One Hundred Sixteen
Featuring Mariners-related rants, raves, and analysis.
Saturday, November 29, 2003
Well, the Schilling trade is going to happen. Schilling said of Epstein & Co.:
"They just have this deep-seated desire to hoist a World Series trophy in Boston."
Funny, nobody says that about our guys. This little vignette builds on Peter's post a week or so ago on the M's management philosophy--it's about filling seats, not winning games, specifically playoff games. The way to maximize the present value of a baseball team's cash flow may very well be to field a competitive team year after year, and avoid making any moves that harm future competitiveness, even if these moves could push you over the top in any one year. But as Thiel pointed out in September, baseball fans are driven by myths and emotions, and if you don't give the faithful a reason to keep looking for the grail, it won't matter that your clubhouse has really nice guys instead of jerks. What's the point of joining a church that measures its success in the collection plate? The "hiring nice guys who can do a press conference" thing is fine, but if the M's don't start showing they're committed to winning, many of the faithful, will, as they say, stay away in droves.
I know it's early to be drawing conclusions about management's will to win--the Schilling trade merely pushes the Ibanez signing to the number 2 spot this off-season for newsworthiness, and it will end up somewhere around fiftieth--but I hope management gives us a signal they believe in heaven sometime soon.
Monday, November 24, 2003
As baseball blogs everywhere scratch the bottom of the barrel for content, I'm reminded that the off-season is a great time to get immersed in baseball's incredibly rich literature. Below is a review I wrote for Amazon a few years back of what continues to be my favorite baseball book, Jules Tygiel's Past Time. It's a collection of brief essays on the impact of baseball on American history, and the reaction of baseball to different historical events. Here it is:
What a treat! Tygiel presents nine loosely-connected essays on various aspects of baseball and their interrelation with other aspects of American history and social change. With a historian's eye for detail and mind for interpretation, each chapter presents gems of insight that even serious students of baseball history will find intriguing. Tygiel's writing style, as befits a professor of history, is intelligent, literate, and persuasive, but never dry. The "short-story" format works well, and provides opportunity for reflection--although readers may have a hard time not just moving on to the next "inning." Reflecting Tygiel's academic background, the essays are impeccably researched and lavishly footnoted, with many primary sources cited. This book is a must for fans of baseball, and for fans of US history--for fans of both, buy the hardback, and reserve a place of honor for it on your bookshelf. You'll want to read it over again, for this book's only major drawback is the lack of extra innings.
My favorite chapter is the one about changes to the media. Before radio was widespread, many cities would post baseball scoreboards in their town squares. These would be updated via telegraph, and for big games would draw crowds in the tens of thousands. Remember that the next time ESPN is a little slow to load.
According to Amazon, the hardback is out of print, the paperback is about 10 bucks, and there are a bunch of used ones available. Tygiel also wrote the definitive history of Jackie Robinson in the majors, which I also recommend.
Friday, November 21, 2003
From the Lee Sinins newsletter, this has to be a first:
2) Yankees GM Brian Cashman says free agent RF Vladimir Guerrero's asking
price is too high for them to be interested.
I didn't think such a number existed.
Closer to home, I was thrilled to read at USS Mariner that Justin Leone was put on the 40-man roster. My sense is he was a late-bloomer type who needed an over-the-top performance to prove himself to management. His numbers from last season are here. 92 walks in 455 ABs. That's a 20% walk rate. Not Bonds-like, but pretty impressive.
Thursday, November 20, 2003
The Bavasi look-alike contest at USS Mariner has been cracking me up for two days now, especially the comment about how Peter Garrett has talent. Here's a new candidate: Yes, new Mariner and league-average OF Raul Ibanez! Theory #4: Bavasi thinks Ibanez looks like he did 10 years ago, and likes that. Is there a list somewhere of bald goateed oblong-headed veteran free agents with good "clubhouse presence"? If so, meet your 2004 Seattle Mariners.
It's nice we can laugh about this stuff. But it's only masking the pain.
A video of the press conference, where you can the new buddies side-by-side, is on the front page of the M's MLB page. (Requires RealVirus)
I like Raul, and if his role were off-the-bench-lefty, occasionally-rest-the-other-OFs-and-even-Olerud, and if we signed him after the arb deadline so it didn't cost us a draft pick, and if he signed a two-year, $4 or $5 million deal, I'd be quite pleased.
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
I've been racking my brain (not to mention the stats server at ESPN) trying to figure out the Raul deal. He's no better than Winn by almost any measure. The reported contract is for $13M over 3 years ($4.33 per), a nice raise from $3M last year, especially since there are a bunch of league-average OFs on the market right now. Rest for Olerud? Possibly, but they both suck against lefties. Improve the offense? Not. I have developed three theories:
1. Since Raul was hanging out with a few M's at Edgar's little party, and apparently had a good time, they decided he'd be a good clubhouse guy and would get along with the rest of the team. This is similar to the rationale for why the M's are overpaying for Dan Wilson.
2. Raul had a 1.811 OPS at Safeco last year, but nobody told Bavasi that 11 at-bats is not a sufficient size to project a whole season (DOH! insert sound of Bavasi's hand hitting forehead).
3. M's management carefully studies all M's blogs and then does just the opposite of what they're pulling for. I call on my fellow bloggers to demand that the M's cut payroll, increase beer prices, ignore Vlad, throw sacks of payroll cash at Matsui, and call John Mabry to beg for forgiveness.
By my calculation, the M's have about $25M of somewhat discretionary payroll. They just spent $4M of it and didn't improve the team. What's next, Bill? Make me happy.
"There would be a Safeco Field station and a single track along Third Avenue South, south of Safeco. "
Roger Angell's annual review of the post-season is up over at the New Yorker. Stay with it; he gets back to the division series about halfway through.
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Looks like a couple of fellow M's bloggers didn't appreciate my post below, feeling that politics and baseball don't mix, etc. I'm afraid I must suggest that those who expect my commentary to be limited to OPS and the hot stove league should perhaps stop visiting. Like most of my readers, I am about more than baseball. I'll probably keep things at 95%+ baseball, as I have over the last two months. Just so you are warned, though, future posts may reflect my strong opinions regarding the politics of labor relations, public subsidies for private enterprises, whether the monorail should have a stop at Safeco, and the high prices of both beer and parking at my favorite ballpark.
There's a saying that bad facts lead to bad laws...and the Singer situation was certainly one bad set of facts. I think we can all agree on that.
Personally, I enjoy the News part of Bobby's Sports and News Blog quite a bit. I respect the decisions of those who want to keep their blogs 100% baseball. I hope they'll respect my decision as well.
I just deleted about two hundred words defending my post. Although the days when I truly enjoyed political arguments are behind me, if anybody really wants to keep this going (or even "blast this out of the water") my email link is on the right.
Singer did get canned today.
Monday, November 17, 2003
"Little" Matsui announced this morning that he's coming to America. I actually get to scoop USS Mariner on this one since I'm up early and Derek's network is down. Hoooo-weee!
But I'm glad Derek took the time to blast Bill Singer from the Mets for being an obnoxious racist jerk. It is almost inconceivable in this day and age that anyone can rise to a position of prominence with so few functioning brain cells. It is this kind of nonsense that gives rise to even worse solutions like hate crime legislation. Apparently the Mets will ask him to resign later today.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
If you don't do anything else productive today, go subscribe to Lee Sinin's daily baseball mailing list. Lots of trade rumors, often a day or two before the major media. Today's email has about 15 different rumors, which I will summarize as follows. (Clearing throat.) The Yankees are interested in everybody. There. Some other tidbits:
Vlad Guerrero has been rumor-linked to the Orioles, but Peter Angelos says he's not worth $16 million. If that's really the price, as much as I'd love his production, I hope the Mariners don't go there. One crash into the wall and there goes one-sixth of your payroll.
In other breaking news, the Mariners are reported to be interested in trading with...nobody. Yup, any doubts about Bavasi sharing Gillick's trading philosophy can be safely erased. Finnegan writes, quoting Bavasi:
"I'd love to be able to tell you I'm a trade guy," Bavasi said. "But I like young prospects, and I'm always afraid to move them."
Stand Bill? I guess we'll be leaving our bunch of #4 starter types in Tacoma for the entertainment of Raniers fans. Guys, you don't win any awards for having the best record in the minors! (Do you?) Maybe in some bizarre parallel universe you win an honorary World Series for having the best level-adjusted cumulative organization-wide pool of talent, but that's not the one I buy tickets to. Day three of the Bavasi era feels a lot like day 1,200 of the Gillick era. I'm still pulling for you Bill, but please don't make me look stupid for writing that.
And for the guy who visits using the Opera browser: Good for you. Like Citroen cars and climbing up steep hills on bikes, it's not for me, but I'm glad you exist.
For all the negativity around Gillick, the late-season collapse, and the skepticism about Bavasi, it may produce a moment of happiness if you remember that we are lucky to live in one of the best baseball cities in the world. If you are reading an obscure baseblog (I just made that up) like the humble One Hundred Sixteen, especially this far in advance of Spring Training, you, my friend, have a serious baseball obsession. Mine must be worse since it takes more effort to write this stuff than to read it.
Now imagine that you lived in Milwaukee, where the payroll is about to get cut from slightly less than half of ours to one-third of ours, which will probably result in trading their two best players and replacing them with guys who would be lucky to get out of San Antonio.
I attended a game at the old County Stadium in the early 90s and the fans were classic: BBQs and lots of locally-produced beverages in the parking lot. Cheap beer and food inside. A fight in the stands, and an usher watching with everyone else. Knowing when to cheer, even when there wasn't much to cheer about. Their fans deserve so much better than this.
Check out the Baseball News Blog if you haven't already (permanent link coming soon); not one of the four listed under "NL Central-MIL" even mentions the payroll cut. The fans must be numb.
(My new theory is that the more blogs follow a team, the greater karma and overall level of coolness it has.)
We are the "haves." We have one of the biggest payrolls, one of the best stadiums, and a solid and enthusiastic fan base. And way better owners than the Brewers. Enjoy this offseason; we have a lot to look forward to.
Sunday, November 09, 2003
I am pleased to announce a new link to the guys over at Sports and Bremertonians. Not just because of the plug, which I do appreciate, but because Chemical Tribe identified the most important thing to know about Bill Bavasi: forget Bone, this guy's a dead ringer for Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil. Peter is kind of a left-wing freak, but in a way that I think he wouldn't mind me saying that. I saw M.O. at the Showbox a year or so ago and it was a great show and you should go see them. Peter is a HUGE dude--at least 6'8"--and his mic hangs down from about 9 feet in the air and he screams up at it. Maybe that position helps his throat open or something. It looks kind of reptilian.
Way off track, I know, but more fun than all the current blogo-bitching about Mo Vaughn. If nothing else, maybe we can all agree that Bavasi is a better person for having made mistakes and, we can only hope, learned from them. The blog endorsed on the upper-right has seen one of the most reasonable postings about Bavasi I've seen, and one of the more unbalanced. Sounds like there are a lot of demons out there. Right when I started blogging, one of the old hands gave me some advice: "Decide right now that you're not going to care what anyone says or thinks about what you write. Write the blog you want to read." In blogging, as in life, a thick skin can save you a few scars.
Friday, November 07, 2003
Not to dwell too much on one aspect of Bavasi's career, but come on, signing Mo Vaughn had to look pretty good during the 98-99 offseason. Yes, there was lots of sniping with Red Sox management about his contract. Yes, he did a couple of dumb things like get a DWI (not convicted). But he was also A.L. MVP in 1995, and the fans loved Mo since he produced. Look at this. And this. And this. It's hard to argue that any $13.3 million/year contract, especially over six years, is a wise move, but without 20/20 hindsight regarding his injuries, I'd hardly call it indefensible given his numbers. I'd take a .963 OPS for $13M over a $9M closer any day.
Oh yeah, and this.
Wow. Lost my blogger account and just got it back. Others warned me that blogger is great, but it's free, and ultimately you get what you pay for.
So not much has happened in two weeks--only Edgar re-signing, four gold gloves awarded to the best defense in the majors, and yes, as of a few hours ago, a new GM*. I Googled far and wide for you, my faithful readers, to find more info on this Bavasi guy, particularly his management philosophy, to try to gauge my degree of disappointment that original thinkers like DePodesta apparently weren't given much of a look. Here's something:
Guys like outfielders Garret Anderson, Jim Edmonds and Tim Salmon, shortstop Gary DiSarcina and first baseman Darin Erstad [are] all homegrown and have all prospered under vice president and general manager Bill Bavasi. His appointment in January 1994 was a clear signal that the Angels were intent on changing their expensive and ultimately futile fix-it-all-now tactics of the '80s, which were rooted in a desire to win a world championship for their aging owner.
The son of Buzzie Bavasi, a former G.M. of the Dodgers as well as the Angels, Bill grew up believing passionately in the farm system, thanks to his first job with the Angels in 1980, as a minor league administrator. "With the financial realities of the '80s, the Angels could afford to put together a marquee team," Bavasi says. "It was a fun team to watch and we made money. But the dynamics have changed. Unless you're one of the haves, it's necessary to develop your own talent, to create a kind of stability."
There was also a comment from evil uber-agent Scott Boras:
"Bavasi never got enough credit for all those contracts he got signed way below market price," Boras said. "He did a great job. How he cannot be at the top of everyone's search list for general manager is beyond my comprehension."
There is also no shortage of "Bavasi sucks" comments from fans irate at the Angel's in-the-tank performance after win-it-all expectations in 1999. But they had a LOT of key injuries that year, so that can't all be his fault. There were also clubhouse issues (courtesy of Bavasi signee Mo Vaughn) and a fair amount of manager turnover. In retrospect, the Vaughn signing looks expensive, (6 years, $80 million), but keep in mind that at the time Vaughn's stature was huge--over the preceding six seasons he had averaged a .963 OPS and 36 homers. Credit (or debit) Bavasi with having the guts to sign the biggest contract in baseball at the time.
So it's clear he's a player-development guy, as you'd expect from his background, but also potentially a savvy deal-maker. No indication whatsoever if he read Moneyball or how he feels about it. But his draft strategy is illuminating:
2003: High school pitchers make up 4 of the top 5 picks. High school players are 8 of first 10 draft picks.
2002: High school pitchers make up 3 of the top 5 picks. High school players are 9 of first 10 draft picks.
Since those who are driven by statistical performance analysis tend to favor college players, where the statistics actually mean something, it's fair to say that statistics haven't played a big part in Bavasi's draft strategy. Oakland, for contrast, had no HS players in the top 20 in either 2002 or 2003, not one.
Overall, it could have been worse. We ended up with a fairly traditional scouting-oriented GM, who, due to his long background in the field, probably has lots of friends and will get along with other GMs. The record does not indicate that he is an innovative thinker. I hope I am proven wrong on this point, and we owe the new guy the benefit of the doubt. Your job starts today, Bill Bavasi, good luck and I'm pulling for you.
*We also declined the option on Mabry, a small piece of good news that doesn't deserve to be in the same sentence as re-signing Edgar. Also, I am instituting a 10-day boycott on the Tacoma News-Tribune, who published nary a word on the GM search after I endorsed them.