberration and not a trend as Pudge gets up in age.

Goodbye, Joe?

If George Steinbrenner makes good on his threat, Joe Torre managed his final game for the Yankees last night. As much as I despise the Yanks, it's hard to hate Torre. I don't think anyone could have handled the postgame press conference yesterday any better, any classier.

Should the Yanks dismiss Joe, where will he end up? He made it clear he's not ready to quit. Might Philadelphia be a possible landing spot? Frankly, I'm not sure Joe is much different than Charlie Manuel -- only possessing a better vocabulary. But hiring Torre might calm the Charlie haters and make it appear the Phils are taking positive steps to improve in 2008.

I wonder if Torre would want to manage in Philly and be in the same division as Willie Randolph? But Philly would seem like a good fit because it's a team that's ready to win now.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Second guessing

Charlie Manuel is taking a lot of heat for lifting Kyle Kendrick in Game 2 of the playoffs, but I don't think it was a horrible move. Everyone loves Kendrick for being a gamer, and I agree. But down 1-0 in the NLDS didn't give Manuel a chance to let Kendrick gut one out.

Kendrick started two previous games against Colorado and had an ERA of 7.00, WHIP of 2.11, and BAA of .425. Those numbers don't instill confidence, and he wasn't exactly lights out Thursday. Plus, Kendrick was going to face the top of the Rockies' lineup for the third time in Thursday's game when he was lifted. If Kyle Lohse does his job, it's moot.

Lou Piniella is also taking heat for pulling Carlos Zambrano out of Game 1 of the Cubs' series against Arizona. No one is immune.

''When you manage a team, everybody's a manager, what can I tell you? The only thing is the people that write it have a chance to write it after the fact, not during,'' said Piniella.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

I think I'm ready to talk about it

You may have seen some Mets fans referring to Sunday's loss as something of a relief, coming as it did on the heels of an often difficult season of baseball to watch. They might have told you that this particular band of New York Mets was somehow unlikable or that the players had "quit" on us, the fans. Maybe they think that the bullpen would have gotten this team slaughtered in October. I am not one of these fans. This hurt.

This past Sunday ranks right with 1999 NLCS Game Six and July 30th, 2004 among the darkest days of my Mets fandom. The fact that the Mets spent the last week of August and the whole month of September blowing chance after chance to put the division away only means the agony was prolonged. The Mets could be playing a playoff game right now if Marlon Anderson had slid a little closer to second base or Billy Wagner could get six outs without giving up three runs. In the end, the Phillies were one game better than the Mets, but the way we reached that conclusion couldn't have been any more painful. The fact that we had to watch the Yankees stage a comeback from sure defeat at the same time didn't help any.

The Mets had a pretty good team this year and chances are they'll have almost exactly the same pretty good team next year. Willie Randolph will be back, but Paul Lo Duca and Shawn Green likely won't be, so Willie will have two fewer chances to choose experience over ability every day as he did so many times this year. The bullpen, a weak point both in September and in terms of Randolph's managerial tactics, will return largely intact. Giving Willie fewer terrible relievers to use in key situations in big games would seem like an easy way to improve this team, but Scott Schoeneweis and Guillermo Mota are both under contract for at least one more year. If Omar Minaya could spend his way to a great bullpen, I'm sure he would and even if he can't, he might try. But relief pitchers are inherently unpredictable and going out to spend a bunch of money on proven veterans is how you wind up giving multi-year deals to the Motas and Schoeneweises of the world.

The Mets are rich, they have reasonable expectations of contending for a division title next year and they're coming off a historic collapse. This seems like a recipe for a wild offseason. But there won't really be many flashy free agents available at positions where the Mets have need, like the starting rotation, or might think they have need, like catcher or right field. So, while I'm sure the next few months will be filled with stories that Omar is about to send every prospect the Mets have or ever will have to Minnesota in exchange for Johan Santana, I think the time between now and Spring Training might turn out to be fairly quiet. Which is a good thing. I could use some time to recover.

(Go Indians!)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Rockies 4, Phils 2

I'm not sure what to make of today's game at the Zen. Cole Hamels pitched like a youngster in his first postseason game for one inning (the 2nd) and pitched like a veteran No. 1 the other frames. Hamels retired 13 in a row at one point and retired Colorado in order in the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th. He let the Rockies bat around in the 2nd. Odd.

The real story was the lack of production by the Phils, particularly at the top of the order. The 1-4 spots went 0-for-15 with 9 Ks and a GDP. You might attribute some of that to the fact Jeff Francis is a lefty, which theoretically can hamper Utley and Howard a bit (they both SLG more than 100 points lower vs. LHP than RHP), but the Phils roughed up Francis in two meetings this season. I'd say it was a case of the Phils either being flat or pressing, or both.

Colorado won for the 15th time in 16 games. Maybe the Rockies are destiny's darlings. But the Phils are in trouble if they don't win games in which Colorado scores "only" four runs.

Of course, it could just be the SI Jinx.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


We'll get the easy lifting out of the way first. As much as it pains me to say it, I think A-Rod will be the AL MVP. There seems to be no way around this fact. According to Hardball Times, he led the league in total win shares with 39 (Maggs was second at 36), win shares above bench with 26 (Maggs 24), runs created with 163 (Maggs 155), OPS with 1.067 (Ortiz 1.066) and VORP (value over replacement player) at 96.6 (Maggs 87.8).

The National League race is, excuse me for sounding like John Sterling, obviously, tougher. David Wright led in total wins shares with 34 (Albert Pujols 32), and win shares above bench with 21 (Pujols 19). Miguel Cabrera led in runs created with 138 (Wright 136). Chipper Jones led in OPS with 1.029 (Prince Fielder 1.013). Hanley Ramirez led in VORP at 89.5 (Wright 81.1).

Of course, none of those players will see the field in October. Notice the two prime candidates now, Jimmy Rollins and Matt Holliday, aren't among the top two in any of those categories.

Holliday led in win shares over Rollins, 30-28, and win shares above bench, 16-13. It should be noted pitchers Jake Peavy and Brandon Webb rated above both with 18 and 17, respectively, and Chase Utley led the Phils with 17.

As for runs created, Holliday led Rollins, 129-122. Both players led their respective teams in that category. Holliday posted a 1.012 OPS while Rollins' was .875. Rollins ranked behind several teammates, but was second among NL shortstops, trailing Ramirez at .948.

I'm not sure what credit Holliday received for creating a run Monday night that he apparently didn't create.

Holliday no doubt will get votes for leading the NL in batting (.340) and RBI (137). Rollins was tops in runs with 139. And Rollins became only the 4th player in history with at least 20 HR, 20 2B, 20 3B and 20 SB in a year. Rollins had 88 extra-base hits, second in history among SS to only A-Rod's 91 in 1996.

I'd say both are worthy. Holliday might lose votes because he plays in Coors Field and because you rarely got to see him play. Rollins might gain votes because of his spring training pronouncement the Phillies were the team to beat and leading the Phils to the NL East title.

If Holliday loses the award, he can join the list of people disappointed with the Mets. The pick here is Rollins, not because I'm 100% sure he deserves it, but because I think that's the way the voters will go. I'd give him the edge because he played 162 games at SS, which is a more demanding position, and fielded well (zero throwing errors, 11 fielding). Holliday is no slouch in LF, but it's not the same.

Then again, I've seen deserving shortstops overlooked before. (No, I'm not still bitter about 1987.)

The Big O

There was an interesting piece on Hardball Times about the greatest most underrated player in history. The author's conclusion is that player is Mel Ott, with shoutouts to Cy Young and Stan Musial. You can read about it here.