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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fishy Financing (and other bad Marlins puns) 12.07.11

Jeffrey Loria is a man, considered by many (at least these 60) to be slime.  The owner of the (now Miami) Marlins, he has a reputation across baseball, and most fans who have an opinion at all have a general distaste for the man.  Players & owners could not be reached for comment to confirm or deny general disgust within the game's inner circles, though there's no shortage of 'unofficial' or 'unconfirmed' reports.  None of that matters, though, honestly.  Some have come to dislike Dan Lozano in recent days.  Many loathe Scott Boras, and for the most part, you can't throw a dead cat in most major metropolitan cities without hitting at least half a dozen Steinbrenner haters.  I'm not a big fan of Loria, dating back to his days with the Expos, but that's neither here nor there.

Loria is a pursuer of fine art, and that's where his wealth stems from.  I imagine his home being filled with paintings by artists I've never heard of--the kind that the guys in Ocean's Eleven would stage some elaborate heist to steal.  Laser security systems and all that.  He now pursues the great living legend, Albert Pujols.

This comes on the heels of signing the biggest closer on the free agent market (arguably, that is.  The Phillies already sank $50MM into Papelbon.  Wow, Ruben, really?), Heath Bell for $27MM.  Then he signed former Mets shortstop, and young star, Jose Reyes to a 6 year, $106MM deal.  The Marlins' offer to Pujols is said to be 10 years, somewhere north of $200MM.  And there's little sign that Pujols would be the last deal of the Marlins off-season, if they net this year's free agent big fish.

According to Cot's, the Marlins Opening Day payroll has never exceeded $60.4MM, and that was in 2005.  Since then, it's been:

2006 - less than $15MM
2007 - $30.5MM
2008 - $21.8MM
2009 - $36.8MM
2010 - $47.4MM
2011 - $57.7MM
2012 - $A hundred eleventy ba-jillion dollars (projected)

I have a background in business, which includes economics as well as finance.  I understand that economic downturns have very little impact on the wealthy, so it stands to reason that the fine art industry is healthy and thriving.  But, I'm having a hard time understanding where all this money is coming from, and I've got some questions about the legitimacy of its source.

I get that new stadiums generate revenue.  Check that.  Fans coming to new stadiums and buying fancy-schmancy seats in luxury boxes generate revenue.  Revenue is maintained and becomes profit when instead of paying for your new stadium, local municipalities and taxpayers bear the financial burden.  But, the fans still have to buy tickets to generate revenue--there is no getting around that.  ...for the most part, anyway.

The last time the Marlins didn't rank dead last in the National League in attendance was 2005, six years ago.  They've ranked 13th or worse every year since 1997 (5th), including 1998, the year after they brought home the franchise's first-ever World Series!  'course, Loria held a fire sale, and dismantled the team before the champagne was even warm, so there was little to draw the fans to come back the next year.  Only twice in Marlin's history have they ever drawn more than 2 million, 1993, their inaugural season, and 1997.  It's been 15 years since the Marlins have drawn 2 million fans, including 1992, when attendance barely finished about 813,000.  Where in the WORLD is all this money coming from?!?  In my house, the kids save their allowance every week (and they've been saving for a long time) to have enough money for that one Wii game they really want. I don't think anyone would be surprised to learn that Loria has been stashing revenue sharing money, particularly in light of some leaked documents from a little while ago.  Maybe he's been saving up for those free agents that he really wants.  Who knows?  Maybe he figured that the grand opening of the new ballpark is the perfect time to unleash the funds from the past several years.

But I simply can't see how it's sustainable.

I get that the new fish tank has a roof.  No rainouts, hurricanes, unbearable south Florida heat and all that, sure.  But if you don't have butts in seats, you're going to have to sell  your Picasso collection to make up for it.  I believe that some fans would come out to see Jose Reyes, and more would come out to see Albert Pujols.  In 2012.  And maybe even 2013 and 2014.  But, I can't help but wonder about the long-term sustainability of Loria's "go after everyone and spend whatever it takes" mentality--it's irresponsible at best.

Perhaps this is why the Marlins, their executives, and their finances are currently under Federal Investigation.  The Securities & Exchange Commission is checking into the Marlins financing, and while no one has been convicted by a jury of peers or anything, rarely does the SEC open an investigation without good reason.

This might sound crazy, but I'm not convinced that most of this money is even really there.  (see: Madoff, Bernard)  Loria might just be trying to make a huge splash, and trying to win big in the "now"...and do so before Federal charges come his way.  "Win now, fire sale later" has never been a problem for him, which I suspect is why he is so stingy with no-trade clauses for player contracts--he wants to be able to dump salary once he decides it's time.  He may consider what he's doing a Robin Hood-like act, in that he believes he is inspiring baseball fans in south Florida, even if by questionable or illegal means.  After all, MLB stepped in and loaned the Dodgers money back in June, when it became apparent that Frank McCourt's dumb ass wasn't even going to be able to make payroll.  Perhaps Loria figures it's all worth it, even if it all comes crashing down in a couple years.

Could Loria just be setting up one last hurrah?  The 2012 Marlins are bringing some great things to the table: a big new revenue stream, beautiful new stadium, good-looking new roster, uniforms that...well...did I mention the beautiful new stadium?

More links about the Marlins' fishy financing:  (likely updates are available since the original posts below)




Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New GMGAGN contest: Win the 2011 World Series DVD------>

CONTEST EXTENDED UNTIL AT LEAST MONDAY (12.05), possibly until mid-week.  Get your entry in now for your chance to win--before it's too late!!

As an incredibly famous baseball blogger, throngs of major media outlets are constantly beating down my door for a few precious minutes of my time.  When the folks at the A&E network asked if I'd review their DVD (a MLB Production) of the 2011 World Series, I decided to have Jessica (my head personal assistant) rearrange my schedule to accommodate their request.  I rejected the first four productions, and they nearly scrapped the entire project, based solely on my disgust for the way Tony LaRussa was portrayed.

Ok, nothing in that paragraph is true.

Except that I was actually asked to review the official 2011 World Series DVD film, and write my review of it here.  The good news for you is that I'm also running a contest to win a free copy of said DVD, which includes an exclusive bonus disc of game 5 of the NLDS (the historic Carpenter/Halladay game).

In typical 'MLB Productions' fashion, the film is very well done and captivated my attention from the very beginning.  It opens with some of the most famous highlights and calls in World Series history.

"A long drive...if it stays fair..."

"Behind the bag!  It gets through Buckner!!"

"Touch 'em all, Joe!  You'll never hit a bigger home run in your life!"

"I don't believe what I just saw!"

The first fifteen minutes or so take us from Spring Training, and the Pujols contract/Wainwright injury drama through the ups & downs of the season, and into the postseason.  From there, the DVD really dives into the playoff run, and takes a real focus on the World Series.  There's such good insight provided by the mini interviews with players, managers...etc.

Whether you've got love or hatred (few fall in between) for Joe Buck, Tim McCarver, or other broadcasters (for me, it's TBS--I find it REALLY hard to listen to those guys call the games in the Division Series games), you'll be happy with the way this DVD turned out.  A fantastic mix of the calls from the TV guys, local radio guys, national radio guys...they really did a great job bringing in the voices behind the microphones to life throughout the film--it really enhances some of the more exciting moments!

One particular thing that jumped out at me, that the DVD showed, was a little glimpse into just how smart of a baseball player Albert Pujols is.  He talks about his expectations in an at-bat against Mike Gonzalez in Game 3.  Albert talks about how he remembered the way Gonzalez pitched him during his days in the National League, and expected heat.  Which he got.  And promptly deposited that pitch into the seats.  He also talks about knowing he was going to see a cutter later in a sequence in another at-bat.  Very insightful stuff!!

Trust me, if you're a fan of the game of baseball, you will love this DVD, for the historical reasons and all the significance surrounding what unfolded from August 25th through the end of October.  Unless you're a die hard Texas Rangers fan, and trust me, there's a part of me that (even as a Cardinals fan) agonizes with that fan base, you'll enjoy watching this over and over again.  This DVD needs to be in your collection!

And it can be.  You can click the banner and buy a copy (well worth every cent), you can click here, or you can enter the GMGAGN contest, and win a free copy!

So, you wanna win?  Of course you do.  Here's what you're gonna need to do:

Put on your hindsight goggles, and tell me what you'd be willing to do if you could go back in time, and attend game 6 of the 2011 World Series.  Arguably the most exciting World Series game ever played, what would you be willing to do if you could've been there?  Let's hear it.

Contest will run all week.  I'll shut it down Sunday evening sometime (12.04.11).  Honestly, I'm not going to put a hard & fast time as the deadline to have your submission in.  If you've waited until Sunday evening to submit it, it's safe to assume you're cutting it close.  Believe me, though, I'm not out to hose ya--I wish I had dozens of copies to give away--it's THAT good!

One entry per household, must be 18 or older and a resident of the United States, no takes-y backs-y, and I'm rubber, you're glue.

Ok, let's hear what ya got!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Contest Winner Announced

Ya know, I thought about writing a new blog, and dropping several kilograms of knowledge on you, by sharing my opinions about the upcoming trade deadline.  (Can you tell I think Toronto might be involved?)  But, then I realized that you probably aren't coming here for my thoughts and ideas about baseball.  You only care about whether or not you won the free Cardinals tickets.

*sniff, sniff*

At the very least, I'm going to make you scroll through some of the finalists before you learn whether or not it's you who will be taking a guest & sweating your [insert your choice of anatomy here] off at Busch Stadium next week.  Obviously, I can't post all of the submissions here, there's simply not enough time & space for them.  Some were actually quite clever, funny...etc, but had to be disqualified, as they didn't prove to be "valid & available".

So, in no particular order, here are a few of the submissions I thought you might enjoy:

One of my favorites, and the runner-up:

But, the one that I just HAD to go with, and award the figurative blue ribbon (and literal pair of Cardinals tickets) goes to this lovely gem:

Dude.  Seriously.  How can I not pick that one?

There's no way you had as much fun with this as I did, but I hope you at least got some enjoyment out of it.  I also hope you'll consider coming back from time to time, and check out my ramblings on the greatest game of all time.  I also write a weekly column over on i70baseball.com, so check out my work over there too, if you're so inclined.  Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

CONTEST: Win Cardinals Tickets

So, here’s the deal.  I’m a Cardinals fan, and like many of us, I happen live in Illinois.  Nevermind the fact that Busch Stadium is 25 minutes from my kitchen, it’s still Illinois.  Therefore I’m unable to show my passionate fanhood by having specialized Cardinals license plates.  So, I can’t have Cardinals plates that read things like “10 x Champs”, “Ten rings”, “STL > CHC”...etc on my vehicle.

I figure the next best thing would be to order specialized cubs tags, with something derogatory towards them pressed into the metal plate. (A plate likely to have been hammered out personally by one of my former Governors)

My license plates will soon be due for renewal, and I'd like to replace my current ones with some specialty cubs plates that are sure to make Cards fans grin, smile, or even laugh out loud (or make a cubs fan cry) when they see them in traffic. There are certain limitations as to what you can request, and there are certain letter/number combinations that are disallowed as well. I wanted "1908 LOL", for example, but it's not a valid combination. I'd hate to choose something only to chat with someone a week later and have them say "OH! You should've gotten ______", and live with regretting my choice. That's where you come in.

Here's the contest: Choose my next license plate. Come up with the best submission, and a pair of tickets to an upcoming Cardinals home game is yours, on me.

You'll need to go to the IL Secretary of State's pick-a-plate website, and highlight the SUV icon on the left side. Then choose "specialty", then "cubs", and you're off to the races. There's a difference between "vanity" & "personalized", so pay close attention.

Best submission (determined solely by me) wins. Enter as many times as you like-just know that in the event of duplicate submissions, I will be forced to come up with some ridiculous tiebreaker that will mostly serve the purpose of self-amusement.

Ok, here's what you need to do:

  • Go to the website & make sure the plate you want to submit is both valid & available.
  • Take a screenshot of your plate with confirmation that it's both valid & available. (If you're unsure how to take a screenshot, check these out.)
  • Save the screenshot(s) as a picture(s), and email it to: Dathan@SportsVacationGuys.com
  • Wait.

The contest will end at the conclusion of the MLB All-Star game on July 12. The winner will be notified via email shortly thereafter, and announced on this blog within a few days. If there are enough entries, I may also toss in a runner-up prize as consolation.

What are you waiting for? Get started now!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Leagues, Divisions, Schedules, Teams, Interleague...etc

I've read a blog or two in recent weeks, and this morning a discussion sparked up on twitter that I am particularly fond of discussing.  Not because I think I have all the right answers, or even have a couple of the right answers--I think the topic is an awful lot of fun to discuss.  So, I'm hopeful that we can engage in a fuller, more-than-140-at-a-time, fun, educated, informed (...etc) discussion about...

My friend Tom at @CardinalsGM tweeted the following, which summarizes greatly what I'm hopeful we can discuss here via comments, "Both leagues and divisions should have equal number of teams. This is a no-brainer, and foundational to fairness." & also said he'd "cut 2 teams, return to 2 division in each league, & free a team to relocate to NYC". 

I came across a blog over at redbirdrants.com (if you're not familiar, you should definitely check it out!) that had this particular thread going.

So, leave your comments below.  Link to other articles on this topic, or just let your opinions fly...this should be a really good time!  I'll start by addressing this morning's tweets, and the redbirdrants blog fits in nicely along the way.

My comments this morning on twitter were pretty much along the lines of:

You'd have to add 2 teams in the AL for it to happen, as taking 2 from the NL would never fly with MLB owners.  Another tough sell would be eliminating a playoff round (as @CardsChic mentions), MLB is currently talking about adding a round (ka-ching), so it seems the ship has already sailed...in the opposite direction.  While certainly not perfect, there are plenty of things to be said about unbalanced leagues & divisions.

What say you?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

UCB Progressive Game Blog: MIL @ STL 05.07.11 - bot 8

This blog was written as part of a United Cardinals Bloggers project, the "Progressive Game Blog".  My responsibility was to write about the Cardinals half (bottom) of the 8th inning of the game on Saturday, May 7 vs. MIL.

Double.  D.

What else really can be said about the bottom of the 8th?  Thanks to a base hit up the middle by Daniel Descalso, Yovani Gallardo was unable to extend what, up to that point, had been 7 innings of no-hit baseball.  Descalso's single would prove to be the only hit the Cardinals could come up with in Saturday's 4-0 loss to the Brewers.  I suppose the take-away today is that "at least we weren't no-hit".

Insanely, Jamie Garcia came close to throwing a perfect game against this Milwaukee ballclub the night before, and while Gallardo was carrying a no-no into the 8th against the Cardinals today, Justin Verlander did the same, only finished his no-hit bid, against the Toronto Bluejays.  Outstanding performances all the way around!  Crazy how good the pitching has been the last two nights in St. Louis on both sides--Kyle Lohse takes a REALLY tough loss today, after a phenomenal performance, giving up only one run in 8 innings.  Mama said there'd be days like this.

The Cardinals scored six runs on Friday night, but went hitless after the 4th inning of that contest.  The drought extended through the first 7 on Saturday, making for eleven consecutive innings without a hit--hardly a recipe for winning under any circumstances.  Though, I suppose the silver lining is that those eleven innings were spread out over two games.  (Not exactly the same thing as a Jimmy Rollins hitting streak, but I'll take it)

So, in a nutshell, here's what the bottom of the 8th looked like...

Descalso singled on the 3rd pitch he saw, breaking up Yovani Gallardo's no-hitter.  Then, Tyler Greene stepped in, and in between a couple of pickoff attempts, worked the count to 3-0 before bunting foul to strikeout.  Gotta execute there.  Given that Greene couldn't move the runner over, TLR decided to pinch hit John Jay for Lohse (who, at 107 pitches was likely done for the day anyway, given what the Cardinals lineup had done up to that point in the day).  Jay grounded the ball to Rickie Weeks at 2B (and broke his bat doing so, if I recall), who took the fielder's choice, and got the lead runner, Descalso, out at 2B.  So, with two outs & Jay on 1B, Nick Punto dug into the box.  He took a ball, then swung at the next pitch he saw, flying out to LF, Ryan Braun to end the 8th.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A look ahead at the 2011 American League

This article was written as part of a project for the United Cardinal Bloggers.  Check out more great articles, including other AL predictions at www.unitedcardinalbloggers.com.

I'll refrain from a lot of detail, but as I look ahead at the 2011 American League, I've formed some opinions.  What's that you say, you'd like to read them?  Well, be my guest...

AL East:

BOS wins the ALE, because they're just stacked with offense, in the most offensively-driven division (league) in baseball...not to mention very good pitching, and a solid manager in Terry Francona.  I really think they are the class of the East this year, and I expect them to win without a whole lot of exciting games (race-wise) in September.  NYY doesn't have the pitching in my opinion, to keep themselves in the race, and unless they pull off a big deal, I don't see them making a run.  TB has something like 12 of the first 87 draft picks this summer, so while this year may not be great (I think they can compete, but doubtful they make the postseason--having Manny around a bunch of young players on a team that's not in first place gives me pause), the next year or two is when TB is much better positioned to make another run at the title.   TOR's situation intrigues me.  Cito is gone, which is a huge loss to the club, and Anthopolous moved Wells and his big contract.  But, right after that, he inked Bautista to a big contract.  First year under new management, aside from the obvious challenges of playing in the ALE...they're not in the conversation for winning this division.  BAL?  Now these guys are gonna be exciting to watch!  Just look at their depth chart and you might find a few surprises.  More familiar names than you've seen in Baltimore in quite some time--you may have forgotten they acquired that player, or perhaps didn't realize they signed that guy.  Add it all up, and let Buck Showalter call the shots in his first full season at the helm, and these guys should really start to draw the crowds again.  Obviously, I don't expect them to be a contender, but it's a step in the right direction, getting some sticks to protect Markakis, Wieters, and some of the other kids that had been exposed in that lineup to this point.  Vladdy, D. Lee, Reynolds now in the mix...it looks like this great historical franchise is once again headed in the right direction.  PIT & KC could learn something from them.

AL West:

LAA is my call here, as I expect them to score a lot of runs.  I'm looking forward to checking back on this post in October to see how badly they outscored the rest of the division--I'm NOT expecting it to be close.  Morales is back & now Vernon Wells has been added to the mix, this has the potential to be a dangerous lineup.  With Weaver, who is quote possibly the most overlooked, underrated pitcher in the game today, leading that rotation, they're going to be in just about every game.  I don't get too high on prospects until they show me what they can do at the big league level, but Trout appears to be the real deal, many baseball people saying they'd choose him over Harper, given the choice.  Oh yeah, then on top of it all, you've the brilliant Mike Scioscia running the ballclub.  With money to spend in July if need be, I'm of the opinion that defending AL Champion Rangers or not, the Angels are the team to beat in the West this year.  I say that because SEA sucks, and everybody knows it.  Other than King Felix putting on a clinic every 5th day, and a possible "Ken Griffey Jr. Day" sometime in July, there's not much to get excited about if you're a Mariners fan.  OAK won't win because of low run production.  Their pitching could be absolutely sick, though--possibly the best staff in the ALW, and with the good news on Bailey's arm, they might even be able to close out games if they find themselves with a late lead.  TEX?  I don't know WHAT to make of what's going on down there!  I'm trying to keep everything in perspective by reminding myself that they just bought that team in August.  But, as much as I want to believe that having Nolan Ryan in charge can only be good for a ballclub, I can't help but wonder.  Greenberg's departure earlier this month, they missed out on Lee, and then they spent that [Cliff Lee] money doing two things at once: Acquiring Beltre & pissing off the franchise player.  There just seems to be an awful lot of internal turmoil down there, and sooner or later that stuff ALWAYS finds its way onto the field.  Or maybe it's just that they're still getting things set up the way they want down there, and in this age of internet access, blogs, satellite radio...etc, we just hear more about it than we have in the past.  Either way, "CJ Wilson is your Opening Day starter" last week has turned into "Colby Lewis is your Opening Day starter", and now back to Wilson...either way, that just doesn't quite do it for me.

AL Central:

The ALC could be the best division to watch for a race all year long.  I'm talking every...single...day could have more than one team sharing first place!  MIN could win it--their staff and lineup, should it include a healthy Morneau (which I'm skeptical about), could certainly be a legitimate contender.  These guys are right there every year, and are starting to build some postseason experience, even if most of it has been being swept by NYY.  DET could also win--they're young enough, they have Miggy & VMart to help lead the offense, and that's formidable.  Their rotation isn't as deep as they'd probably like (whose is?), but if Scherzer emerges as a legit #2 guy, things could work out.   CWS could win too--these guys have pitching.  Even if Peavy, who had looked good until the recent shoulder setback, doesn't return to his old self, they're not in bad shape.  Remember the pitching the 2005 World Series?  Konerko is back, and the Big Donkey is gonna mash in that park--NO reason why he doesn't hit 40 bombs & drive in 125 this year, the Sox are legit.  CLE & KC aren't in the discussion yet again this year--just keepin' it real.   I expect a very close race in the ALC this year, and would not be the least bit surprised to see game #163 played in that division again this year.  As much as I like DET & MIN, I have to pick CWS as the team that ends the season on top in the Central, though it's a tough call to make.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A power shift in MLB? Maybe so.

Are the scales starting to tip in favor of the players?

   I've heard people say that they don't like to watch baseball because "it's boring".  If this is you, please locate the little red "X" in the upper right-hand corner of this browser window.  You may want to click it to close this out if you think watching baseball is boring, because I'm about to talk about how exciting this OFFSEASON was.

   Here's a fun fact for you: Did you know that every episode of the 90's sitcom "Friends" was officially titled "The one where _________".  As in, "The one where Ross discusses the element of surprise", for example.  I think it's pretty safe to say that, when talking about the 2010-2011 MLB offseason, it could be titled, "The one with Cliff Lee".  For weeks and weeks, everyone speculated between the offers he'd field from the Rangers and the Yankees.  National headlines were all, "John Daniels got on a plane and went to Arkansas".  Then other national headlines were like,  "Oh, yeah?  So did Cashman, so there."  Debates & "leaked offers" were the talk of baseball, trying to decode language and see if either team would offer Lee that elusive 7th year in their contract offer, remember?

   Anyway, turns out the whole thing was for naught.  Lee signed a deal to go [back] to Philadelphia for less total money, AND fewer guaranteed years.  WHAT?!  Yes!  Then, Lance Berkman signed a 1-year $8M deal with the Cardinals, turning down as much as $10M from at least one other club, according to sources.  Shortly thereafter, Jim Thome inked a deal for (you guessed it) less money to return to Target Field, and play for the twins again in 2011.

   These are three big names in the game, one of which was the biggest free agent on the market during this offseason.  The other two, while no longer superstars, are among the better-known names in the game, and certainly had a market this past winter.  My point is that unlike in the past, we saw players accepting offers of less money and/or fewer guaranteed years in order to play for the team they most desired.

   I asked John Mozeliak what his thoughts were on this seeming "shift of power, away from the agents & organizations, and back towards the players".  He conceded that it was interesting to say the very least, and has certainly raised some eyebrows, but said that at the end of the day, the decision always does (and has) rested with the player.  Then he went on to point out that the "deals like Werth & Crawford are the ones that move the needle".

   An excellent point was made by someone on the MLBNetwork (can't recall who said it), speaking about the Cliff Lee deal, though it applies everywhere:  The difference between $5 million and $25 million is a lot--It's a difference that changes your lifestyle.  $5M is a lot of money, but you can't live like you could if you had $25M.  Now multiply that by 5, 6 or 7 (years of a contract), and the difference adds up in a hurry!  Imagine the difference in lifestyle a person would have if rather than earning $30M over a six-year span, they earned $150M--an extra $120M makes a tremendous difference!  But, the difference between $120M and $132M (one offer reportedly made by the Yankees for the services of Cliff Lee) isn't all that much.  Sure, $12M is a lot of money, but it isn't enough, at that dollar level, to impact a person's lifestyle, and that's the key--the lifestyle.  It's not like a guy can finally *now* afford to buy that exotic car that had been out of his price range until now, or build that mansion, or vacation in Dubai...etc. with $132M, but he couldn't have afforded it with the paltry $120M.  There's no change in lifestyle, and I believe that is what's driving this shift of power.  Put another way, "This isn't your father's twelve million dollars".

   Let me break it down for you like this: Say I walk into McDonald's.  There are a number of lines from which I could place my order.  There are only 4 items on the menu--all slightly different-sized packages of chicken McNuggets.  There's a 45,000-pack, a 41,500-pack, a 46,000-pack, and a 43,750-pack.  In any case, I'm gonna end up with more chicken McNuggets than I could ever realistically eat.  So, the only real decision to make is: which line do I want to order from?  Well, there are considerations to be made...do I choose the shortest line?  The line with the cutest girl taking orders?  The one closest to the drink machine, or some other factor?  Maybe my decision-making process includes a variety of factors, some of which include what I've mentioned, maybe others of which based on things not mentioned here.  At the end of the day, I'll never be able to eat all those McNuggets, no matter which "pack" I get.  Understanding that, I no longer prioritize "how many McNuggets am I going to get today?" as my number one consideration, and other factors begin to rise to the upper echelons of my order of prioritizing what's important.

   I believe we've reached somewhat of a plateau in baseball, and players are becoming increasingly willing to leave money on the table if it means they can enjoy some of the other things that they deem important when deciding where to play.  In the years to come, this could really help level the playing field far more than any luxury tax, salary cap, or even a salary floor.  Think about the days before television revenue became such a factor in baseball: Most teams were in pretty much the same boat.  I think it's plausible to think that we just may be headed back in that direction sooner rather than later.  Imagine it, competitive balance across most of baseball, and living in a world where the athletes consider factors other than money when deciding where they want to play.  A game where the playing field is more level, and teams finances play a less important role in where a player chooses to sign?  I'm lovin' it!

Friday, January 28, 2011

5 Headlines from the future ('11 MLB season)

   I once heard it said that the definition of "an economist" is "a person who predicts what will happen in the near future, then 30 days later, tells you precisely why it didn't happen.".  So, color me purple & call me Greenspan--here are my predictions for 5 headlines I expect (not necessarily hope) to see between now & the end of the 2011 World Series:

  • Right field wrong?
    • Cards lose 5-4 in 11 innings
  Franklin "blows a save" in extras on a ball that could've/should've/would've been caught by Berkman in right.  I like having Puma's bat in the lineup from both sides of the plate, but to say I'm less than confident in the Cardinals' defense this year is simply not emphatic enough.  Pitching & defense win championships, and my fear is that we've only got half of that recipe right.  (Btw, that goes for more than just RF.)

  • The "I"s of the Rangers are upon you
    • American League West division-leading Texas sends entire infield to Arizona for the 2011 All-Star game
   Ok, not the entire infield--Moreland isn't going to out-popularity-contest-score the big names that occupy first base across the AL.  But, with Beltre, Andrus, Kinsler, & Moreland on the diamond in Arlington, and oh yeah, Michael Young as a defensively versatile DH, these guys are for real!  Measure a team not by who they are, but by who they are compared to their competition.  Seattle's struggles will continue in 2011--even Harold Reynolds has to admit that.  Oakland has a lot of promising young arms coming up this year (remnant of Zito-Mulder-Hudson ten years ago), but as a team, they aren't "there yet".  The Angels are the only other team to really consider as competition in that division.  With Morales back this year (another AL 1B that Moreland won't garner more ASG votes than...not even sure what the over/under is on Derrek Lee), and the addition of Vernon Wells from TOR, this offense will be hard to stop, other than that, the team made surprisingly few off-season moves.  So, other than offensively, they're largely the same team they were in 2010...which watched the Rangers run away with things.

  • Halladay wins 20th, Lee with 16
    • Doc defeats Greinke, notches 4th 20-win season
   This is the headline on September 10th, after PHI wins @ MIL.  And I'm more using this headline to demonstrate my opinion on the 1 & 2 (reasoning why I'm not so sure they should start back-to-back is for another day) in the PHI starting rotation--which is to say Doc is gonna be Doc & Cliff Lee is an absolute stud...but, he's no Roy Halladay.  Doc has won 15 or more games 7 times, including the last 5 years in a row (4 of those years in the AL East).  Lee has two, the last coming in '08 (AL Central).  Both guys are no-doubt innings eaters, but Doc has 220 or more IP for the past 5 straight years & 7 times total (career high 266 in '03), Lee's done it twice ('08 & '09).  Both are incredible K/BB & control guys, and will certainly be factors all season long (think Spahn & Sain) for the entire National League.

  • Ejections, suspensions & fines
    • Cards, Reds renew rivalry
The *gulp* NL Central division champion Cincinnati Reds come to St. Louis for the first time of the 2011 season on April 22.  My projections have Carp pitching the next day (Sat, 23rd) provided the rotation is Carp-Waino-Garcia-Westbrook-5.  If the blood doesn't boil over on Friday night, things could get wild around 12:11pm on Saturday.  This rivalry has become the perfect storm between two teams.  Forget the cubs rivalry--that one is never going anywhere.  This is on a whole new level...several levels, in fact.
   Consider the rosters: double-digit figures of men who play for one team that were once on the other team.  Now add in the mouthy comments of Brandon Phillips (probably unknowingly) dogging current, former & soon-to-be teammates as well as the Cardinals.  You've taken a crazy situation, and thrown in some "bad".  Now, toss in some Cueto/LaRue "metal spikes to the face" action, and things get ugly in a hurry--we've gone from "bad" to "worse".  But wait, there's more...
No, seriously.   Wait.   There IS more!

   Let's talk management.  There is NO LOVE LOST between Tony LaRussa & Dusty Baker.  None.  At all.  Dusty Baker wouldn't know how to manage a ballclub if a Connie Mack-authored instruction manual came in toothpick form!  A lot of people believe he is to blame for ruining the young arms of young players with ridiculous potential like Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, & Aroldis Chapm...oh, wait--he hasn't done that yet.
   But that aside, Baker's track record includes 10 years with the Giants, and 1 NL pennant--They lost the WS to ANA (LAA) in '02 for the only time the Angels have ever appeared in a postseason series beyond the first round.  Since 1961, the Angels had NEVER won a postseason series (losing & eliminated in the first round in 1979, '82, & '86), and while I give due credit to Mike Scioscia, I can't deny Baker's involvement in the loss.  He was at the helm for the cubs in the Bartman meltdown series.
   As much as it gives me pleasure, I won't re-hash the whole scenario.  However, you must remember that 5 outs away from taking the cubs to the WS, things happened...Bartman, Alou's loose-cannon reaction, Gonzalez & the should've-been double play...etc, etc.  What did that game have in common with Bill Buckner's infamous error at 1B in the '86 World Series and the Denkinger blown call at 1B in the '85 World Series?  All three things occured in GAME SIX, and NONE of those series ended in six games.  As a manager, you've got to get your team mentally prepared to move beyond what took place (Bartman, Bucker, or Denkinger), and Dusty couldn't do it in '03 with the cubs.  Just like he couldn't do it in '02 with the Giants, just like he got swept (including no-hit for only the 2nd time in MLB postseason hstory) in the 2010 playoffs with the Reds.  So, there's that.  It's official: We've gone from "bad" to "worse" to "that's just ridiculous".
   But we're not finished yet.  Walt Jocketty was the former GM of the Cardinals, and when things started to change internally between the "Jocketty side" and the "Jeff Luhnow" side, Walt was asked to leave....by the DeWitts...who have a home Cincinnati, and have many socioeconomic ties to that city.  One of the first interview questions John Mozeliak was asked when he took over at the helm was something along the lines of 'Are you worried about adjusting to your new role as GM?' to which he responded something like, "Well, I've pretty much been doing all the work for the last several years, so it's not really a change for me, other than the title.".  Dude.  I'm *telling* you--this thing goes deeper than just Phillips & Yadi.

  • MLB to implement big changes for 2012 season
    • Playoff format, instant replay among major differences
   It's coming, folks.  Love it, hate it, or somewhere in-between, these things are going to happen.  Adding a team to the playoff structure adds revenue--no owner is going to vote against that.  The idea of a 1-game playoff for a 2nd wildcard spot isn't enough additional "labor" for the player's union to really railroad the idea.  And while my personal opinion is that it has the potential to create more problems than it "fixes", I can't argue that it would add to the excitement level of September/October [November?] baseball!
   Instant replay is much trickier to address.  I think most baseball fans agree on the premise: We want to get the call right.  Everything after that is complex, especially to a fan who is mostly traditionalist/purist, such as myself.  Do you have an off-the-field ump in a booth somewhere?  Will it be limited to postseason games only?  Does each team get an NFL-style "challenge flag" to use?  If so, how many per game?  Homeruns?  Out/Safe?  Fair/foul?  Catch/Trap?  If so, what do you do with the baserunners?
   If Colby Rasmus is on 2nd, and Yadi Molina is on 3rd with 1 out when Jake Westbrook hits an 'excuse me' popup down the line in shallow right, and Yadi goes halfway home...the ball is either caught or trapped (or is either fair or foul) and has to be reviewed.  If the initial call was foul (or caught), and the instant replay review shows it should be ruled fair (or trapped), is Yadi awarded home?  What about Colby?  Does Westbrook get first base?  What if there were 2 outs instead?  What if rather than Yadier Molina at third, it was Andrew McCutchen?  Does that change things?
   Very complex, this instant replay situation.  I think the general consensus/"big three" is/are that MLB: wants to get the calls right; the technology exists to accomplish that; but we don't want to disrupt the flow/pace of the game.  And I'm telling you, they're going to find a way to get it done.  Done right?  That remains to be seen.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

5 things about the 2011 Winter Warmup (pt 1)

Last weekend, I had the fortune of returning to the Cardinals Care Winter Warmup event.  I'd been to every one of these until I moved to Chicago back in 2003.  Upon moving back home to St. Louis, I just sort of never got around to making it a priority to get my WWU pass each year.

A lot has changed since the last time I attended this fan favorite event.  In an effort to share my experiences, I spent a good portion of my time there tweeting the experience from my perspective (Twitter: #WWU).  After taking several years off, I noticed a number of things had changed...here are 5 that come to mind:

1.  The hotel itself is bigger.

   Each room, however, is smaller.  Mo was scheduled for a 1-hour discussion at 11am on Saturday.  The room was so small that once noon rolled around, and everything wrapped up, they cleared the room out, filled it again with fans who were turned away the first time & did it all over again.  I didn't stick around for the encore, but the 11:00 show was SRO.

Cardinals GM, John Mozeliak

  At one point during the Q & A portion, a fan asked him about the liklihood/status/timeframe of avoiding arbitration with (the club's only eligible player) Kyle McClellan.  He responded by telling her,  "I'd hope that it's done in a couple hours."  About an hour & 45 minutes later, it was.

2.  Parking was a bit more of a PIA.

   Last time I was at the event, it was held at the Millennium hotel, directly across the street from Stadium East parking garage.  With entrance options from SB Broadway on the west side, and NB 4th street on the east side, Stadium East was a fantastic option for parking.  Park there now, and you're a couple blocks away--not bad, but not as close as before.  I should note that I did not take advantage of the hotel's valet parking offer for this year's event.

3.  Barry Weinberg either has 7 twin brothers, or is everywhere.

   I saw this guy on the escalator on Saturday.  Saw him again near the coat room on Sunday afternoon, and again outside the Millennium hotel Sunday night (with Bob Knight & others) following the STL BBWAA dinner.  He was like the Aaron Miles of the event--every time you turn around, there he was again!

4.  The event is bigger & far more commercialized than I remember it...and I loved it!

   The event has largely been taken over by vendor booths, and exhibits (folks who wanna sell you their stuff).  Let me be honest: I'm not a big fan of autographs, or buying up sports memorabilia (unless it's an authentic (Joel?) Pinrino autographed ball).
Seriously.  "Pinrino".  I can't make this stuff up!

   Seriously, I don't get into buying cards, seats, balls, pennants...etc, but when I can be (even a small) part of an event that raises nearly $1MM for a local charity, I can't not love that.  So, schlep all the Dennys Reyes & Scott Terry jerseys ya can, folks--it's for the kids!

5.   Joe Abernathy owes me 40 minutes of my life back.

   The Winter Warmup schedule told me that at 10:00am on Sunday, I could expect Joe Abernathy, VP of Stadium Operations, to tell me "What's new at Busch".  What I got instead was being on the wrong end of an agonizing 40 minutes of every last possible metric for how green Busch Stadium has become over the past few years.  Recycling programs, volunteer programs, how many tons of trash that USED to go to the landfill NOW go to saving the dolphins or whatever...etc.
"As you'll see re-using uneaten hot dog parts saves tens of thousands each season."

   The last 15-20 minutes actually unfolded as billed.  But it was too little, too late for me--the bitter taste of disappointment had already settled into my mouth.  It's difficult to see in the picture, but that's a graph depicting "Energy Reduction", for everyone in the room's viewing pleasure.  "Um, Joe?  Yeah, if the reduction of energy is decreasing, then doesn't that mean the use of energy is increasing??"

   Anyway, I did enjoy the 2011 WWU...just not as much as I'd enjoyed others in the past.  Perhaps my expectations had been set too high by previous experiences.  Now knowing what to expect going forward, perhaps I'll be better prepared for my 2012 experience.

**This is part one of my review on the Winter Warmup...check back for the rest, coming soon!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Live tweeting - TLR Roast/BBWAA Dinner - St. Louis

Just wanted to post a quick note to let you know that I'll be attending tonight's banquet, and will be doing some live tweeting from the event.  If you're interested, follow me on twitter, @Dathan7.  The event begins at 6:30pm CT.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Pujols Extension - Enough "two cents" & we can sign him!

One more month until Spring Training.


You probably hadn't heard, but Cardinals firstbaseman, Albert Pujols is nearing the end of his current contract.  I'll go ahead and take full credit for breaking the news.  You're welcome.

My education & employment background is in business.  Before my current employment, I spent about 7 years doing investments, financial planning for businesses, people...etc.  Time value of money?  Inflation?  I get it.  So, if I own the Cardinals & I'm looking at this Pujols extension investment (that's what it is, don't kid yourselves), here are some things I'm considering.

Albert has been in the league 10 years, there is no doubt in anyone's mind (including Heyman & Law) that if he retired today, he's a first-ballot HOF'er.  Take a look at these numbers:

.312 AVG
.561 SLG
.394 OBP
.955 OPS
32   HR
103 RBI
99   Runs
69  BB
93  K
9th in MVP voting
143 games

What you just read are numbers that I cherry-picked.  They are the WORST season numbers in each category of his ENTIRE CAREER!  Said another way, his worst K total was 93 (2001), worst total games played total 143 (2006)...etc.

So, like Bernie Miklasz says, sign him.  Pay him.  If you sign him to a 10-year/$300MM deal (highly unlikely, I'd add), and he does nothing but put up the kind of numbers you just read for 7 or 8 of those 10 years, your investment has paid off very very nicely.  If he has an "average...for Albert Pujols" type season here & there, even half the time--your investment has turned out to be extremely profitable.

Now, you may not be aware of the rule, but MLB prohibits contracts from including a bonus based on "playing, pitching, or batting skill". (Read @dgoold's recent piece for more detail)  Basically, the rules say that you can't give a player a bonus for batting .300 or winning 20 games in a season.  And like all good rules, there are certainly loopholes.  Relievers like Trevor Hoffman & Mo Rivera can't be bonused on "saves".  But to pay a bonus based on "games finished" doesn't violate any rules at all.

A-Rod's contract reportedly includes bonus potential for reaching "milestones", and there are 5 of them: HRs #660 (tying Mays), #714 (Ruth), #755 (Aaron), #762 (Bonds), and #763.  People are going to pack the stadiums night-in & night-out to see these events...that drives revenue, and A-Rod's contract assures that he'll get a part of that revenue.  If the Yankees are on a road trip to KC, and A-Rod has 761 career homeruns as the Yankees' plane lands at MCI, what do you think the chances are of the K selling out that series?  Exactly.  Remember the buzz leading up to when McGwire was going to break Maris' record, and hit #62?  Well, imagine that kind of excitement, only on steroi...ummm, yeah.  It would be a very exciting time.  *sing-songy "awkwarrrrrd"*

Am I saying to just write the guy a blank check, and do WHATEVER it takes to make Albert a "Cardinal for life"?  Of course not.  We can't give the guy a trillion dollars & expect to compete.  (Psssst, incase you hadn't noticed, we're gonna have to look at paying Carpenter AND Wainwright after 2012--I'll let you figure out what problems that creates)  What I am saying is that maybe, as Goold suggests in his article, that the Cards take a page out of the A-Rod book & structure an agreement along those lines.  I've heard the argument to give him part ownership of the ballclub--I understand that the CBA prohibits any active player from owning part of the team.  So, you simply say, "Play for us for the rest of your career, and when you retire, instead of a gold watch, we'll give you 3% stake in the organization"...or whatever.

My point is that, it would be pretty difficult to not come out ahead if you're DeWitt.  If Albert ends up with multiple injuries over the next several years, then, yeah, you got hosed.  Outside of that, you're golden, BD2.  So make it happen.

Monday, January 3, 2011


Found this lovely gem online. (Courtesy: EdgarsMom1@hotmail.com)

   Alexander Cartwright?  Abner Doubleday?  Al Gore?  Who invented baseball?  The answer is debated in various baseball circles.  From the PhD historians to Joe Paycheck, everyone has an opinion and a reason as to why they believe what they believe.  And while "who invented baseball" may not be the single-most hotly debated topic of our beloved game, it's worth noting that not everyone agrees on one answer.
   Part of what makes the off-season so much fun is the shift to "armchair GM-ing" as we watch teams make trades, release players, tender contracts, consider arbitration-eligible players...etc. "Rangers should've re-signed Vlad", "Yankees should've gone after Greinke", "Nationals made a huge mistake signing Werth to a deal like that", and all sorts of other second-guessing & debates pop up this time of year among hardcore baseball fans.  Add to that the fact that we're in the midst of this year's HOF voting, and baseball-related debates are a-plenty right now.

   Which brings me to my point...

   I'm a National League baseball kind of guy.  Perhaps it's because I was born & raised in a National League city (living a few years in a dual-league city), perhaps because I lean towards the 'purist/traditionalist' side of many things baseball, or perhaps it's because I'm a "follow the rules" kind of guy.  Maybe it's my love for the game within the game--the little nuances & strategic moves that a manger makes that leaves the casual fan scratching their head in a confounded fog.
   Whatever the reason, I prefer NL-style ball, and believe it to be superior.  Some people would argue that AL-style ball is better.  This is another debate that has lasted nearly 40 years since the "experiment" started in 1973.  One thing that is not debatable is the first rule in the official rules of MLB.  Page one, section one, line one, rule one--the VERY FIRST thing stated in the rules immediately dismisses the DH as a position.

1.01 Baseball is a game between two teams of nine players each, under direction of a manager, played on an enclosed field in accordance with these rules, under jurisdiction of one or more umpires.

  For this reason, Edgar Martinez does not belong in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  There is no arguing that his feats at the plate are impressive.  I understand that his career numbers of 300HR, 5002B, .300+BA, .400+OBP, and .500+SLG are only rare enough that they're shared by only Williams, Ruth, Gehrig, Musial, Hornsby, Manny, & Helton--impressive company, no doubt.  The difference is that the latter group played as "one of nine".
   Martinez played all 18 seasons of his career with Seattle.  But, only two of those seasons did he not DH in some capacity or another.  When you scroll down on his baseball-reference page, the "standard fielding" section looks like swiss cheese.  He accomplished many great things, don't get me wrong.  But if he'd have taken the field for 18 seasons (like all the other players in the aforementioned group), and played defense like you're supposed to, he'd be a no-doubter to get in.  The fact is: he didn't...so, he shouldn't.  How many HR would Bonds have hit if he didn't have to take his knees into the outfield every night (PEDs aside)?  How can you even compare Martinez to a class of players who played in an era when DH wasn't even an option?  Mantle had bad legs, which forced him into retirement...what if he would've DH'ed for another 7 or 8 years?  I just don't think it's right to let a guy who didn't even bring his glove to the stadium into the HOF, no matter what his name is, or how much he accomplished.