December 2nd, 2006 → 12:33 pm @ Seth Mnookin
“In choosing between re-signing with the Mets and pursuing a potential return to Atlanta, where his family lives, Glavine used every second of the six weeks he allotted himself to make a decision. With his familyâ€šÃ„Ã´s blessing, Glavine will finish off his probable Hall of Fame career as a Met.”
“Two Homes, One Team: Glavine Picks the Mets”
The New York Times
December 2, 2006
If you only read the headline and the first three grafs of Saturday’s story, you’d likely think that Tom Glavine actually did sit down, wrestle with his options, look into his heart, talk with his family, and then decide to take the Mets’ $10.5 million offer in spite of the fact that the Braves are his hometown team. Except, as the Times eventually bothers to acknowledge, “The Braves did not offer Glavine a contract.”
At least the tabs got the story right:
“December 2, 2006 — The Braves never truly advanced on Tom Glavine, and the time for his decision basically elapsed. In a sense, the Braves and Glavine eliminated each other.”
“In the end, Atlanta GM John Schuerholz never bid for the 290-game winner. And rather than wait to see if he would, Glavine honored a commitment to Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon to have the matter resolved before the winter meetings, which open Monday.”
“Glavine Stays for $10.5 million”
New York Daily News
The next time I’m trying to decide between one offer I hope I have the nation’s most revered news source running my self-promoting p.r. efforts.
November 22nd, 2006 → 11:01 am @ Seth Mnookin
There are a handful of the country’s sportswriters who repeatedly demonstrate they are aren’t worth the paper their ballots for baseball’s year-end awards are printed on. (The repulsive and repulsively dishonest George King* of the New York Post is perhaps the best example of rampaging stupidity: in 1999, he left Pedro** off his ballot completely, handing the MVP to Pudge Rodriguez. King lied through his teeth and claimed he didn’t believe pitchers deserved the award despite putting Rick Helling and David Wells on his ballot the year before.)
The 2006 AL MVP Awards, as Keith Law points out in yet another one of his excellent columns (ESPN Insider only), is another example of the travesties that regularly result when a bunch of folks with very little understanding of the game have the power to decide its most prestigious honors. Law points out — correctly — that Morneau wasn’t even the most valuable Twin; Joe Mauer was. (Another reason to like Mauer: he looks enough like me that more than one person joked that I’d somehow snaked my way onto the cover of SI.) I’ll let Law handle the honors: “The reality of baseball is that a great offensive player at an up-the-middle position is substantially more valuable than a slightly better hitter at a corner position. And when that up-the-middle player is one of the best fielders at his position in baseball, there’s absolutely no comparison. Joe Mauer was more valuable than Justin Morneau this past season. If you don’t understand that, you don’t understand the first thing about baseball.”
Indeed. Derek Jeter*** would likewise have been a better choice. Oh well.
* Late-morning addition: Irony of repulsive ironies: King actually has a column in today’s Post discussing the writers who didn’t put Jeter atop their ballots.
** Take another look at that season. That’s good enough to inspire an entire region’s worth of man crushes.
*** Historical footnote: the only other time Jeter received even a single first-place vote was on King’s 1999 ballot. What a fucking moron.
November 17th, 2006 → 3:45 pm @ Seth Mnookin
“There are other free-agent candidates for the job, including Shea Hillenbrand, Phil Nevin and Kevin Millar, who was instrumental in Bostonâ€šÃ„Ã´s success in 2004. None of the three is strictly a first baseman, but they all played the position well last season.
While Giambi made 7 errors in 477 chances for a .985 fielding percentage, Nevin made no errors in 303 chances (1.000), Hillenbrand 3 errors in 609 chances (.995) and Millar 4 errors in 830 chances (.995).”
“Slashing Payroll May Be No Bargain”
By Murray Chass
The New York Times
November 17, 2006
At this point, you need to at least entertain the notion that Chass is conducting some sort of grand, sadistic experiment in which he writes increasingly preposterous things in an effort to figure out when someone will finally be forced to make him stop.
* Alright, alright: the collective wisdom of the commenters has won out. No more on Murray.** Zoowah: I’m done. And PatsFanDK: No run ins; I’ve never even met the guy.
** But I reserve the right for very tempered comments if he writes something that really can’t be ignored.
November 17th, 2006 → 7:40 am @ Seth Mnookin
It’s November, which means — like February, March, June, and July — there are the obligatory “Manny wants out of town” rumors, coupled with the “the Red Sox want to get rid of Manny” and the “why do the Red Sox always trade their best players, like Roger and Pedro?” queries.
Yesterday, Buster Olney wrote about the possibility of Manny’s being traded in his ESPN column. The crux of Olney’s argument — that Manny’s two remaining years at $19 mil per looks pretty damn good in this market — is exactly why it makes sense for the Sox to hold onto that lovable lug. It’s been five months since I made almost that exact same argument; I say almost because I wrote that Manny’s now not-so-unreasonable deal made it much less likely the Red Sox would look to jettison #24. Indeed, at the time, Sox execs were saying exactly the same thing.
Of course, at the time, Manny hadn’t yet decided to take the month of September off, and there are plenty of people in the team’s front office that aren’t in love — and by that I mean are actively bothered by — Manny’s frequently maddening approach to the game. So sure, Manny could be traded. But I think it’s less likely as opposed to more; I also think this is yet another example of sportswriters grabbing ahold of the tastiest rumor and using it as fodder when there’s not a lot of information and not a lot to report on coming out of Naples…
In the midst of Nick Cafardo’s piece on Manny, Cafardo writes that there’s a growing consensus that “J.D. Drew will be in right field and Julio Lugo will be at shortstop.” I’m never sure where these “growing consensi” (consensuses? it’s 6:30 and I’m rushing to catch a train…) come from; in ’05, when I was with the team, I was amazed by the insane trade “rumors” that were floated as being “all but agreed on” according to this or that reporter but hadn’t even been discussed by the team itself. (I wasn’t the only one amazed; some of the more outlandish stories were occasionally read aloud.) Drew’s name has certainly come up a lot, and I know the Sox have had discussions. And maybe I’m hoping his patrolling right at Fenway is less of a growing certainty and more of a growing rumor because Drew he worries me. In his eight-year career, he’s played 145 games exactly twice, with 146 last year and 145 in ’04. If we’re looking for someone to replace Trot, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to go for someone who seems to be even gimpier; if we’re looking for someone to split time with Wily Mo, J.D. at big money for four years ain’t the right guy.
And with that, I’m off to South Station…
November 16th, 2006 → 8:36 am @ Seth Mnookin
Astute observers may have noticed that there was not a single post up yesterday, the first full day after the Red Sox had been declared winners in the right-to-talk-with-Matsuzaka’s-agent sweepstakes. (For some reason, there’s still some lingering confusion on the following point: if the Red Sox don’t sign Matsuzaka, they’re not on the hook for that $51.1 mil.) The simple answer for that is that I was busy; the more complicated answer is that I’m a bit…confused.
Not, mind you, about why the Sox did what they did (although when you come in $20 or so million above the next closest bidder, it does seem there might have been a bit more wiggle room) — Matsuzaka has the potential to be one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball, and a starting rotation with a three-headed, 26-year old monster of Matsuzaka, Beckett, and Papelbon looks pretty damn formidable. (As Peter Gammons points out, Boston also has “Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard on the horizon” as other potential young-stud starters; what’s more, Matsuzaka is obviously a way to plant a Red Sox flag in the Far East, both in terms of talent and marketing dollars.)
But this type of bid means the Sox have forever forfeited the right to bitch about the Yankees endless pockets…and that’s frustrating, both because it’s satisfying being thought of (and thinking of yourself) as an underdog, and because it belies the reality that the Sox will never have as much flexibility as the Yankees. Sean McAdam is right: that the notion of the Yanks as the Evil Empire, Abreu-acquiring, uber- organization just went out the window. “No more suggestions, please, that the Yankees are some financial superpower capable of trampling the rest of baseball with their reckless and boundless spending. No more talk about the Red Sox being the plucky underdogs that somehow must make do with less,” McAdam wrote on ESPN. He’s right. Even Gammons pointed out that “[t]he Red Sox have posted more money than their professional scouting director, Allard Baird, had to sign his entire team as the GM in Kansas City.”
I’m also worried — about Matsuzaka’s previous workload (in today’s Globe, Gordon Edes makes a comparison with Hideo Nomo: “Over the span of 21 months, he would belong to six teams. It appeared his heavy workload in Japan had caught up with him. He had thrown more than 140 pitches 61 times in his career, by one estimate, and in his last season in Japan he threw a staggering 191 pitches in one game, walking 16 batters”) and about the fact that the Sox will be negotiating while the other (far less skilled) free-agent pitchers are deciding where to land.
Finally, I’m confused. On the one hand, I understand that a past decision shouldn’t overly inform a current one, and what the Red Sox did with Bronson Arroyo or Johnny Damon doesn’t really have anything to do with Matsuzaka; that’s a cornerstone of the rational philosophy the Sox’s front office tries to adhere to. But…that’s a lot of money to pay for the right to sign a player, and it’s hard not to think back to the hometown discount Arroyo gave the Sox before he was traded away. Arroyo is a proven pitcher. And he’s shown he’s a workhorse. I’m also a bit confused as to how precisely this jibes with Theo’s stated notion that he wants to focus on developing young talent. Matsuzaka is young, but isn’t Boston becomming the type of uber-organization Theo warned against immediately after the ’05 season? (For a full description of that moment, check out the introduction to my book.) I’m not the only one who’s found this whole affair a bit vertiginous: the Matsuzaka frenzy has even put Dan Shaughnessy in a good mood. (Everyone remember this if/when Matsuzaka ends up on the Sox and the decision is eventually deemed a bad one…)
So…there’s a lot to mull over. I’m heading down to Boston today for a fundraiser at Fenway, so I likely won’t post again until tonight. But there’ll be lots of cogitating between now and then. And I welcome any and all of your thoughts…
November 12th, 2006 → 6:25 pm @ Seth Mnookin
In his Sunday “Baseball Notes” column, Murray Chass reports, “Daisuke Matsuzaka will bring [the gyroball] with him when he comes from Japan next season to make his major league debut. Matsuzaka, a 26-year-old right-hander, did not name the pitch, which is a special part of his repertory.” Chass then quotes Boras, Matsuzaka’s agent, as saying the gyroball is a pitch with “a little bit of backspin” that “kind of sits that and breaks late. It looks like a fastball but has a late break to it and it breaks down.â€šÃ„Ã¹
No, you’re not crazy: what Boras is describing really isn’t that different from a slider, and is also similar to a split-fingered fastball. In fact, Boras — and mouthpiece Murray — acknowledges as much: “Asked whose slider he might compare it to among major league pitchers, Boras mentioned Steve Carlton and Randy Johnson.”
Why all the fuss about a pitch that’s similar to a couple of well-known sliders? Does this warrant all this attention (or, for that matter, a headline on Chass’s item that reads, “Matsuzaka Has His Own Pitch”)?
No, it doesn’t…but the actual gyroball — a pitch (actually created by scientists) that is thrown so as to propel the baseball with sidespin similar to that of a bullet (or a football) — does. The Bigfoot-like gyro comes in as quick as a fastball, appears to be a hanging curve, and then has late-breaking horizontal action (on Friday, Slate posted a nice “Explainer” piece on the pitch; embedded within there is an interesting Popular Mechanics link).
Even if Chass had been able to get even the faintest specifics of the pitch right, he is, by almost every account, not correct in acting as if the gyroball is a pitch Matsuzaka can throw with any regularity…if he throws it at all. Matsuzaka himself has been cagey on the subject, at times claiming he can throw it, while at other times seeming to say the opposite (last spring, he told Yahoo! Sports’s Jeff Passan that he was still “trying to throw it”). Newsday‘s David Lennon has smart, well-reported piece on the whole thing. (Lennon quotes Bobby Valentine, who coaches the Chiba Lottle Marines: “I’ve heard about it all year. I’ve looked for it. I’ve looked for it on film. After he pitches, I’ve waited for players to start talking about the gyroball, and I’ve never heard anyone say it. You would think someone would mention it.”)
There is at least one (very knowledgeable) baseball writer who believes in the gyroball: Baseball Prospectus‘s Will Carroll, who calls Matsuzaka the “clear star” of the gyroball universe. If that’s true, and if the Sox do win the Matsuzaka sweepstakes, that could a problem in and off itself, because…
November 12th, 2006 → 6:25 pm @ Seth Mnookin
…because Carroll, in this 2004 piece, also discusses Matsuzaka’s elbow troubles in 2002 and 2003 and questions whether attemtps to throw the gyroball could be the cause: “Is this elbow problem the result of throwing the gyroball? Some flaw in double-spin theory? Itâ€šÃ„Ã´s hard to know. While much of the pitching research being done in Japan is on a par with that in America, research on pitch counts and pitcher workload has been ignored. Pitchers routinely throw 150 or more pitches and are asked to throw more in the bullpen after a poor performance. Matsuzaka is reported to have thrown more than 140 pitches ten times in 2002, just before his shoulder problems began. Worse, he had a legendary high-school start in which he pitched a complete game . . . and threw 249 pitches in 17 innings!”
Yeow. All those “I walked eighty miles to school uphill in both directions with no shoes in raging blizzards” types will scoff at this pansy-ass pitch-count talk, but 249 pitches? I did some perfunctory online searches and it seems as if Matsuzaka’s elbow was fine these last few years, and it’s not unusual for a pitcher to have some problems in his early twenties only to grow out of them by the time he’s 26 (Matsuzaka’s age now) or 27. But that’s certainly another good reason to be cautious.