Sunday, December 23, 2007

Blockbuster Post

Y'know how Hollywood waits until X-mas to put out really big hits destined for Oscar contention? The same goes for baseball blogging. Flotsam Media just mocked up a great new stat called GRIT (General Requirements of Intangible Talent) and we all have some thanking to do. This is a new metric that will revolutionize mockery everywhere, and I'm tempted to petition Baseball Reference and Baseball Prospectus to add it to their data sets. (I'm dead serious).

Go take a look at this brilliant piece of work and thank the Gods for blogs (Steven A. Smith, Bill Conlin, and Murray Chass be damned).

Hat tip to the eternally excellent FJM.

Santana to Boston....maybe

More stupid Johan talk. Apparently, the Globe is reporting that the Red Sox will score Santana if the Yankees don't include Ian Kennedy in their deal, and soon. I laugh.

If Minnesota wants to take the Red Sox flotsam for Santana, congratulations. More power to you in Fenway. I think the Sox have finally crossed over into Steinbrenner territory and while there's no guarantee that the highest payroll in the sport is going to win you the Series, they are adopting our former ways. Great. They are the same as us. Makes for a more interesting rivalry.

I think it would be great to have Santana, but giving up more than we've offered is beyond insane. You don't need the best pitcher in the sport to win it all, as much as it helps. Having 3 top quality starters at bargain basement prices is more valuable to me and is more conducive to dynasty building, where Santana would be a win now deal.

Here's hoping that he's a Red Sox and that we beat his ass repeatedly.

Monday, December 17, 2007

60 Minutes

I missed the live airing of A-Rod on 60 Minutes last night, but I just finished watching the clips available at and I've come away with a few impressions.

First, A-Rod is very very controlled. This isn't new. We all know that he is extraordinarily image conscious. He was deliberate in his answers and tried to remain focused throughout the interview.

Second, he denied using PEDs of any kind. I don't believe he did, but it's irrelevant at this point. We'll never know who did and who didn't, so any successful player is open to scrutiny. I choose to believe him. The disingenuous remarks, to me, were his denial of direct knowledge of any player's use of PEDs. He was very "blinky" throughout his answer, and while I don't expect him to sell anyone out or admit to being a silent enabler of drug abuse, I find it hard to believe that ANY player alive didn't know what was going on, or see something suspicious. These guys spend way too much time together.

Third, Katie Couric has to be the worst interviewer in the history of television. She looks and sounds like someone on mood enhancing drugs and she was completely overmatched in that interview. She clearly has no functional knowledge of baseball or sports in general and sounded like a dimwit trying to ask A-Rod about his swing. I'm biased because I think she's one of the most egregious examples of news as entertainment there is, and that's one of my pet causes. She's vapid, cotton candy and has no place in a serious conversation of any kind. I picture her sitting on the floor with a chimpanzee playing marbles and cooing about how well the chimp uses his opposable thumbs. Giggle.

I wish someone like Charlie Rose had conducted the interview. Couldn't they at least get Ed Bradley?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Pettitte Speaks

Andy Pettitte made a statement today regarding his use of HGH. Here is the good majority of the AP article that is important to understanding this as a human issue.

"Andy Pettitte used human growth hormone to recover from an elbow injury in 2002, the "If what I did was an error in judgment on my part, I apologize," Pettitte said Saturday in a statement released by his agent. "I accept responsibility for those two days."

"In 2002 I was injured. I had heard that human growth hormone could promote faster healing for my elbow," Pettitte said in the statement released to The Associated Press by agent Randy Hendricks.

"I felt an obligation to get back to my team as soon as possible. For this reason, and only this reason, for two days I tried human growth hormone. Though it was not against baseball rules, I was not comfortable with what I was doing, so I stopped.

"This is it -- two days out of my life; two days out of my entire career, when I was injured and on the disabled list," he said. "I wasn't looking for an edge. I was looking to heal."

Pettitte was not linked to steroids in the report, and he emphasized he never had never used them.

"I have the utmost respect for baseball and have always tried to live my life in a way that would be honorable," he said. "If I have let down people that care about me, I am sorry, but I hope that you will listen to me carefully and understand that two days of perhaps bad judgment should not ruin a lifetime of hard work and dedication.

"I have tried to do things the right way my entire life, and, again, ask that you put those two days in the proper context. People that know me will know that what I say is true," he said.

I think this set of remarks shows that mistakes can be made that aren't related to overt cheating. Not everyone involved in this report was looking to affect on field performance or transform themselves into a hulking home run hitter or fireballing ace. It doesn't excuse Pettitte for violating the ethics of the sport, if not the law, but it does explain a lot. If we believe the connection of Roger Clemens to the allegations in the report, that's a different story. Clemens prolonged his career by years and earned tens of millions of dollars in doing so. He stayed on top of his form well beyond the shelf life of his body, due to prolonged cycles of drugs....again, if true.

If any one of us, under pressure to perform our work or schooling despite physical weariness or mental exhaustion, pop Adderall or load up on speed does that make us a pariah? If we do it once or twice and realize the error of our ways, does that mean we should be lumped in with serial abusers and cocaine addicts? There has to be some perspective beyond the whitewashing of Mitchell Report names as a clan of monsters. We, as fans, have to think more critically than many of us are to see the complexity of the issue and the variety of issues at stake. The media, for its part, should treat its news with similar sensitivity.

It makes me sick to see the Red Sox blogs loading up on this. Even FJM, for all its good work, is guilty of broadly condemning every name in the report without ever stopping to consider how accurate it is, or at what level each name is involved. Boston Dirt Dogs has an entertaining bent on the Sox and Yankees most of the time. They rib, and poke, and rub us the wrong way, but they generally stay above the filth of the fray. Not this time. They are almost reveling in the news that several Yankees were involved, without ever ONCE acknowledging that Mitchell is a Red Sox employee and did very little to specifically investigate the Red Sox. There may or may not be a manifestation of the apparent conflict of interest in the report, but regardless it is out there and is a part of this public discourse. Failing to acknowledge it while simultaneously taking liberties in the portrayal of Yankees in their gleeful treatment of the topic is classless.

I think it's unfortunate that Andy did what he did. I believe his version of the story, and I think there is room to put his story in perspective. He was honest about his involvement and owned up to the wrongness of his participation in this mess. It doesn't erase the past, but it does put it in perspective. Giambi for his part has taken a similar path, although never coming right out and spilling the beans. The difference between Pettitte and Giambi, and the reason that I still like Pettitte where I can't stand Giambi is that Andy made a short term mistake and reversed course. Giambi fueled an entire career and made 100s of millions of dollars by doping. He is bearing the effects of his doping today and is virtually useless to the team as a result.

The bashing of Pettitte and the public shame will never disappear as long as he shall live. It's over for Andy Pettitte. He's as big a stain on the landscape of baseball as Barry Bonds. That's due to the naming of names without appropriate context. Now that the context is here, it doesn't matter because the mythology is already established and the horse is out of the barn. If only the general public were a little smarter and a little better at thinking critically. That's too much too ask though. As long as people spend more time watching SportsCenter than they do reading books, that's the culture we have created. Alas.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lost in the Shuffle

Lost in the Mitchell Shuffle was the news that the Rangers released Akinori Otsuka. I believe they are on the verge of signing former Rakuten closer Kazuo Fukumori, so they drop one Japanese reliever in favor of another. The Yankees might want to think about Otsuka as a short term bullpen guy. He'll be 36 before the start of next season, and he's coming off an injury plagued 2007, but he's a gifted pitcher with a successful past.

Career, between San Diego and Texas, Otsuka posted a 2.44 ERA in 232 innings of relief. He saved 32 games for Texas in 2006 and sports a G/F ratio of 1.70 over 4 seasons. His strikeout rate has plummeted in recent years, but his G/F has simultaneously risen to almost 2.00 at the same time. He has held batters to a batting line of .222/.289/.311 career. His 2007 salary was $3 million, but you have to think he'd take less to pitch for the Yankees after his injury plagued year last season.

Offer him $2.5 million for one season and bring him in. You could do a lot worse in this market and what do you have to lose? Get on the phone Cashman.

The Mitchell Debacle

I've been chatting over at Bronx Banter today, and I realized that some of the things I had going there would make for a decent COH post on my feelings today. Here they are, unedited and strung together in a paragraph by paragraph format:

The interesting thing to me is not the content of the report but the existence of the report itself. For months and months the idea of the report as a transformative moment in the sport has permeated discussion. The idea that a bombshell was going to be dropped featuring some of the biggest stars in the sport was common referential context for the whole thing. What it ends up being is a mostly circumstantial, dimly lit path linking a few networks of players. The names are mostly those already suspected or known and the report is going to fizzle into the ether once pitchers and catchers report in February. The importance of the whole research and its place in baseball history is suspect and the hype that has accompanied any discussion of it for all these weeks and months is like everything else in the 24-hour news cycle: sketchy, fleeting trivia.

From the press conference: "Obviously, the players who illegally used performance enhancing substances are responsible for their actions. But they did not act in a vacuum. Everyone involved in baseball over the past two decades – Commissioners, club officials, the Players Association, and players – shares to some extent in the responsibility for the steroids era. There was a collective failure to recognize the problem as it emerged and to deal with it early on. As a result, an environment developed in which illegal use became widespread."

That quote is a perfect illustration of the political whitewashing that the report represents. It does what the 911 Commission did. It does what any politically motivated document does in the current media climate. It provides a catharsis for a societal crisis, perceived or real, by naming a few names, slapping a few wrists, and eventually blaming everyone and no one all at once. That's why I said that the existence of the report is more interesting than the content. It is less a piece of paper with information than a symbolic cleansing of the public palate. It's a facilitator of purgation that allows us to move on. That is the only importance of the document.

The idea is that the report's only value is in the purgative. It draws a picture based largely on filling in the gaps between legal evidence and pure hearsay by insinuation. If that's the best you can do, you should avoid naming names at all. From a legal perspective, I'd guess that the players have no recourse for slander, but from a purely ethical standpoint, with the knowledge that what is printed in the mass media becomes truth via repetition, it would be better to avoid names without hard, damning evidence. The discussion here about Pettitte illustrates that better than anything. Score another one for the corporate government media complex.

This whole thing feels like masturbation, only without the pleasure.

Would this report as a PUBLIC document still have served the same purpose had the names been "redacted"? As a private document, used only for MLB's internal debate on drugs, it may be instructive to have anecdotal evidence linking specific teams and players to the problem. As a PUBLIC document, the only value in naming names is to sexy up the issue for the 24-hour news cycle, blogs, and random water cooler chatter. If you have shaky legal evidence linking a player to this issue, then you have shaky grounds to try him in the court of public opinion as well. If I were the union, I'd make a HUGE HUGE stink over the naming of names on these grounds.

The problem with this report and its release to the public is that it produces a mythology about steroids and baseball in which the main characters are now set in stone. There was no legal basis for the naming of these names, but by mass-mediated communication the mythology becomes ubiquitous. If anyone has the stomach for reading Roland Barthes "Mythologies", he breaks down how the whole process of mythologization works. Wikipedia's entry on his book states, "Barthes refers to the tendency of socially constructed notions, narratives, and assumptions to become "naturalized" in the process, that is, taken unquestioningly as given within a particular culture." I would argue that this is what's happening to Clemens and Pettitte here. Particularly Pettitte. Bonds is a man with direct legal links to this issue. Giambi is also an admitted user, as is (apparently) Sheff. There are others. Pettitte has been linked by this report to performance enhancing drugs with only the most circumstantial evidence, if you can even call it evidence, yet he is lumped in with the legally damned. His name is all over the headlines today. Mass-mediated communication channels have now fueled the mythologization of Pettitte as a PED monster, and he will never be able to extricate himself from it. It's over. That's why the names should have been redacted for public use.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Japanese Free Agents

I posted a little update on the Japanese free agent crop at Baseball Japan. Headlining the post is the new Cubs' outfielder Kosuke Fukudome. A sneak peek:

Kosuke Fukudome - outfielder
Fukudome signed a 4-year deal worth 48 million with the Chicago Cubs. Those were the numbers I expected as well as the destination. For what it's worth Nate Silver at BP posted the following PECOTA for Fukudome, noting that the numbers are built on a truncated 2007's data. Bump the plate appearances by 100 or so and you get the idea that a 40 double, 20 home run season isn't out of the question. The .905 OPS also looks very nice.

465 80 30 4 15 58 70 94 9 3 .289 .401 .504 .303 29.2 4.4

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Matsui to Stay

Apologies to my good friends at BP, but I thought I'd cut and paste Hideki Matsui's numbers here to make a few points about the current rumors. If you'll notice below, Matsui's career batting line is .295/.371/.485 and in 2007, a year that was supposedly a disappointment, he put up basically those same numbers. How does a guy go from being a clutch, True Yankee, fan favorite to being an almost universally regarded has been? I would argue that people have lost their minds. In order to make this argument without being labeled a Japanese player PR man, which I have been from time to time in the past, I want to use these numbers and others to show why this possible trade is a bad idea.

Actual Batting Statistics

YEAR    G    AB    H  2B  3B  HR    R  RBI   SB   CS   SO   BB   GDP   BA   OBA    SLG
2003 163 623 179 42 1 16 82 106 2 2 86 63 25 .287 .353 .435
2004 162 584 174 34 2 31 109 108 3 0 103 88 11 .298 .390 .522
2005 162 629 192 45 3 23 108 116 2 2 78 63 16 .305 .367 .496
2006 50 172 52 9 0 8 32 29 1 0 23 27 7 .302 .393 .494
2007 143 547 156 28 4 25 100 103 4 2 73 73 9 .285 .367 .488

. 680 2555 753 158 10 103 431 462 12 6 363 314 68 .295 .371 .485

Advanced Batting Statistics

                           <---------ADJUSTED FOR SEASON----->
2003 452 92 .271 86 29 9 1 -12 0 3.3
2004 415 116 .306 107 55 36 -1 -12 0 5.9
2005 447 109 .293 104 47 26 9 -3 0 6.2
2006 122 32 .296 29 14 8 7 5 0 2.3
2007 403 98 .286 88 37 19 -1 -10 0 4.0

. 1839 446 .290 415 181 98 15 -32 0 21.7
Matsui's career EQA is a very respectable .290, and in 2007 he posted a 32.4 VORP and a 4.0 WARP1. Prior to the wrist injury, Matsui had a 43.8 VORP in 2005 and a 6.2 WARP1. If the level of play that you expect from Matsui is somewhere in between the two seasons, you'd have to get a pitcher like the 2007 A.J. Burnett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, or Andy Pettitte back in a deal. Sure Noah Lowry and Tim Lincecum were both of comparable value to Matsui last seasonby that system, but the Giants are not going to give up Lincecum in this deal and Lowry simply has no place on this team. Where does he fit? Which of our young guys is going to stay in AAA for Lowry?

The BP list of most comparable players features 1996's Paul O'Neill as it's best match. 1999's Larry Walker and Dave Justice are also on the list, as is 1986's Keith Hernandez. Matsui has more value as a DH for us right now than anything we can realistically expect to get back. He is a perfect guy for the situation he's in. In the context of the Yankees offense, he'll drive in 100 and score 100, while hitting .300 on the year. He's a solid and consistent performer that comes at a fairly economical price in 2008. Certainly, he's a better all around player than Damon, who has put up a .265 - .280 EQA for the Yankees and had a 3.5 WARP1 last year. His defense is actually worse than Matsui's in many respects and he is ill suited to the leadoff role that we ask him to play. Jeter should be up there.

If there's a guy that needs to be shipped out to cut salary and bring back a bullpen arm, it's Mike Mussina. In the NL he can still have an effective 2008, and the Phillies would probably love to have him. It just works. What can we get back from Philly, considering they have dealt with us in the past (Abreu/Lidle)? Maybe we can figure out how to get a guy like James Happ from the Phillies for Moose. Throw in a little money to offset the salary, and make a deal.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

ESPN =....

Entirely Sox Propaganda Network

This from Jayson "I Don't Have a Shred of Journalistic Integrity" Stark (emphasis mine):

"While Hank Steinbrenner set deadlines and publicly lusted after Johan Santana, the Red Sox just bided their time and stayed in the game.

And what do you know? As Monday night turned into Tuesday morning at the winter meetings, suddenly it was the Red Sox who loomed as the favorites to pull off a deal for the best pitcher in baseball."

....and this:

"But if the Red Sox wind up sweeping Santana out from under them -- and adding him to a rotation that already includes Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling and Daisuke Matsuzaka -- it will be fascinating to see if the Yankees feel the need to respond by reeling in another ace of their own.

'If the Red Sox get Santana," said an executive of one NL team that's grateful to be in the other league, "they might be the best team in the history of the frigging universe.'"

Is that the dumbest collection of sensationalism anyone's ever seen? If the situation was reversed, the Red Sox will have been the crafty and frugal club that is content to ride a team built to win the World Series. They have nothing to prove. And so on. The Yankees would be making a bold, but desperate move. Good thing the Red Sox are the geniuses they are, and know how to play dumb old Hank Steinbrenner by sweeping the rug out from under him and becoming the best team in the history of the frigging universe. Ugh.

Haren Similarity

So Johan Santana is really out of the mix. In a way, it's really too bad. Look at the top 5 similarity comparisons to Johan Santana at age 28:

1. Tim Hudson
2. Roy Oswalt
3. John Candelaria
4. Juan Pizarro
5. Bob Welch
6. Mike Mussina

I know. That's 6, but Moose was hanging out there and needed inclusion for reference. Overall similarity comparisons have Oswalt as the top overall match. The upside is that he would continue to be the dominant guy that Oswalt has been. Roy Halladay is somewhere on that list as well, as is Jake Peavy. Those are names you like to hear. The John Candelarias, Juan Pizarros, and Bob Welchs of the world are not what you are looking to spend prospects and a billion dollars to acquire. You develop those guys or pass on them in free agency.

Let's look at Danny Haren:

1. Oil Can Boyd
2. Brad Penny
3. Jim Lonborg
4. Joel Pineiro
5. Ben McDonald

The overall comparison isn't worth adding to this list, except to say that Bedard is there. Oil Can Boyd??? Brad Penny??? This is the perfect illustration of why you DO NOT EVER IN YOUR LIFE SPEND BIG ON FREE AGENT PITCHERS UNLESS YOU ARE DAMN SURE THEY ARE FIRST BALLOT HALL OF FAMERS. Ahem.

Trading away any of our top prospects for Haren is a sure fire way of making the Javier Vazquez mistake all over again. Jeff Weaver. Carl Pavano. Haren may be better than those guys, but I think the Big Three each have the potential to be ENORMOUSLY more talented than Haren. At worst, Kennedy should sniff that level. Why cave in on this situation. There has to be some organizational sense. With Pettitte and Wang fronting the rotation and Mussina holding down the back end, you can afford to watch the kids grow and see what they are. If you still want to trade them later because you think their value has peaked and there's something irresistible out there, do it. If not, you have a veritable pitching factory at your disposal in the minors now.

Ugh. Just say no.

No Deal?

As this has gone on, I've become more and more content with the idea of keeping our Big Three, as RAB calls them. I have been campaigning for Santana here for a fairly long time, but the idea that we have to break the prospect bank before we break the actual bank is silly. Santana is likely to toss a 140 ERA+ for a few more years, so the Red Sox can front their rotation with a couple of ace-caliber pitchers. That still guarantees nothing. It's not like we don't have excellent talent in the Big Three, and it comes cheaper, younger, and with less strings attached. By the time they are hitting their stride and posting ERA+ in the 100-teens to 130s, Betances, Brackman, Horne, Heredia, Sanchez, and others may be on their way up. That's the way we do things.

It's not to say that this drama is over. This kind of thing has a life of its own, and we could still see Hughes pack his bags for Santana. Whatever. At this point, I don't think we should make a deal for Bedard or Haren. If it means one of the Big Three, forget it. What's the point? Kennedy, generally considered the least of the three, is going to be as good as Bedard in a few years (if he's not close already), and Haren is no guarantee. He has inflated value based on his 2007, and Beane loves to operate this way. Sell High. Buy Low. If it ain't Santana, it ain't a Yankee.

Enjoy Lester or Ellsbury or Johnny Pawtucket, Minnesota. You had your chance and now it's over (hopefully).

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Fried Twinkies

The hot stove madness surrounding Santana, Boston, and our beloved Yankees has reached the point of absurd. Speculation abounds. Minute-by-minute "Santana Watch" vigils are being held on the internet with much of the same debate being conducted in comments sections and bulletin board everywhere.

Here's the way it looks.

Yankees offer Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera, and a mid-level prospect.
Red Sox offer Jon Lester, Coco Crisp, and mid-level prospects.
Dodgers may have made an offer of some kind.
Seattle and a handful of others are interested.

To my mind, unless Boston makes either Buchholz or Ellsbury available, our offer trumps theirs. If the Dodgers want to give away the farm, they can probably acquire him. If the Angels want to reverse their decade long trend of hanging onto their prospects, they can have him. Santana has a no trade, so he does get some say in his destination. This boils down to the Twins playing hard ass with everyone and demanding the moon. They have a young GM trying to show that he's the equal of anyone in the business, and a prime trade chip that comes along once a decade.

I am for acquiring Santana for Hughes and change. I always have been. I think it's a fair deal, and one that helps the Yankees win over the next 4-5 years. We have enough on the farm to absorb this and keep rolling strong. Joba, Kennedy, Horne, Betances, Brackman, Sanchez, Jairo Heredia, Clippard, etc....etc....and the draft keeps on rolling. If only one or two of those guys ends up in our rotation, it still works. Hughes is a symbol. A very high profile and important symbol to Yankee fans. Digging beneath the symbolic value of the player, there is also reason to believe he will be a very good pitcher. How good, how soon are the important questions.

Johnny Damon
Derek Jeter
Bobby Abreu
Alex Rodriguez
Jorge Posada
Hideki Matsui
Robinson Cano

Of that group, only Cano is young. The rest of those players are all set to decline in the near future, and many have already done so precipitously. Not to mention Giambi, who will be a ghost soon. The Yankees are built to win it soon. Fact is, they are still built to win it all multiple times soon, but not beyond three or four years. Johan Santana fits. He will probably give us a 140 ERA+ over that period. Will Phil Hughes? It's not impossible, but nothing is certain.

The sticking point to me is the Twins approach. They are doing everything exactly right from their position. So far, they are masterful. The thing is, we don't need Santana half as much as Jorge Posada said. If they are demanding the moon, and they should, we still have to consider the double jeopardy of prospects and salary. In terms of straight value here, players for players seems okay, but the addition of free agent money makes the deal almost prohibitive. Adding better players in the deal is idiotic and the Yankees should walk away. I'm not scared of Beckett, Santana, and Matsuzaka. That's an unbelievable rotation, but I'm high on our kids and I'm also high on the idea of Kennedy and change for Haren instead of Santana.

If the Twins don't get Buchholz or Ellsbury out of Boston, and we pull out of the thing, they hold onto Santana until the trade deadline. A desperate team will cave in at that point, possibly, although a kind of philosophical collusion could come into play where teams let Santana go to free agency and then blow him away. I expect he'll go into the season with the Twins and things will progress from there. This is all posturing and flexing by the teams involved, especially the Twins. Hughes was a step toward Minnesota in making a fair deal. The rest is excessive.

Final word. Wang, Hughes, Joba, Kennedy, Moose. That rotation is lacking in experience, and people are hemming and hawing about the Yankees lack of guaranteed quality. All the pundits out there are talking doomsday for the Bombers if they don't add a big name veteran. It's admittedly worrisome, but I also think it's overblown. The talent is unquestionable. Hughes will be as good as anyone we had last season. He already showed he is capable of big things. Joba is an ace in the making, if only injury stays away. Kennedy should be a solid #4 in this rotation. Certainly better than any #4 we had all year. Think about it. We made the playoffs with a shitty Clemens, shitty Moose, Igawa, White, Rasner, Karstens, and a host of other pretenders making starts. Hughes, Joba, and Kennedy are a gigantic upgrade. If a veteran guy is what we need to give innings or something, go for a Jon Lieber-type who can fill out the back end and save some young arms on occasion.

I still hope for Santana, but pox on the Twins if they think they can play us for fools in this negotiation. Good luck Boston. You can have him.