Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Irony of Ironies

This whole debate between the Mainstream Media (MSM) and the series of tubes that is the world wide interweb and blogging is raging these days. Highlighted by last night's Costas Now, which had Deadspin's Will Leitch, Pulitzer Prize winning Buzz Bissinger, and of course- Cleveland Browns WR Braylon Edwards. What I mean about "this whole debate" is the ongoing war on bloggers in general by an aging generation of journalists. The journalists contend that blogs are poorly researched, poorly written and well...just plain poor in general. Bloggers have, for the most part, been defending their medium and as we saw in the "discussion" on Costas Now, both parties played these very roles.

I haven't been able to watch the whole program, but have seen bits and pieces, and frankly, I'm left wondering what Buzz Bissinger is so angry about. Anyway, I think both sides have decent points, but inevitably I am inclined to agreed with the bloggers (surprise!). Again, it's not the the MSMers don't have their points, but it just seemed ironic to me that throughout the show Buzz Bissinger berated ALL bloggers by reading ONE line from ONE blog. And not only that, he cursed blogs out for being ill-researched, all opinion, and are poorly written. Now I know you're wondering, where is the irony in that? A lot of blogs suck for exactly those reasons. And right you are (both you and Buzz)! But the irony is that his point of view on blogs is ill-reasearched, all opinion, and in this case profanity laced (some may call that poorly spoken, however it's fine by me). It just amazes me how people in the MSM can unilaterally decree that blogs are bad for this reason or that, without doing their proper research. Apparently, some can't even tell the difference between commenters and the bloggers themselves. They don't take the time to realize that there are bloggers who are journalistic, and bloggers who write extremely well. Joe Posnanski- who writes for the KC Star- writes an incredibly smart and eloquent blog, and he is both journalistic and well written. But I suppose it's easier to paint with a broad stroke than a fine one, and this is just another example of that. I don't have an overarching point to all of this, mainly because I have neither the capacity nor the eloquence to do a point like that justice. However, I do plead that anyone who takes the time to read my sorry excuse for a blog takes the time to watch the Costas Now segment and develop their own educated opinion. The show is available, in pieces at a favorite blog of mine (, and I encourage you as much as I can to view it; if possible.

I guess my problem with the whole discrepancy is that blogging is a still a new medium. Yes it has been around for years, but it's still on the new side, and like almost everything with the internet there is both good and bad that come with it. But to compare any random blog (like mine) to something like Deadspin or AwfulAnnouncing or MLBTradeRumors is like comparing tabloids to the NY Times. There will always be both good and bad in any medium, and to stereotype the way Bissinger did, and many other have (including people I admire such as Michael Wilbon) is just asinine. I understand that MSMers feel that credibility is lost with anyone being able to write a blog, but they have to understand that this is the future, and they should embrace it as so many of their brethren have (Peter Gammons, Buster Olney...). That's not to say that print media will die out and this is the future of journalism, but it's a bit like cable was/is to network programming...It's just more choice. And I don't think anyone is debating that the networks are doing just fine with all the choice available on cable television. Sure, the numbers have changed, what a great rating is now would have been crap in the 60's, but it's an evolving world that we live in, and this is just another evolution of the journalistic medium.

For specific footage of the Costas Now segments please go here:

and find the "discussion" here:

One more thing- This is an example of writing by, as Buzz calls him "Big Daddy Balls":

UPDATE: this is a link with the whole Costas Now piece from deadspin:

Monday, April 21, 2008

Who Needs Arbitration Years?

I have noticed a trend occurring in our fair sport recently. More and more, teams are signing players with under 3 years of service time to long term contracts that buy out their arbitration years, and often have options that cover at least the first year of free agency. I am going to do a bit of explaining, so if you understand the basics of a major league contract, feel free to skip to the next paragraph. The way it works in the major leagues is when you are a minor leaguer, the team owns the rights to you. When you are called up to the major leagues, and are on the 25-man roster, you earn a higher salary than that in the minors, but it is still the major league minimum. The team that you play for is able to unilaterally decide your salary for the first 3 years (2 in some circumstances) that you accrue service time. After those 3 years, you are eligible for arbitration, where you make a case for a certain salary, and the team makes a case for a certain salary to a board of arbitrators, and you get compared to people who have performed similarly and see what their salaries are. The arbitrators then decide who is more correct and award your salary based on the information presented. This happens for 3 more years until you are eligible for free agency. Ok...back to the original story.

The most recent example of this is Tampa Bay and Evan Longoria reaching a 6-year deal with 3 option years, for a guaranteed $17.5 million. This is also the most extreme deal as Longoria had logged all of 20 at bats over a 6 game period. If the option years are picked up, the deal could reach a total of $44 million over 9 years. The importance of this is that they are avoiding the sometimes bitter arbitration process and even more importantly- eliminating any need to send Longoria back to the minors so he wouldn't gain super-two eligibility. Additionally, if all the options are picked up they are buying out Longoria's first 3 free agency years for $26.5 million. This is a bargain in todays terms, and considering how salaries are likely to keep increasing...the Rays could end up with another Carl Crawford type situation on their hands.

Another example of this is the Colorado Rockies locking up stud shortstop Troy Tulowitzki after only 1 season in the majors. This offseason they signed him to a 6-year contract for $31 million, with a club option for $15 million. This contract buys out his first year of free agency, with the option for the second year. This is the largest contract ever for a player with under 2 years of service time, even in regards to the Longoria contract as there is more guaranteed money. Odds are that Tulowitzki gets a better deal because he's played more games which gives him more leverage. Additionally he plays a gold glove shortstop, and hits quite well, which gives him more value than the third baseman Longoria.

Moving on to yet another example, we have Arizona Diamondbacks centerfielder Chris Young. Young signed a 5-year, $28 million extension, which means that he'll keep his base salary for this year and start earning the big money next year. This deal buys out his first 2 years of free agency, with a club option for 2014 at $11 million.

This has even been done for pitchers as the Cleveland Indians and Fausto Carmona reached a 4-year agreement, for $15 million dollars guaranteed with club options for 2012-2014. Carmona had 2 years of service time in, but one of them was as a reliever, and he only had 1 good (great, really) year as a starter, so he receives considerably less guaranteed money than the other players we've been talking about. Speaking of Cleveland, they gave Grady Sizemore a 6-year contract worth $23.45 million, which was at that point the largest deal ever for a player with less than 2 years of service time. It's amazing to me that this contract is now outdated, and has been replaced by the Tulowitzki contract...

Now we finally come to my point, or rather my thoughts on the subject. I think we will see more and more clubs locking up their players with less and less service time. I don't think we'll see a Tampa Bay/Longoria type deal very much, but the sentiment is the same. While teams or players may give or get a little here and there with deals like this, what it does is give both parties cost certainty, which has a value in and of itself. I often think that the teams get the edge in deals like these, especially the contracts with club options through free agency years. If you're a stud player, you can make serious money in arbitration, and set a huge standard for your first free agency contract. This is evident in cases like Miguel Cabrera, who had he reached free agency, likely would have been MLB's next $200 dollar man. He's now passed that crown on to former teammate Hanley Ramirez. The reason I think we will continue to see this type of contract is because while the team may benefit from getting the free agency years at a discounted price, they avoid arbitration which can occasionally get ugly, AND the players are earning so much money through these contracts that they may be willing to give up a few million dollars here or there for a little certainty both in terms of getting paid, and living in a certain place. I think it's nice when players consider their happiness over making a few extra (million) bucks, and I'm hoping that's part of the case with some of these contracts, at least from the players ends.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Torre's Dilemma?

In my last post I congratulated Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre on starting the season off right. What I meant by this was starting Andre Ethier over Juan Pierre in left field for opening day. Unfortunately, since then Torre managed to start Pierre in the second game of the season, resulting in an 0-2 night. There has been much discussion on this topic as Pierre was signed to an incredible 5-year $44 million dollar contract last winter with the intention of him being the Dodgers' centerfielder. This off-season, seeking to add more pop to a power hungry lineup, General Manager Ned Colletti signed Andruw Jones to a 2-year $36.2 million contract, dislodging Pierre from center, and creating a logjam in the outfield. This was a sound move by Colletti, as even in Jones' worst full season he would have led the Dodgers in home runs and RBI.

During the off-season, there was a clamoring from the general public to have an outfield of Jones in center, Ethier in left, and Matt Kemp in right field, leaving Juan Pierre to sit on the bench and collect his paycheck. The worry was that new manager Torre and his staff would favor the veterans as was his perceived style in New York. This worry proved to be worthwhile as Torre took a liking to Pierre's work ethic and "old school" game. However, Pierre managed to further muddy the issue by hitting under the Mendoza line during spring training, while Ethier hit lights out. All of this led to Ethier starting opening day, and Pierre losing his consecutive game streak.

The real issue in all of this is not who has the bigger contract, or who had the best spring training, but rather who is the better player, and more specifically, who is the better player for this Dodgers team. This is a team that prides itself on pitching, boasting a strong rotation and great back end to their bullpen. Last season the Dodgers were subpar defensively, due in large part to an outfield comprised of Pierre and Luis Gonzalez. When Bengie "Wheels" Molina can score on a single to center from second base, that's when you have to worry. By playing an outfield of Jones, Ethier and Kemp, the Dodgers would greatly improve their outfield defense, and likely save themselves some runs in the process. Ethier does not have Pierre's speed, and therefore range in left field, but he does run better routes, and have a stronger arm. The consensus, and I would agree, is that Ethier is the better defender of the two in left field.

Hitting wise Ethier outclasses Pierre in every area, save (again) for speed. Ethier has a career .353 OBP to Pierre's .348. This doesn't seem so significant, but in Pierre's last 3 years he has posted OBP's of .324, .330, and .331, so at this stage in their careers, Ethier has been much better at getting on base. Additionally, Pierre has the power of a fruit fly, so when looking at their respective OPS +'s (OPS modified to take park effects, and league into consideration), Pierre stands at 84 (100 is league average), and Ethier is at 108. True, 108 is nothing to go crazy about it is a huge improvement over the 84 that Pierre brings to the table. While Pierre does possess game changing speed, he doesn't get on base enough to make it a useful attribute, and skill-wise, he is just not an every-day player anymore. My favorite take on this comes from ESPN's Rob Neyer, and that is: the upgrade to Ethier might not do anything but win the Dodgers a few games over the course of a season, but in the NL West a few wins is significant. And if there is one move that can win you 2-3 games over the course of a season, shouldn't you make that move?

The reason for my question mark in the title is because to me, almost every sign points to Ethier being better than Pierre, so it isn't really a question. But then again, Joe Torre doesn't seem to be one to look at a sign, much less ask for directions.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

It's Been Way Too Long In So Many Ways

For the second time in the short short history of this blog I have to apologize for the lack of updates. It doesn't say much about me that I must do this after I rededicated myself does it? I don't suppose it makes it better that I have not followed baseball any less? No? I thought not. Ah well. I swear I'll post more now that the season has started and I can make my comments. Preview for tomorrow: Congrats to Joe Torre for starting the season off right.

My main reason for updating today though is, of course, Opening Day for 14 teams (really 12 because the Nats and Braves opened yesterday). There's a saying "you don't know what you have til it's gone", but every year I find that I don't realize how much I miss baseball until Opening Day. By the end of this game I will have spent a mostly uninterrupted 12 hours watching baseball today, and it just hits me every year that I live for this game. I can't get enough, and I'm happy the other half of the league is opening tomorrow so I can do it all over again. So many people have catalogued what makes Opening Day special, and I certainly don't have the literary prowess or grasp on the language to do it any justice, but all I can say is that the feeling that I get when baseball is back in my life is unlike any other. I look forward to an exciting season and I have my thoughts and intuitions* on who will do what, but who needs to hear those? Let's just watch what happens and enjoy the ride, it's going to be a hell of a season.

Good luck to every team out there. Except the Giants.

I am going to steal a line from the end of Rob Neyer's 12 hour chat and leave you with these opening day words from Ring Lardner: "The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong -- but that's the way to bet."

*My predictions are as follows
NL: East-Mets, Central-Brewers, West-Dodgers, WC-D'Backs
AL: East- Yankees, Central-Tigers, West-Angels, WC- Indians
WS: Indians over Mets in 6