Sunday, July 29, 2007

Trade Deadline Analysis, Part I

Behold! The Phillies' Season!

Padres trade RP Scott Linebrink to Milwaukee for 3 prospects

Winner: San Diego
While the prospects that the Padres got back for Linebrink aren't all that great - only Will Inman was on BP's Top 100 Prospects list, and he's the sort of control-artist righty who gets compared to Greg Maddux up until major league hitters start sitting on his fastball - but in Petco, they don't need to be. What they do need to be is reasonably effective and cheap, which is how Kevin Towers likes to build a bullpen, and how he'll continue to be doing so for the forseeable future. Linebrink's decline has been well documented just about everywhere else, though the real issue is what exactly the Brewers need him for. The one weakness in their bullpen lately has been Francisco Cordero's sudden exposure to Kryptonite/reversion to form, and Linebrink can't help with that. He makes an already-deep middle relief corps deeper, but surely the free-falling Brewers had other, more pressing needs than yet another sixth inning guy.


White Sox trade 2B Tad Iguchi to Phillies for tasty snacks
Winner: Phillies
"Stand" Pat Gillick moved quickly on this one. When Chase Utley went down, thanks to the Nationals' using one of their less accurate peanut vendors as a starting pitcher and drilling Utley in the hand, it looked like you could stick a fork in the Phillies' season. Well, another one. They already look like Toshiro Mifune at the end of Throne of Blood, but that's neither here nor there. But Gillick acted swiftly and reeled in Iguchi for the low, low price of minor league slinger Michael Dubee. Iguchi is the definition of "rent-a-player" in that he's in his walk year, he's needed for a specific time, and apart from one horrific month he's actually been pretty good this year. Also, by his mere existence he keeps Abraham Nunez out of the batters' box, and that's a good thing. Getting Iguchi is actually a double benefit, as the Mets are looking for second base help as well, and with Iguchi (and Jorge Cantu) off the market, they're stuck looking at guys like Mark Loretta. So Gillick filled a need on the cheap, blocked a rival, and shored up what could have been a devastating loss - none of which makes up for the awful winter he had, but it's a nice change of pace.
As for the White Sox, one gets the feeling that Kenny Williams is trying to save his pennies for the off-season, and getting Iguchi off the books for a couple of months helps a little bit with that. This also lets him take a look at Danny Richar, the spoils from an earlier trade with the Diamondbacks, so it's a case of addition, or at least opportunity, by subtraction. The guy actually involved in the trade, Dubee, is by all accounts going to be lucky to make it to organizational soldier status. That makes it clear that this deal was simply about getting Iguchi out of the way.

Tampa Bay trades a whole bunch of guys to a whole bunch of teams in order to restock their bullpen
Winner: Tampa Bay
While the Flatfish have a plethora of starting pitching prospects coming through the system (some of whom did not attend Rice and thus have a chance at actually pitching in the majors before their shoulders flee to Canada for political sanctuary), their bullpen has been historically bad this year. And by "historically bad", I mean Franco-Prussian War kind of history. No matter who they've run out their, the Rays relievers have gotten pounded like Peter McNeely. So, swapping some of their infielder spare parts and ineffective arms for, respectively, Dan Wheeler, some minor leaguers, and Grant Balfour is a win all the way around.
Getting Wheeler for Ty Wigginton in particular is a win, as the Yankees had apparently already said no to a Wiggington-for-charred-remains-of-Scott-Proctor deal. Being able to snag one of the most coveted relievers on the market - and fill a need - for a surplus corner infielder with massive platoon splits and mediocre defense is a win. The Rays already have Pena, Iwamura, Upton, and Gomes to fill the slots that Wiggington played, so they lose nothing by dealing him and get a valuable commodity back. The Astros, on the other hand, already had a bunch of Wigginton types (Ensberg, Lamb, Loretta, you get the idea) and had no real need for another one. Dumping Ensberg and losing Wheeler to get a guy who's, well, Ensbergian, isn't the sort of move a team on the fringes of the wild card race needs to make.
Ditto the Jorge Cantu trade to Cincinnati. Cantu had already dumped accelerate all over his bridges with Tampa Bay, and his position(s) were being ably filled by a plethora of guys. They had no need for him, and they dealt him to address an organizational weakness. If Cantu puts it together, he allows the Reds to move whipping boy Edwin Encarnacion, but that's a big if. In the meantime, he's at Louisville.
Meanwhile, Seth McClung was part of the Rays' long-running legacy of failure in the pen - superb at Durham, dreadful in Tampa. (See: Salas, Juan). Getting him out of their system, even if he's second all time in saves by a West Virginia native simply removes the temptation to try again. Getting Grant Balfour back is an unexpected windfall, even if his extremely small showing with the Brewers was horrific. His track record indicates he's got better things in store, and so does the Devil Rays' pen.

D'oh!-naghy

How serious is the referee point-shaving scandal in the NBA? So serious that Bill Simmons wrote about it without referencing Hoosiers, The Godfather, Swingers, or watching Larry Bird with his father. There was one Entourage reference, but from Simmons, this is like the Mourner's Kaddish.

Oddly enough, Simmons also failed to reference any of his numerous trips to Vegas with his buddies, another one of his frequent column staples. Perhaps he felt it would be in poor taste.

Monday, July 16, 2007

ARod Redux, With a Side of Scotty

Note - as a card-carrying nerd, I always find the nickname that's been hung on Alex Rodriguez to be mildly amusing. Arod, for those who do not wander deep in the nerdly forests as I, is the name of the horse given to Legolas by the Riders of Rohan in the Lord of the Rings. And so, the noble but expendable steed Aron goes trotting off all over Middle Earth at the bidding of his magical master. Occasionally, he is burdened by a second passenger, a dwarf who, while named Gimli, bears a suspicious resemblance to Joe Torre - that is, if Joe wore chain mail and carried a battle axe. Then again, the way things are going these days, he might.

Watching the latest round of ARod drama play out is deeply unpleasant on a number of levels. For one thing, it takes away from the enjoyment of watching the guy have what could be one of the monster seasons of all time. But nobody's talking about the homers or the RBIs or the defense; they're talking opt-out and $40M/year and everything except baseball. Come on, people, you crucified him enough for on-field stuff last year, why not put a little attention where attention is due this year.

Then, there's the Scott Boras factor. Watching Boras angle for top dollar for his clients is a lot like watching your creepy middle-aged uncle who insists on making out with his 21 year old dental hygienist girlfriend at family gatherings, just to reinforce to all and sundry how virile he is (hair on back notwithstanding). We get it, Scott. You want to get Alex a lot of money. You want to get you a lot of money. And you want everyone to know you're the agentest agent of them all. Fine. Whatever. But as a fan, I can hope that this focus on the contract blows up in your face, that nobody's going to be quite as interested in the ARod circus because they won't be able to dig through the mischegas to get to ARod the ballplayer. Here's hoping that the owners learn that they can trust Boras's pronouncements as far as they can spit a wildebeest, and that his tactic of using creative assessments of the truth to get owners to bid against themselves doesn't work this time. It's not that I particularly don't want Rodriguez to get his money - on that account, I don't care one way or the other. It's that I want Boras' negotiating tactics to fail, utterly and spectacularly, so I don't have to endure endless news cycles discussing them any more.

And that 9-game neutral site World Series idea? Dreadful.

10000 Losses

Not on the current roster, and running hard to get off the old one

As you no doubt know, the Phillies just suffered their ten thousandth loss as a franchise, to which, as a Phillies fan, all I can say is "Big deal." The team has been around for a hundred and twenty five years, including a short and unfortunate stretch as the Blue Jays, and over that many years, you're bound to rack up a lot of Ls, even if you're a good team. And, let's face it, for most of their history, the Phillies weren't very good. That being said, most of those losses were racked up by guys with names like Jack Baldschun and Ted Kazanski and Hugh "Losing Pitcher" Mulcahy, not to mention the odd Steve Jeltz or two. It's ancient history, and while it's fun for ESPN et alia to run with the whole "city of losers" angle - gawrsh, no wonder they boo! - what's really more important this year is not an record-setting entropic inevitability. What matters is the fact that the starting pitching is running on double-A fumes, the bullpen is ragged and wounded, and there's no production out of anybody left of shortstop. Loss 10001 will come, and 10002 and 10003, and God knows how many else. What matters is getting the pitching healthy and the 3B/LF black hole rectified so they come a little more slowly in the future than they did in the days when Solly Hemus, Clay Dalrymple or Heinie Sand were household names.

Why is this man smiling? He's not on the current roster, either.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Dan Patrick to Leave ESPN

Listeners to his radio show wonder how they're supposed to tell the difference.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Tony, Albert, and Aaron

Let's face it. The second Aaron Rowand stepped up to the plate in the 9th inning of the All Star Game with two outs and the bases loaded, you knew it was over. You knew he wouldn't come through, that the NL was doomed once again despite a stirring ninth inning comeback.

You knew this for two reasons. One, Aaron Rowand is a Phillie, and the last time a Phillie came up big in a clutch situation like that, it was Roger Mason in the 1993 NLCS. Two, he's Aaron Rowand. Moments like that - two outs, bottom of the ninth, K-Rod on the mound, bases loaded, down by one - aren't made for the Aaron Rowands of the world.

Nothing against Aaron Rowand, mind you. He's a fine player having a fine year. He plays hard, plays great defense, and has that all-important "willing to set himself on fire to catch a ball" quotient that Philly fans love. But, a fine player is all he is, and there was a much better than fine player sitting on the bench. You know, some guy named Pujols.

Now, forget about the conspiracy theories that Tony LaRussa wanted to put the NL manager after him at a disadvantage in the World Series. Forget about Pujols supposedly metamorphosing, Hulk-like, into an incredible jerk over the last couple of years. What his outburst sounded like to me was the squawking of a guy who wanted to win, who thought he gave his team the best chance to win, and who wasn't allowed to help his team win.

Because Albert Pujols, arguably the best hitter on the planet, is made for moments like that. Forget worrying about who would play where in the 10th if they tied it. Odds were, it wasn't going to be a tie. A single would bring home two runs - game over. An out, and it's over. The only way Pujols gets just one run home is if he bunts, and even Tony LaRussa isn't dumb enough to do that.

At least, not most of the time.

But as much as watching the NL lose again grinds my tooth enamel when they could have had a better shot to win, that's not what really grinds my tooth enamel. No, the All-Star Game is an exhibition. A show. A chance to see the best against the best. And we could have had that - K-Rod against Albert, bottom of the ninth, all the marbles on the line. That would have been an All-Star moment for the ages.

Instead, we got Aaron Rowand.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Posh and Becks

In the wake of their recent all-out media blitz, I find myself asking one question:

Who cares?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

BB, AS

Regardless of your take as to whether Barry Bonds "should" be an All-Star, can we at least get away from the nonsensical carping about how he's not having a good enough year to go?

Let's go to the tape:
16 HR - 8th in the league
1st on OBP
2nd in SLG
1st in OPS, even if Joe Morgan doesn't know what that means
BA - .304
BA with 2 outs and RISP - .400

Yes, the RBIs are down, mainly because nobody else on the Giants could get to first base at a prom, much less against major league pitching. Yes, the defense is moderately awful, but Mike Piazza made an awful lot of All-Star games while doing his best impression of a sieve behind home plate.

If you want to argue whether Bonds should be in based on off-the-field stuff, that's one thing. But pretending that the on-the-field stats aren't there just doesn't hold water.
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