Friday, December 21, 2007

general baseball shennanigans

just a few baseball related thoughts:

Odd trade today concerning the Reds and Rangers. The Reds sent OF Josh Hamilton to the Rangers for Edinson Volquez and a prospect to be named later (likely Danny Ray Herrera). Hamilton, a NL Comeback Player of the Year finalist (although he should have won; Rick Ankiel, who I love, came back from sucking, Hamilton came back from alcohol and crack addictions, slightly bigger issues), hit 19 HRs, with a solid .368 OBP, and an impressive .554 SLG while playing solid defense for the Reds. He was a fan favorite and garnered an NL-leading 150,000+ write-in All-Star votes. Volquez, a good prospect in the Rangers system, had trouble adjusting to the Majors but pitched well at 3 minor league levels last year. Projected as a middle to back of the rotation starter, Volquez is a prospect who can be very valuable to a team without much in the way of quality pitching (as both the Reds and Rangers are). But this trade doesn't make much sense as Hamilton was a solid player who served as a future replacement for the aging Ken Griffey, Jr. and the perpetually available Adam Dunn. And Volquez was a rare pitching prospect for the Rangers who actually had a future.

In the ever-expanding world of ridiculous contracts, the Mariners announced that they have signed SP Carlos Silva to a 4-year, $48 million contract. Silva is an average starting pitcher who makes most staffs, including the Mariners', better. He is a proven guy who can give you a lot of quality innings and will certainly receive a boost from moving to pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. Unfortunately, the Mariners signed him to a deal that is paying him about $15 million too much. League average starting pitchers, while a valuable commodity when filling the back of a rotation, should not be getting paid $50 million. But this deal is indicative of the Mariners since the late '90s. As the legendary Bill Veeck once put it, "It's isn't the high price of stars that's expensive; it's the high price of mediocrity."

Now both these deals are actually encouraging to me because of the implications concerning the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles are shopping ace Erik Bedard around the league and will likely trade him either this offseason or before the July 31st trade deadline, barring of course the signing of an extension (which is optimal, I believe). But so far the two teams most interested in acquiring Bedard, a legitimate Cy Young candidate last season until injuring a rib-cage muscle in late August, have been the Reds and Mariners. This bodes well for the Orioles because those two teams are likely to highly overpay for the left-hander, with the Reds likely giving away top-pitching prospect Homer Bailey and the Mariners likely including their best prospect, outfielder Adam Jones. Of course, given the Orioles history, they'll trade Bedard to division rival Tampa Bay for a ham sandwich (the turning point in many a poor deal) and a 2-year subscription to the Tampa Tribune.

Another poor move is the Tigers giving an extension of 3 years and $29 million to the recently acquired Dontrelle Willis. This is a gross over-paying that should be closer to an extension of zero years and $0 million. Willis was a salary-related throw-in in the trade with the Marlins that netted the Tigers the very imposing Miguel Cabrera. Willis has been on the decline since a very good 2005. He gave a very pedestrian performance last season in the inferior league pitching in the most pitcher-friendly stadium in the league. Willis' problem is that he doesn't really have great stuff and he got by earlier due to his funky delivery that threw off hitters' timing; but now hitters have gotten used to it and hit him like any other league average pitcher who doesn't locate pitches with good consistency. Willis is being paid like this because he is a big name with a great personality and this is a trap that all bad general managers fall into, which is why it is surprising that the Tigers Dave Dombrowski is involved, as he is one of the better GMs in the league. In fact, the reason why the Athletics have been successful since the late 90s is because Billy Beane has bought low and sold high, trading off names and their perceived value for production.

The final piece of baseball-related news is Curt Schilling deciding to once again assume the role of moral police of baseball. Schilling stated that if Roger Clemens, greatest pitcher of his generation and noted bag of shit, cannot clear his name from steroid accusations made in the Mitchell Report then he should forfeit his 4 Cy Young awards earned after 1997. I respect Curt Schilling a great deal. He is a borderline Hall of Fame pitcher and one of the finest starting pitchers of the last two decades. He is clearly one of the most intelligent and articulate persons to ever be paid to play a sport. He is the finest athlete to ever come out of the great state of Alaska. He has cemented his place as one of the most important players in the history of two franchises (the Diamondbacks and Redsox). But Schilling's suggestion concerning Clemens is utterly ridiculous. I do not like Roger Clemens at all and I wouldn't mind for him to have to forfeit his numerous awards and accolades, but to retroactively strip him is a dangerous precedent. This means that every single person who has ever cheated must be stripped of their awards that were acquired whilst skirting the rule book or did something illegal. Not only does this include every single steroid user, but also spit-ballers including Hall of Famers Red Faber, Gaylord Perry, and Ed Walsh. This would have to include sign-stealers like Bobby Thompson, who stole signs to hit a homerun that clinched the 1951 NL pennant for the NY Giants. This would have to include players using corked bats, including multi-time all-star Norm Cash, who admitted, after retiring, to corking his bat for most of his career. This would have to include drug users including noted cocaine fiends Daryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, two of the finest players of the 1980s. Ultimately, the players brought up in the Mitchell report, including Clemens, cannot be punished by taking away anything because of the implications it would have on the rest of baseball's rich history. Now going forward, I believe anyone using steroids should be punished via suspension, fine, etc. and those mentioned in the Mitchell Report should be treated with more scrutiny. But as for players such as Clemens and Barry Bonds, whose careers are all but over, or for players such as Mark McGwire who are already retired, I do not believe that steroid suspicions or convictions should interfere with Hall of Fame eligibility. It is true that there is a character clause in the baseball Hall of Fame criteria, however this clearly doesn't mean much if Ty Cobb, one of the largest assholes to ever walk the earth, a dirty player and severe racist, is in the Hall, a post he surely deserves as one of the greatest players ever. Perhaps players such as McGwire, Bonds, and Clemens should be let in with it being noted that they were steroid users (as I feel Pete Rose should be allowed in with it noted that he illegally bet on games). But to exclude them entirely is foolish and simply the product of self-righteous baseball writers who certainly can be accused of severe partiality and cronyism (see Mazeroski, Bill) which would completely destroy the ideals that voting is supposed to be completely impartial.

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