Archive for March, 2009
Joe Posnanski writes about writing:
…. What I have been thinking about is probably summed up in a single, simple question: Have newspapers tried too hard to make sports reporting like news reporting?
A very brief history is probably in order: There was a time in the not-so-distant-past when sportswriting was nothing at all like news reporting. It was, as famed sportswriter Jimmy Cannon said, the “Toy Department” of a newspaper. More than that, sportswriting was very much tied together with the sports themselves. Promoters would get a little publicity by throwing a few bucks at sportswriters, who were barely making enough money to survive at their papers. Baseball teams would pay for the travel of baseball writers (and many baseball writers made a few extra bucks serving as official scorers). Horse racing writers would supplement their meager salaries by using insider tips at the track. Sports columnists were often movers and shakers who worked behind the scenes to get things done — in Kansas City, for instance, Joe McGuff played a prominent political role in bringing the Royals to town, in San Diego the old baseball stadium was named for sports editor Jack Murphy.
…. Here again I quote Leonard Koppett (and it should be noted that Koppett — a sportswriter for about 60 years — finished this essay just before he died in 2003):
“Athletes and promoters are not government officials dispensing tax dollars, patronage and punishment, backed up by the judicial and coercive powers of the state. It’s entertainment of a totally voluntary type for participant and follower. The admirable American journalistic tradition of ‘watchdog’ applies to government and other socially powerful entities, not blindly to accounts of ball games, movie reviews, comics and (need it be said?) the content of advertisements. There has to be a sense of proportion about any kind of blanket rule. Ethics depend on conscience, not formula.”
Discuss amongst yourselves….
This was inevitable:
…. Lincecum is to make his next start Wednesday in place of Randy Johnson, who will be skipped because of biceps soreness, manager Bruce Bochy said.
“Just precautionary,” Bochy said. “It's just a little cranky. That's all normal spring training stuff.”
Yeah, normal when you're older than me.
Meanwhile, Ishikawa looks to have nailed down the first base job for the near term, while Sandoval is putting the team in a quandry:
ckquote>…. Two weeks before the Giants head north, most of the important position competitions remain wide open, although one decision seems to be clear: Travis Ishikawa looks like the Opening Day first baseman.
…. Sabean was less committed to Pablo Sandoval as the everyday third baseman, saying, “It's tough to evaluate Sandoval yet because we're not at the point where you're playing guys two or three days in a row. That's when you get a better read.”
Not clear is what would happen to Sandoval if the brass decided he could not be an everyday third baseman and not the first baseman. The Giants need Sandoval's bat in the lineup every day.
This better be a bad joke:
…. The Twins and Giants have emerged as new potential landing spots for free agent catcher Ivan Rodriguez…
…. The Giants have Bengie Molina to catch, and he's even penciled in as their cleanup hitter, but Pudge could get games at first base and third base in San Francisco, which is planning to employ youngsters Travis Ishikawa and Pablo Sandoval at those positions, respectively.<
Do you see?
If he thinks this is the way to build a team, if he thinks that signing another ancient player to fill a position he already has an ancient player to fill, Sabean should be fired on the spot.
I'm sure I'll be hearing how Pudge's two-year, $10 million dollar contract won't stand in the way of the team moving forward, so let me say it now…..
YES IT WILL!!!!!!
UPDATE: Thank God.zp8497586rq
…. Eat it
Dave Roberts was just released by the Giants today. So, basically, that's $18million dollars thrown on the ground because our GM has no clue what he is doing. Here's what I wrote about Roberts two years ago:
…. Don’t give $18 million to Dave Roberts, $12 million to Marvin Benard, $8 million to Shawon Dunston, $14 million to NEIFI-FUCKING-PEREZ!!!!! Don’t keep throwing money on the ground signing 40-year old washouts. The $14 million we’re giving to Molina could have paid for three or four first round picks. Did we need him? NO! Just like we didn’t need Matheny, like we didn’t need Double Play AJ.
Sabean gave Dave Roberts an $18 million dollar contract to be our leadoff hitter and center fielder for the next three years. A 36-year old baseball player, who had never in his life played a full season, a player who had never scored 100 runs in a season, (or 90 runs, for that matter), or had 100 walks, or hit .300, or won an award, of any kind, for any thing at all. A player whose performance was virtually assured of being as bad as it is now (.207/.287/.333); who could be replaced by almost any Triple AAA player, from any team. In fact, we did! Even our horrible minor leagu
e system had a player, Fred Lewis, who came in and immediately out-performed Roberts.
How could our GM not know that we had a player of equal value, who was 25-years old instead of 35, in our system? How could he throw $18 million dollars on the ground like that, instead of just letting the young guy take a shot? HOW CAN THAT BE? Because Sabean is asking the wrong questions. He is using the wrong value assesments to make his decisions, that’s how.
Since that post, we've gone out and signed more, old, on the downside of their career players to more over-priced, contracts, contracts that were albatrosses the minute the ink was dry. You wanna tell me Renteria's different? You better hope so, because even if it is only two years, it's still $18 million dollars. All of the players who could've really made a difference, that we've been told we can't afford, or that so many Giants fans have been convinced that we don't really want, have gone elsewhere because we waste money like it grows on trees.
Now we're left with Roberts –our new leadoff man– walking away with $18 million, after two years and 79 runs, something so completely predictable as to be obvious to any idiot with a computer, even a carpenter, like me.zp8497586rq
…. Attention deficit
Having just learned that A-Rod will undergo surgery for a cyst in his hip, my mind wandered back to a story, or perhaps it was a rumor that another Yankee had undergone a similar procedure. Was it in “Ball Four,” that I had read that Mickey Mantle had a cyst in his hip –caused by an infection due to a dirty needle used for a vitamin B shot– that caused him to miss significant time?
Using Baseball-Reference.com, I can see that Mantle missed significant time in 1962 and 1963. Was that what happened?
And if it did, doesn't it raise the question of whether A-Rod's cyst was caused by an infection? An infection that could have started because of a dirty needle?
Two questions come to my mind:
1. Now that we know that forty years ago, elite athletes were already well aware of the powerful effects of steroids, isn't it possible that Mickey Mantle may have been experimenting with steroids?
2. How come no major news media outlet has taken the steps to ask what, exactly, is the cause of the cyst that A-Rod has?
A few answers come to mind right away. First off, none of these so-called “keepers of the flame” will investigate whether their hero could have been sullied by the steroids cloud, so the Mantle question will be left for us to ponder. And as for the question about A-Rod, no one has asked it because nobody thought of it, until now. All I ask is a plug from the writer who picks up this thread.
UPDATE: Well, no plug.
The NY Daily News did some investigating, and came up with this:
…. “Because A-Rod kept changing his story about his steroid use,” said Dr. Lewis Maharam, the medical director of the New York Road Runners Club, “it made us skeptical about his hip issue, thinking it could be steroid-related. It is not. Avascular necrosis of the femoral head is linked to steroids and sometimes described by the lay public as a cyst. This is not what he has.”
Meanwhile, two former players have come out with their own personal tales of steroid woes. The first one is an anonymous pitcher who details his use in this Philadelphia Daily News story by Paul Hagen:
…. He was, he said, largely unaware of steroids when he signed his first professional contract. Of course, back then his fastball was consistently in the mid-90s and he could throw it effortlessly and without pain.
That was before the elbow operations. Still, he persevered. He worked his way through the minors. He said he still knew little about performance-enhancing substances. He reached the majors and began to have some success. Then he began to have more problems with his elbow and shoulder and faced further surgery. He worried that he might not make the team the following spring. He began looking for ways to recover more quickly.
“I felt pressure that I put on myself,” he says. “It wasn't external. When you struggle for a while, you realize that maybe your performance isn't up to par because you were playing through some injuries. But the bottom line is, the performance wasn't that good. “I had surgery right after the season. And spring training was only 6 months away. So I was looking for something to help speed up that process, to try and regain my health as quickly as possible. Because I felt that pressure of having to perform and compete and throw the ball well right out of the gate or I was going to lose that job.
“I was supposed to be in my prime for a pitcher. But my physical skills deteriorated to the point where it was like, 'OK, I've got to address this or I'm not going to be able to play at this level.' ”
He began asking some of the veteran players if they had any suggestions. About this time, he also became acquainted with a guy who worked out at the same health club he went to during the offseason.
“He wasn't involved in baseball in any way, shape or form,” the ex-player says. “And just by looking at him, you knew he wasn't much of an athlete. He was a big guy who carried a lot of weight on him. Let's just say he was on the lumpy side and it was obvious he wasn't in the gym training for the next body-building event. “Over time we became friends, and as it turns out his work is focused on the health and fitness field,
as he had a master's degree in exercise science and nutrition. He ran a small practice out of a family doctor's office, where he counseled people on health and nutrition issues. He incorporated a lot of homeopathic and natural cures into his program, and I had become more interested in that.”
Eventually, he made an appointment. They talked at length about maintaining a healthy diet. And then the conversation moved to a different level.
“He started talking to me about growth hormone and anabolics,” the ex-pitcher says. “I was very ignorant about it at the time. But with this guy's educational background and experience, I really had a strong conviction that he understood what he was talking about. To my surprise, he talked about anabolics in a much more positive light than I had ever heard before.”
Well, of course that would be a surprise. The demonization of all drugs not endorsed for profit-making by the powers that be means that any information disseminated about them be made up of lies and distortions. We wouldn't want people to make informed choices when there's no money to be made.
And over the NY Daily News, Darryl Strawberry opened up his mouth and made headlines:
…. “Hell, yeah, I would have used (steroids). Are you kidding me?” Strawberry said as he kicked off a week as a guest instructor at Mets camp, during a defense of Alex Rodriguez. You know what, it's just the point of being in sports. In our nature we're competitive creatures. We have a tremendous drive and high tolerance and all of these things in us. I'm not saying that was the right thing to do, but if somebody asked me if I would have faced it, what would I have done if that was going on in the era of the '80s, it definitely probably would have been in my system, too. I probably would have been a part of it, too. And I wouldn't have denied it, because you guys know I don't deny anything.”
Refreshingly candid, although Darryl seems to have forgotten about his tougher times, when he did, in fact, deny a lot. But, hey, at least he's being honest, unlike Reggie Jackson, who clearly played in a time in which amphetamine use –at the least– was widespread throughout baseball; but Mr. Jackson wants us all to know that he's saddened by A-Rod's admission that he used PED's.
Yes, I'm sure Jackson never used anything to get an edge. I'm sure that during his whole career, he was a clean as the driven snow.
Here's an idea. If all of these sad ex-baseball players want to do something to help clean up the game, to end this charade, to make the stories be about baseball again, and not whether this guy or that used this or that; they should all come clean.
That's right, open your mouth, and have something come out that's worth listening to. Every living baseball player knows, absolutely knows that either he used something stronger than coffee, or he knows that most of his teammates did. If baseball's fraternity is so strong, then they should all line up together, and tell the fucking truth. They should all stand up and say something like this:
The truth is that elite athletes use anything and everything to gain an edge.
The truth is that if you're not in this world of elite athletic endeavor, you cannot understand, you cannot possibly fathom what goes on. You cannot come close to dealing with the pressures, the constant pain, the fear, and the rewards of an elite athlete. You cannot grasp what it's like to live the life of a superstar, nor can you really understand what it's like to be the 24th guy on the team.
We do. We're living it. We pay the prices, we reap the rewards, we make the decisions.
And then they'd ask the one question that ends any debate:
If you were told that you could take a drug that would earn you and your family millions of dollars, or even hundreds of millions of dollars, allowing you to reach the pinnacle of your dreams, would you use it?
If you were told that using this drug would enable you to stay in the game, after you started to notice you were on your way out if it, would you use it?
If you were good, but could be great, or even the best ever, would you use it?
No one could honestly answer that question unequivocally, either way. You couldn't say absolutely no, and you couldn't say absolutely yes.
You'd have to be there. And if you've never been there, and you still think you know the answer, all you're doing is yelling at the rain.zp8497586rq
…. Edgar Renteria
In my relentless criticism of the Edgar Renteria signing, I have been accused of worshipping home runs, ignoring cutting edge statistics, and forgetting how horrible shortstop was for the Giants last season. Hmmm….. Lemme see.
I like the work the boys over at Baseball Prospectus put out, so let's see what their projection system, PECOTA, says about Renteria:
It says that Renteria has an 8% chance of having a breakout season, a 29% chance of being better than last year, and a 36% chance of collapsing. It projects him at .280/.341/.410, with 8 home runs, and 60 runs scored and driven in. Upgrades for sure over last season's debacle, but overall, just 1.9 wins over replacement.
Another way of looking at it is to compare Renteria with another old shortstop.
In 2008, Rich Aurilia ran out a season line of .283/.332/.413, with 10 home runs, 52 RBI. and 33 runs scored in 440 at-bats, and being 1.3 wins above replacement.
For 2009, PECOTA projects Rich Aurilia to have about 250 at-bats, and to run out a .268/.323/.400 line, with counting stat rates that are almost identical.
In other words, PECOTA seems to be saying that the Giants could have just ran Aurilia out there every day, and they would have saved that $18 million, or better yet, used that money to land a player who could've made
a real difference.
Of course, no one is suggesting that Aurilia can handle the everyday chores of the toughest position on the diamond. I use him to illustrate the absurdity of suggesting that Renteria was worth this contract, or that his signing is somehow justified. It's not. It is money wasted.
Aurilia and Burris probably wouldn't have matched Renteria's performance, especially if he stays healthy, but the difference would've been negligible, certainly not the fifty runs to our final total that Giants Rain Man wants to believe. However, the $18 million could've been used to land Adam Dunn, who absolutely would've added fifty runs to the team's bottom line.
Although PECOTA only sees Dunn as worth 3 wins above replacement, remember that first base is an offensive position, and that the Giants, as a team, got the worst production in the league at the position. Dunn would add something like 30 home runs, 50 RBI and 50 runs scored to what the Giants got out of the position last year. And he was ignored by virtually every GM in the league, including our fearless leader, and signed for $11 million per, on a last place team.
That is the last I'm gonna say bout Renteria. Well, unless of course, he gets injured. Or completely tanks. Or hits like 30 home runs and wins the MVP Award and the comeback player of the year award.zp8497586rq
Orlando Cabrera just landed with the Oakland A's, signing a one-year deal worth $4 million, which could hardly be more illustrative of the difference between Billy Beane and Brian Sabean. Sabean makes moves out of desperation, acting hastily, and either ends up getting fleeced or overpaying for mediocrity; while Beane cannily outmaneuvers whoever he's dealing with, and waits for the exact moment when he can maximize his efforts and the team's success.
Looking at their last three seasons, the two shortstops are almost identical in terms of offensive production. Renteria has a slight edge in home runs, and OBP, while Cabrera has played in more games, and consequently accumulated more hits, runs and RBI. BP's VORP has Renteria at 10 and Cabrera at 18.8 for last season. In '07, Cabrera was at 28.8 and Renteria 48, and in '06, Renteria was at 38 and Cabrera at 28 again; so using VORP, it appears that Renteria has been more productive (96 total VORP over the last three seasons), albeit inconsistent, while Cabrera has been consistently average (77 total VORP for the last three seasons)
Of course, defensively, they're not so similar. Renteria has never turned 100 double plays in a season, while Cabrera has reached that mark six times, including each of the last three. Cabrera also has many more assists, putouts, and total chances, indicating that he gets to more balls, and turns more of them into outs. The Riffmasterpro Slow Down Software Bigger Better
gue_filter%5B0%5D=All&pos_filter%5B0%5D=6&Submit=Submit&orderBy=plays&direction=DESC&page=1″>Hardball Times defensive metrics indicate the Cabrera's better than Renteria across the board, and in some cases, quite a bit better.
In fact, looking at the two players side by side, it's hard to imagine how Renteria landed a two-year, $18 million dollar deal while Cabrera sat and twisted in the wind, until I remember who absolutely had to get a shortstop, right away, even though our primary need was a big bat. So, while the Giants did not address their number one priority this off-season, a big bat, they did fill a position that some would argue was already manned, or at the least, one that could have been filled by someone commanding a far smaller salary. Instead, they went out and got the far weaker defensive player out of the two 30-something shortstops available (remember, only grownups can be counted on to play well), and they paid four times as much to get him.
In fact, the Giants could have taken the $18 million they're burning in Renteria's honor and landed both Cabrera and Adam Dunn, which would have, again, actually contributed to the possibility of contending.
UPDATE: Even John Shea agrees with me:
…. With the A's agreeing to a contract with shortstop Orlando Cabrera, it's the Giants' move, and anything less than a Manny Ramirez purchase gives the clear edge to the A's in the competition to upgrade the most powerless offenses in the majors.
…. The A's have added 65 home runs and 241 RBIs (based on last year's numbers). The Giants have added 10 homers and 55 RBIs.