Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Discuss

1) Jeff Kent is the Don Sutton of second basemen.

2) Any fantasy baseball guide that touts soft-tossing guys with phenomenal AAA control stats as sleeper rookie picks needs to be looked at with extreme suspicion.

3) MLB needs to hire some game designers to work out the balance issues in their free agency compensation.

4) One should only deride players who pass on the WBC for being unpatriotic when the executive-types mandating their appearances forgo their paychecks for the honor and glory of USA baseball as well.

5) All of the trendy early talk discussing the Giants as potential contenders in the west ignores the fact that there still isn't anyone on that team who can hit.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

In Pace Requiescat: Kay Yow

18 years is a hell of a fight. Hall of famer, gold medal winner, coach, teacher, and by all accounts a fine and upstanding individual: Rest in peace, coach.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Padres Sign Henry Blanco

And when Henry Blanco actually improves your club, you've got work to do.

Math Is Hard

Cole Hamels, the Phillies' ace and the guy who hauled them across the finish line in October, got $20.25M for three years.
Ryan Madson, setup guy who completely bombed as a starter, got $12M for three years.

As much as I love Ryan Madson (in a manly, platonic, fannish way) - and yes, I do have an autographed baseball I won at auction at a Durham Bulls game and, oh, never mind. The point I was trying to make is if you're paying a setup man a significant fraction of what you're paying your ace, A)your ace is underpaid and B)you're paying way, way, waaay too much for your setup man. And it's not like they're locking up their closer-in-waiting; the Phils have Brad Lidge under contract for arguably longer than they've got Madson.

This Amaro person, he confuses me, and makes me sad.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

$18M Foot Longs

Jim Rice's recent election to the Hall of Fame was one benchmark in the raging, nonsensical conflict between old-timey baseballniks and nerdy, basement-dwelling stat geeks, or so the media narrative tells me. Ryan Howard's upcoming arbitration hearing is likely to be another one. Howard has filed for $18M; the Phillies are offering $14M. By all accounts, Howard's team views him as a historically unique player who should (and will) receive a historically unique salary. The question is, which historically unique price tag will he get?

Howard's argument rests on the old reliables, homers and RBI. Simply put, he racks up more of 'em than anybody, and that's impressive. On the other hand, if you look at more analytical statistics like WARP3 and VORP, Howard suddenly drops from "Incredible Hulk" to "Doc Samson". Sure, he's still up there, but suddenly the discussion involves all the things he doesn't do as well as some other guys, and how the total package stacks up. And let's face it, Ang Lee isn't champing at the bit to direct "Doc Samson: The Movie" for a reason.

It's a calculated risk for the Phillies. If they do use more advanced statistics to counter Howard's case, the same old-timers who flogged Howard's case for MVP will come out of the woodwork to talk about how those darn kids robbed that nice Mr. Howard of his paycheck. If they don't, all they've got left is the service time (and maybe batting average) arguments, and those aren't nearly as persuasive, and for a team that just shelled out big raises to Jamie Moyer, Shane Victorino, and Ryan Madson, among others, that $4M difference could be big.

Of course, this case only becomes a flashpoint if the Phillies actually do drag out the sabermetric argument, and nothing in new GM Reuben Amaro Jr's track record thus far indicates he'll make that play. But if he does, it's going to open up an interesting can of worms, and we just might hear about who the "most feared" arbitration case is as a result.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Few Thoughts on the NFC Championship Game

  • It was a fun run while it lasted, and it went a hell of a lot longer than anyone thought it would when the Eagles were 5-5-1 - me included.
  • For all of Troy Aikman's gushing, the Cardinals' second touchdown was not a case of poetic Warner throw to poetic Fitzgerald catch. It was a horribly underthrown ball, and the only reason Fitzgerald caught it was that the corner fell down trying to turn around and come back to it. Of such things, though, are legends made.
  • David Akers kicked like he owed someone money. You don't expect the guy running a 19 straight postseason field goal streak to miss a PAT. The Eagles wouldn't have gotten there without him, but, man, he was hard to watch.
  • Yes, the Eagles got hosed on two critical non-calls for pass interference, including the last play of their penultimate drive. That being said, if Donovan McNabb could have thrown the ball in the same zip code as his receivers at any point, none of that would have mattered and the Eagles would have won by 20. The Cardinals defense clearly could not cover the Eagles' receivers, who time and again were wide open with daylight in front of them, and time and again McNabb failed to deliver the ball. Look, I'm not a McNabb basher - I think he's a classy guy, and a really good quarterback, and I'd rather have him running da Boids than just about anyone else not named "Brady". But we've seen it time and again now - when he gets excited, he muscles up and overthrows his motion to disastrous effect. It's the same thing that happens when a pitcher reaches back for that extra mile or two per hour on his fastball. He might get it, but the pitch flattens out and goes bye-bye. In McNabb's case, the ball either nose-dives into the turf short or sails ten yards too far, when touch is what's needed.
  • Nice to see that Sean Considine is upholding the standard for Eagles safeties established by Wes Hopkins and Andre Waters.
  • Ah well. Like I said, it was fun when it lasted.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Phillies Reportedly Interested in Nomah

OK, that I'll complain about. He's old, he can't really play anywhere but first anymore, he gets hurt more often than Lindsay Lohan's feelings, and he doesn't seem to have quite gotten the fact that he's not the guy who rapped all those doubles for the Sawx five or six operations ago. The Phils' interest in Gabe Kapler makes a bit more sense; the guy murders lefties, and with the combination of Ol' Waffle-Mitts, the Flyin' Hawaiian, and Jason (Come back soon for an amusing nickname) Werth out there, the Phils will need bench OFs who can soak up appreciable amounts of playing time. And no, that doesn't mean Eric Bruntlett. Sorry, dude.

Eagles 23, Giants 11

Well, that was mildly unexpected. I'm not complaining, mind you, but I was expecting a steady diet of Brandon Jacobs and nothing but, and a final score that was more likely to be tilted in the Jints' favor. Instead, the Eagles did exactly what they did against Minnesota - kept it close while the offense figured itself out, then grabbed the lead and started squeezing. Watching this Eagles' defense - except on the plays where Jacobs was charging straight up the gut - is a lot like watching an anaconda have supper. It's not pretty, and it's often not exciting, but that poor sucker in the middle isn't going anywhere.

A game ball for this one goes to the Eagles' medical staff, who got Asante Samuel, Quinton Mikell and a goodly number of other players back on the field after in-game injuries. As much as I enjoy Sean Considine's patented "blitz then jump up in the air as the quarterback throws the ball by you" routine, without their starting DBs back there, the Eagles are much easier pickings, even for a wind-mussed Eli Manning.

Next week, Arizona in Arizona. Raise your hand if you're a filthy liar, err, if you saw that one coming.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Willie and the Poor Boys

If there is one consolation to the Phillies' moves this offseason, it is that none of them have included the words "signed IF Willie Bloomquist to a contract".

On the Bright Side, Dan Shaughnessy Never Has To Try To Spell "Jagodzinski" Again

And we can all be grateful for that.

It is every worker's right to chase the best job they can find. By the same token, it is an employer's right to lay down reasonable rules of conduct, which can include not publicly chasing another job. This is, perhaps, particularly pertinent in something like coaching, whereby the fact that a coach having one foot out the door hurts the team in a number of ways. It means he's not paying full attention to what he's doing, and it dents recruiting. It's not like other coaches will hesitate to use the "Why commit there, the coach is leaving anyway" approach if it gives them a leg up on a recruit.

All of which is to say that Boston College has a perfect right to protect their business, in this case their football team, by dumping an employee who was devaluing it, and who had acted against formally stated institutional policy. The fact that most places of business don't have rules like "Interview with the New York Jets and you're fired" is irrelevant; both parties were within their respective rights, and what played out was the result of adults making grown-up decisions.

That being said, I'm still disappointed BC offensive coordinator Steve Logan didn't get the job after Jagodzinski got the boot. I had the pleasure of listening to Logan's radio show for a while after his stint at ECU, and it was entertaining, energetic, and presented in a southern accent you could spread on toast with jam. Combine that with Sully from Saugus calling in t' ask de coach er queschun, and, well, it's poetry. Sheer poetry.

Other Things To Hate About the BCS

  • Having the "championship game" be a home game for one of the teams.
  • Having the "championship game" always played in SEC or Pac-10 territory, not, say, Big 10 or Big East. Even better, next year put it in Boise. I want to see Alabama and USC slug it out on the Smurf Turf in January. Someone's arms will no doubt literally fall off before halftime.
  • Having all of the drama and interest sucked out of the other bowl games. There's such a big deal made out of the "championship game" that the obvious corollary presents itself immediately: that if the championship game is all-important, the Rose, Fiesta, etc. Bowls are completely unimportant. Which reduces viewing audiences, which reduces profits for the network broadcasting them, and incidentally reduces my viewing pleasure, as I can now no longer formally muster giving a hoot about most of the games
  • The annual "oh crap, not these guys" BCS bowl. Two teams, there strictly because someone from their conferences had to be, matched up in the "slow kid who owns the only football so we can't tell him to go home" bowl. Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, I'm talking to you - does anyone even remember which bowl these teams played in?
  • The fact that the BCS is so transparently a money grab that the "championship game" doesn't even have an interesting name. Come on, they've got to be able to do better than what they've got now.
  • The endless post-BCS analysis of how the system is *gasp* broken because teams X, Y and Z got screwed. You know what, guys? It was just as broken a month ago, when y'all were gushing over 'Bama and ignoring Utah. Just sayin'.

5 BCS Game Losses In A Row

So at what point do we start calling Oklahoma the Ohio State of the Big 12?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

On Tarvaris Jackson

The Vikings didn't lose that game yesterday. The Eagles took it from them, brutally and without remorse. As close as the score was, it was kept that way by a couple of fluke plays. The sense watching it was that the Vikings were giving it all they had to hang close, hoping for a puncher's chance, while the Eagles applied relentless pressure, knowing that sooner or later Minnesota would slip up. And when they did - letting Brian Westbrook jump outside for a 71 yard score highlighted by impressive blocks from DeSean Jackson and Kevin Curtis - the Eagles stepped on their necks. One got the sense that the Vikings were suddenly anxious, could feel it slipping away, and tried to make up a two-score deficit every single time they got the ball. That, of course, is a recipe for disaster, especially with a young quarterback and a blitzing defense. The Eagles teed off, Jackson's passes started going haywire, and that was that.

It's Jackson I find most interesting in the aftermath. There's a fair bit of blame being tossed in his direction. Admittedly, I'm just a fan, but I didn't see the guy who couldn't pass or couldn't stay in the pocket they're talking about on the radio. I saw a guy who was pretty much on the run the entire game, and whose speed and elusiveness got him out of at least a half-dozen brutal sacks. The Eagles managed one sack the entire game; put Headbanger Gus back there and the total creeps up near double digits. Yeah, he was throwing a lot of balls of his back foot by the end of the game, but he was also running for his life, heaving the ball downfield while avoiding sacks and trying to make something out of nothing. I saw the guy who chased Asante Samuel downfield after throwing a pick, and who got back up to lead a scoring drive after being utterly levelled by Chris Clemons.

In the end, he wasn't going to save the Vikings. The Eagles were too good, chewed up too much of the clock, and scored when they had to. They mostly shut down Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor; they won the special teams wars and never let up. But I've got a lot of respect for the way Jackson and the Vikings played, and I think that if they get him a couple of receivers and a little more time, he could be a lot more dangerous the next time around.

In the meantime, bring on the Jints.

Do the Math

The important numbers are 32, 37, 2, 3, 8000000, and 10000000. Pat Burrell is 32, and signed a deal for 2 years at $8M. Raul Ibanez, the guy replacing Burrell because he was too expensive and wanted too long a deal, is 37 and signed for 3 years at $10M per annum. Yes, their stats are roughly equivalent, but any way you slice the numbers, Burrell is the better bet going forward, and Ibanez has a much, much greater chance of turning into an immobile, Vaughn-like (Greg, Mo, or the late Arky - take your pick) monolith well before the contract is up.

The Phillies should be fine for 2009. However, it's in 2010 and 2011 - right around the time their core will start declining - that they'll really be feeling the bad effects of this deal. And as a fan, it's a hard thing to watch in what should be an offseason of celebration and hope.
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