Thursday, November 30, 2006
What Team: Philadelphia
How Much: $24.5M
How Long: 3 years
What It Means: The market is officially All Out of pitching.
Will They Regret It: Probably, in large part because everything the Phillies do seems to turn out regrettable. Once upon a time, Eaton was a hotshot Phillies pitching prospect who got traded away for Andy Ashby (who himself had once been a hotshot Phillies pitching prospect), but that was a long time and several odd injuries ago. The optimist says that Eaton's still got great stuff and, thanks to injuries, doesn't have a lot of mileage on his arm. The pessimist notes that he's never been able to harness that stuff for a full season, and that injuries find Eaton like hair care products found Flock of Seagulls. Hopefully Eaton will be able to refrain from stabbing himself in the stomach this time around, but even if he does, the past injury history is too troubling to ignore.
Who: Randy Wolf
What Team: Los Angeles (the real one)
How Much: $8/17M
How Long: 1 year + option
What It Means: According to the official Tommy John Surgery Recovery Timetable, Wolf should be back to his normal self next season. Unfortunately, his normal self hasn't been that great for a while.
Will They Regret It: Dodger Stadium is a fairly forgiving place for a pitcher whose stuff might get killed in a smaller park, and while Wolf's numbers last year were fairly awful, he's a lefty working his way back from TJ. The real culprits here are the Phillies' last couple of managers, who rode Wolf far too hard when he was about the only decent thing in their rotation, and beat the hell out of what might have been a good-to-great career. Something tells me this one will work out all right for the Dodgers, in large part because the length of the deal is mercifully brief. Expect Wolf to put up decent numbers as a #3 or #4 guy, and to cash in on his next deal.
Who: Woody Williams
What Team: Houston
How Much: $12.5M
How Long: 2 years
What It Means: Tim Purpura really likes old pitchers, and doesn't think the two he's got will b be coming back.
Will They Regret It: Probably, but not for the right reasons. The odds on Clemens and Pettite coming back are slim at this point, and Woody falls naturally, through no fault of his own, into the "Roger's replacement" slot. This means, of course, he's going to be blamed for the shortfall between his production and Clemens', which is much like someone blaming Glen Burtnick for ruining Styx. The real problems in Houston have to deal with the absolute offensive sinkholes they run out there every day at multiple positions, and their inability to get a prospect on the field and playing regularly before he's eligible for Social Security.
Who: Adam Kennedy
What Team: St. Louis
How Much: $10M
How Long: 3 years
What It Means: Someone's figured out that scrappy doesn't turn two on a regular enough basis.
Will They Regret It: No. Kennedy comes home to shore up the Cards' middle infield, put Aaron Miles on the bench where he belongs, and provide decent production and defense. The price is reasonable, the contract length isn't onerous, and the other options are distinctly unappealing.
Who: Royce Clayton
What Team: Toronto
How Much: $1.5M
How Long: 1 year
What It Means: Stock up on canned goods and shotguns
Will They Regret It: Long ago, the phrase "I don't need to worry, I've got Royce Clayton" became a running gag in my fantasy baseball league. I can understand the logic of wanting a one-year placeholder while J.P. Ricciardi tries to figure out what the hell to do with his middle infield, but this is a placeholder in precisely the same sense that one of John Norman's Gor novels is a serious examination of gender roles.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
- Georgia Tech, already guaranteed a shot in the conference title game, #16 Georgia Tech laid an egg against a sleepwalking Georgia team and lost.
- Boston College, needing a win to keep their ACC championship game hopes alive, took on a reeling Miami team with a lame-duck coach, and lost. Miami, however, is now going to a bowl, because Virginia wasn't able to assert its own claim to mediocrity.
- Maryland, needing a win to control its destiny, laid a turtle egg at Wake Forest, a team with the modus operandi of "if we just let the rest of the conference play their game, we're bound to end up 10-2". Sadly, they were right.
- Florida State, once the titan of the conference, took the weekend off and let Florida off the hook, Houndini-like, once again.
- #24 Clemson couldn't seal the deal against classically underachieving South Carolina, and lost.
- N.C. State lost to C-USA mid-lister East Carolina.
- And in the best game of the day, 3-9 UNC was taken to the wire by winless Duke.
Not to put it too bluntly, but putting the rules of the game out in the open invites gaming the system. And with this much money on the line - and with rules that are this easily exploitable - the system will be gamed. In my chosen profession, we call these "exploits". In the BCS, it's business as usual.
Friday, November 24, 2006
What Team: Houston
How Much: $100M
How Long: 6 years
What It Means: Pat Gillick finally came to his senses, and Houston isn't waiting around for His Majesty Prince Roger to decide on their off-season plans.
Will They Regret It: In a couple of years. Lance Berkman's already pretty much a first baseman, and if Carlos keeps on chowing down like he reportedly has been, he's going to make Ryan Howard look like Slim Goodbody before too long and need to be a first sacker as well. It's nice that Houston was able to move forward this season instead of waiting on the annual will he/won't he with Clemens, but one gets the sense that no matter how frenied the rumors were, they were really bidding against themselves here. No way were the Phillies going to unload an immobile $15M/year slugging left fielder with 2 years left on his deal to pick up an immobile, $16M/year slugging left fielder for the next six.
Who: Juan Pierre
What Team: Dodgers
How Much: $45M
How Long: 5 years
What It Means: Ned Colletti studied Brian Sabean's kung fu very closely.
Will They Regret It: Only if they pay attention. Look, I like Juan Pierre. I think he's exciting to watch, I find his work ethic and dedication inspiring, and I appreciate the fact that he clearly enjoys playing baseball. That being said, he makes Johnny Damon look like Shotgun Shuba in the outfield, his caught-stealing rate is abysmal, and he doesn't get on base much. What I'm seeing is Brian Sabean 2, as Colletti builds a team by locking older veterans into long-term deals around a superstar or two, and hoping enough young pitching comes along to rescue them. If I'm another GM right now, I'm looking at a Dodger farm system chart and salivating, because with veterans getting locked in on the big club, some of those kids can be had, and most likely had cheap.
Who: Gary Matthews Jr.
What Team: Angels
How Much: $55M
How Long: 5 years
What It Means: Chone Figgins is on his way out of town, and if you squint hard enough Sarge Jr. looks a little like Soriano.
Will They Regret It: Only if he plays like Gary Matthews Jr., as opposed to the unearthly creature who dwelt in Arlington last year. Highlight reel plays are all well and good, but Sargelet flamed out of a lot of systems before finding himself in Texas' launching pad last year. He's not going to put up those numbers again, and he's one of those guys that the announcers on Baseball Tonight call young simply because they haven't been paying attention. This one's going to be an albatross in two years, three at the most.
Who: Jeff Francis
What Team: Rockies
How Much: $13.25M
How Long: 4 years, with option
What It Means: No way in hell will another free-agent pitcher ever come to Colorado, regardless of school systems, humidors, or hookers.
Will They Regret It: There's always the chance that Francis will flame out a la Armando Reynoso, or any other in the litany of pitchers who enjoyed brief flashes of Rocky Mountain adequacy before imploding, but as far as things go, this is a safe bet. The Rockies have to develop their own pitchers, and showing Francis the money (or at least some of it) is a step in the right direction. On his part, he seems a decent bet for continued success, and his willingness to stick around instead of bolting for Shea at the soonest contractual opportunity means that he's someone the team can try to build around, on the field as well as in the community.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
When I was a lad, I believe it was Bill Lyon who'd do the inevitable Thanksgiving "notes" column in the Philadelphia Inquirer as to what there was in sports to be thankful for. On one hand, it always struck me as silly, seeing as there was so much going on in the real world, so much suffering and injustice, that being truly thankful for Mike Quick's ability to keep both feet in bounds while reaching for an overthrown pass seemed a bit twee. On the other hand was the recognition that it's worth taking joy in what you do have, and one of the things that was available to me was a sports section full of supert writing, from Lyon to Jayson Stark to Al Morganti to Peter Pascarelli to, well, a whole lot of good writers. From them, I learned (osmotically) what it was like to write about sports as opposed to writing about being a sportswriter, and to do so with context, humor, and grace. So, without further ado, here's Sportsthodoxy's list of things in sports to be thankful for:
- Peter Gammons' recovery. Mensch, Richard Thompson fan, superb reporter - the season was diminshed by his absence during it.
- The increased mainstream visibility of good, smart web-based writers and analysts like Will Carroll and Jay Jaffe, who bring the good stuff from the analytic community to folks without the "of course I'm right" attitude that sometimes afflicts their peers
- The resurgence of the Tigers. The Olde English "D" is the classiest logo in sports, and watching a team rise on the backs of fireballing kids is just too damn cool.
- Drew Brees and Phillip Rivers both succeeding. It's that there wasn't a villain in that piece.
- George Mason. I mean, seriously, does it get any better than watching the ACC apologists get stuffed on crow tartare when a team from the Colonial shakes its booty into the Final Four?
- The fact that a year has gone by since Theo Epstein appeared in public in a gorilla suit.
- A Stanley Cup in Carolina, and all the diehard Whalers fans who got to celebrate it.
- Curtis Sumpter coming back.
- Boston College winning yet another bowl game, even if it was on the smurf turf. Seriously, that combination of turf and uniforms made the game look like a Jefferson Airplane video.
- The kids in Florida just playing baseball, and playing it well.
- The fact that there's another scrappy middle infielder with a funky name who can take some of David Eckstein's press coverage. Uggla! We ride!
- Ryan Howard. Boom. Gone. And like Thome, he's just big.
- Dave D'Alessandro's writing on basketball. Even with that haircut.
- Joe Posnanski writing on just about anything.
- The play that Mark, Citizen Z and I saw B.J. Upton make in the hole with the bases loaded, the night of July 3.
- And most of all, that life is such that we can afford to care about sports.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Then again, neither did I. I mean, come on, people, is there really that little sports news that someone has to dig up this nonsense and attempt to manufacture controversy with it?
On the other hand, I was in Philadelphia on Sunday when McNabb's knee went sproing (pumping gas at the Hess station on South Broad Street, on my way to the airport after dropping off the notorious Citizen Z at 30th Street Station post-Philcon) and so help me, I'd never actually heard the entire city go silent in unison before.
Mind you, this weekend I expect something a little louder. Like, say, booing.
What Team: Mets
How Much: $8.5M
How Long: 1 year
What It Means: Nobody else in the NL is any damn good, and we're going for it next year.
Will They Regret It: If they trade Lastings Milledge and Alou's legs go again. Either that, or if he demonstrates his hand-strengthening technique to the wrong teammate.
Who: Nomar Garciaparra
What Team: Dodgers
How Much: $18.5M
How Long: 2 years
What It Means: That Ned Coletti thinks that 87 wins will take the NL West. That, and he can't be trusted in a candy store.
Will They Regret It: Yes, as soon as Nomar suffers one of his patented bizarre injuries in early May. He's not going to get healthier as he gets older, and his production honestly wasn't that great even when he wasn't playing Tin Woodsman.
Who: Mike Stanton
What Team: Reds
How Much: 2 years
How Long: $5M with a $2.5M 2009 vesting option for games played
What It Means: Wayne Krivsky recognizes that his bullpen was a problem, and is making like the last 20 minutes of an A-Team episode trying to fix it.
Will They Regret It: Possibly. There are many worse pitchers in the Reds' bullpen, and Stanton has that air of being at least eternally mediocre. Asking him to close or pull down high-leverage innings, however, will turn this into a disaster. Besides, we all know he's only in Cincy until Joe Torre decides he wants him back.
Who: Alex Gonzalez
What Team: Reds
How Much: $14M
How Long: 3 years
What It Means: I really want Wayne Krivsky in my fantasy league
Will They Regret It: Every time he picks up a bat and doesn't homer, which should be something on the order of 550 times next year. Gonzalez is a plus-fielding shortstop on a team with a fly ball staff and an outfield full of golems, playing in a bandbox. The phrase "band-aid on a sucking chest wound" may apply.
Who: Alfonso Soriano
What Team: Cubs
How Much: $136M
How Long: 8 years
What It Means: Jim Hendry doesn't expect to have his job much longer
Will They Regret It: Soon, and for the rest of the contract's life. Look, Soriano is a very good hitter and a very good athlete. He's also older than people think, hack-tastic, a minus fielder, and signed through his age 39 or so season. Speed and power age well, but 8 years is a lot of aging, and by the time the midpoint of that contract is reached, the Cubs will be willing to do an Abreu just to get rid of the contract. Mind you, the point clearly seems to be for Jim Hendry to put together the Hall of Doom in order to win now, so that he might trail clouds of glory when the Cubs/TribCo's new owners blow him out the door in the near future. He'll be remembered as the architect of the team that had Soriano/Lee/Ramirez beating the heck out of people in 2007, not the one who crippled the cubs in 2010 and beyond.
Oh, and the Cubs still need pitching. Last I heard, that cost money.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Great signing! Best position player on the market! The Cubs are gonna have a Murderer's Row with him, Lee, and Ramirez! Yeah, it was expensive, but who cares? You gotta pay for quality!
As viewed by the stathead community:
Aiieee! 8 years at that money? Four years in he'll be an albatross! Six years in he'll be a disaster! And you're paying for a career year, anyway!
As viewed by Jim Hendry, General Manager of the Cubs:
I don't expect to have this job for more than three more years, tops. After that, Soriano is someone else's problem. In the meantime, damn, am I going to look good.
Monday, November 20, 2006
On Friday, it was reported that the Phillies had signed Wes Helms to be their starting third baseman for the forseeable future, adding to the long line of mediocrity that can best be described as the Heirs of Rick Schu.
Which is a worse omen for the sports fans of Philly? You decide!
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Yes, the little chuck on the chin he gave one of his players the other night was no big deal. He said so, the player said so, the players' parents said so, and for all I know the three-headed, bug-eyed denizens of Proxima Centauri IV said so. That's not the point, nor has it been, not for a long while.
Coach Knight has done many admirable things in his career. He's also done some mind-bogglingly stupid ones, and included in that number is the constant inability to remember that he is not God, the university president, or the commandante of a small, basketball-playing banana republic. He is the basketball coach. No matter how many games he wins, someone else makes the rules.
When Knight finally got his keister booted from Indiana, it was entirely his own fault. He had been informed of the "Zero Tolerance" policy was under, and let's face it, the words "zero tolerance" do not include a lot of wiggle room for interpretation. They certainly did not include "zero tolerance except if you think it's a good idea", "zero tolerance except if you choke a kid who's too familiar with you," or "zero tolerance unless you win a few more games". The only way to read that sequence of events is that Knight took the disciplinary policy as a challenge, not as an order from his boss, and proceeded to challenge it.
He lost that challenge. He got fired. But he learned nothing, because he landed on his feet and went right back to what he was doing. He got away with it before, and he's getting away with it now.
Look, it doesn't matter if this was a harmless love tap or not. Bob Knight laying hands on a player under any circumstances is like Bill Clinton walking into a women's dressing room. People will talk. Old incidents will be brought up. And another log will be put onto a bonfire of evidence, regardless of the merits of that particular incident. One of these days, there will be a spark.
If he's a smart man, and all the evidence says he is, Knight knows this. He knows that constantly bringing this pressure on himself, his players, and his employer isn't beneficial to anyone. He knows that sooner or later, it's all going to be too much for someone, be it a player, an administrator, a parent, or God forbid, a prosecutor. Yet he continues to do it, daring the world to say anything about it.
It wouldn't have been that hard not to plonk the kid on the chin. Really, it wouldn't. But then again, in this one aspect of his behavior, Bob Knight is not smart. He's Bob Knight.
Hi, my name is Derek Hansfield. I'm a 22 year old biology major at Duke University. I rounded out junior year last May with a 3.8 cumulative GPA, and plan on heading to med school after I wrap up my senior year next Spring. However, this past August, I received my biggest accolade to date.
Leader of the Cameron Crazies.
...which looks to be, per South Park, a very localized cloud of smug settling over the general vicinity of 9th Street in Durham, Enn Cee. Mom Hansfield must be beaming from ear to ear at the thought of her $51,000 p.a. encouraging such behavior as this:
I'm the "D". That's right...the alpha. I'm the foundation, the soul, and inspiration for my fellow brothers and sisters. I bleed blue, and was accurately rewarded....A panel of 8 seniors from last year's Cameron Crazies crew voted me in. It paid huge dividens [sic - this is what 51 large gets you?]...It's not easy finding something to rhyme with Hansbrough, but we do because we're crazy. Cameron Crazy.
Well, there's that. From the looks of things, it appears that all that Dutch Boy Semi-Gloss went right to his head, and not in a good way. Do you even know what that much paint does to you, Mr. Pre-Med? Haven't these damn kids today seen Goldfinger?
I've got 121 appearances on TV in my career. Last year's Crazies' leader graduated with 325 TV unofficial appearances, so I've got some work to do. I say "unofficial" because Coach K doesn't want us to keep track of individual achievements. He told us, and we listen to Coach K.
Parched, are we? Must be the paint asphyxiating your skin...
And seriously, this is exactly the sort of thing that they invented 12-step programs for. I mean, when you're this deep into the Kubler-Ross denial stage:
This year, we're not allowed to stand on the court, which is crap. I worked hard for 3 years, just to get the chance to touch Dick Vitale whenever I want... [Emphasis added. Actually, more like "emphasis implied," because you just know he means every single word of this.]
...there's only one way it's going to end: a sack, a nondescript motel room off I-40, and an extensive deprogramming session. Alternately, someone could step up and tranq him.
Monday, November 13, 2006
That's right, the money just earns them the right to talk turkey for 30 days. That being said, this still makes sense if you squint hard enough. For one thing, there aren't many good pitchers out there to be had, and Theo Epstein seems disinclined to raid the farm system to trade for any. So if you're going to pay, why not pay for the guy who's younger than Schmidt or Zito? For another, this potentially takes a bite out of the Seattle-New York axis of ownership of the Japanese market, spreading the love and the cash. And number three, the Yankees don't get him, which can't be a bad thing.
Mind you, if you really want to go into conspiracy-land, try this: The Red Sox win the posting process, a glorified eBay auction that has to drive agents nuts. They then sit on the rights and let them revert back to Seibu without paying a nickel. This allows uber-agent (or maybe unter-agent) Scott Boras to file a lawsuit, claiming the posting process is illegal, immoral, fattening, and restrictive of his client's right to make a gazillion dollars. In exchange, he cuts them a break on another client or two. Like, say, the guy they're supposedly offering $44M to.
Immoral? Unlikely? Flat-out odd? Well, yes, but evilly fun to speculate about.
Then there's every Phillie fan's favorite, J.D. Drew, whose surprise decision to bolt L.A. for greener pastures seems to have sandbagged the Dodger organization. While Drew seems to be drawing a surprising amount of ire from the theoretically laid-back Angelenos for his act of financial perfidy, the real issue is that he leaves the Dodgers with roughly a half-season's worth of production that needs to be replaced out in center field, and his protestations that he was staying meant that the Dodgers' offseason planning is now about as useful as a map to Lemuria. One assumes that a scout-approved substitute will be cobbled together, Frankenstein-like, from various bits of Ethier and Kemp, among others, but there are no sure things there. In the meantime, though, one can only suspect that Ned Coletti isn't entirely upset to see another relic of the DePodesta era walk off into the sunset, trailing both performance metrics and embarassing questions.
End result: I don't think we'll be seeing too many more opt-out clauses.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
- Sheffield to Detroit - in exchange for three young arms and a two-year extension tacked on to Sheff's contract. I do realize that at one point, the Tigers needed to overpay in order to attract talent (see: Rodriguez, Ivan; Ordonez, Magglio) and impressive facial hair (see: Jones, Todd), but one would hope those days are now done. My prediction - one year of great production, one year wrecked by injuries, and one year spent sulking about a new contract.
- Panic in Piscataway - Congratulations, Rutgers on a thrilling, hard-fought win. Memo to Louisville - it's OK for the jokers at ESPN to take Rutgers lightly because they're, well, Rutgers. You? Not so much. And after this weekend, the spin machine explaining how Rutgers simply cannot be any good because they happen to be Rutgers will be in full effect. I mean, for one thing, they have funny helmets.
- Incidentally, Wojo... - Why do you have your archetypal fan of the Big East - a conference whose geographic base covers New England (UConn), upstate NY (Syracuse), New Jersey (Rutgers), and Pennsylvania (Pitt) sound like a caller on Steve Spurrier's radio show?
- Freebird - J.D. Drew has opted out of his unwieldy deal with the Dodgers to test the free agent market. Call me crazy, but an injury-prone, aging OF who's not terribly popular hitting the FA market the same year as Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee (not to mention Jose Guillen, for the bargain-hunter out there) is probably not going to come out of this in a financially advantageous position. Phillies fans may be amused to note that Drew did this after making shiny fluffy noises all summer and fall about how much he loved L.A., and how he didn't intend to do anywhere. Ned Coletti, Paul DePodestia is IN UR HOUSE HAX0RING UR CENTER FIELDER.
- All Your BCS Are Belong To Us - So Cal, Texas, and Auburn go down in collective flames. Florida barely escapes a mediocre South Carolina team. Texas (without its quarterback) loses to a team that Louisville (without its quarterback) clobbered. Cal goes down to a mediocre Arizona team. Auburn never answers the bell against a down-year Georgia. And yet, they'll all be ranked higher than Rutgers come Monday.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
When a highly school from one of the non-power conferences leads by less than 20 at halftime against someone overmatched, it's called "proof that they're overrated."
When highly ranked schools from power conferences score a gajillion points off one another's defenses, it's "exciting football".
When highly ranked schools from one of the non-power conferences do it, it's called "proof that their defenses aren't good enough."
When highly ranked schools from one of the power conferences pay $600K for the privilege of throttling Buffalo, Temple, and the rest of the soft underbelly of the MAC, it's "smart scheduling".
When highly ranked schools from one of the non-power conferences do it, it's "they didn't play anyone."
The short version is, of course, that it's all about money - getting it, keeping it, and not letting the other guy get their share of it. The 5 other BCS conferences would have dumped the Big East in a heartbeat after the mass defection to the ACC if they thought they could have gotten away with it - and if they weren't afraid that they might be dumped next. Such foresight is prescient on the part of the ACC, a majority of whose schools seem to have acquired 7 win seasons by playing Duke and UNC multiple times. But even if a conference without "tradition" - and let's face it, most of that "tradition" is two decades old, at best (yes, I'm talking to you, Miami and Florida and Oregon and...) - is reluctantly allowed in the BCS, the other boys don't want new iconic programs to spring up, to compete for merchandising dollars and players and coaching talent and fat conference television contracts. So the talking heads yammer on about how they're "not convinced" that a Big East or a non-BCS school could ever be that good, while sidestepping the fact that the "name" schools have no interest in ever letting that proof happen. 3-for-1 scheduling commitments are more than enough proof of that.
I have no doubt that, ultimately, Louisville is going to get screwed in the BCS standings, in large part because a large part of the BCS is determined by human voters. For all the complaining about how the evil computer spits out weird rankings, it's still a case of GIGO, and the garbage comes as much from the human-generated poll results as anywhere else. All of this leaves mushmouthed Lee Corso, looking eerily like Mel Brooks during a script session for Robin Hood: Men in Tights, to proclaim that the real good teams come from the real good conferences because they're full of real good teams.
Or something like that.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Skills Required: Attention to Detail, Excellent Communication, Ability to Dodge Blunt Objects Hurled by an Irate Curt Schilling...
Pitch f/x tracks every pitched baseball, calculating its trajectory and break, for television broadcast, Internet and stadium video production.
Ah, it's a version of the completely unconvincing strike-zone grid thingy that the weasels at FOX use to clutter up a perfectly good afternoon of Saturday baseball with. Apparently MLB.com now thinks that your average baseball fan needs a herd of grandmaster Electronic Battleship players to tell him or her where Francisco Liriano put that pitch at.
E-8...er, I mean, high and outside...
Makes one almost nostalgic for the glory days of QuesTec, don't it? Well, at least MLB.com seems to be looking to use this completely in-house at the parks. I mean, consider who you, aspiring Pitch f/x operator, would be reporting to if FOX actually did get a hold of this.
Hi, kids, it's Scooter here, and I'm going to need you to come in on Sunday...great.