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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.