Tuesday, September 16, 2008

State of the Baseball Union

Apologies for the one-month absence. Health issues persist, I'm sorry to say. But what a fascinating month in the world of MLB.
  • Ned Yost was fired, in a pretty unprecedented move, with just 12 games to play in the season. The Brewers were struggling, but in real terms, what's the difference between Yost and Sveum over a 12-game period? It could be positive, but that's assuming that Sveum makes none of the same mistakes as Yost (which everyone seems to be assuming for some reason). This smacks as a panic move, and my problem is that panic is really contagious. So when ownership starts yelling, screaming, and gnashing their teeth, they can't expect the players to maintain their calm. While most people agree that Yost deserved to get fired, it's hard for me to accept that this was the best way to resolve the issue.
    As a side note, GM Doug Melvin has given Yost a great deal of praise, and it seems that the decision was made above his head, at ownership level. If Melvin was totally unwilling to fire Yost and the move needed to be made, I can understand management stepping in. Just not in mid-September.
    Peter Gammons suggested in his column (the main source for this info) that this disconnect may put Melvin's job in danger. One thing I can state unequivocally is that Doug Melvin should not be fired from Milwaukee, and any discontent that may lead to such a thing should be dealt with now before it grows. Melvin and his scouting staff are the very reason that the Brewers are relevant again. Melvin has made his mistakes (Eric Gagne, Jeff Suppan, keeping Yost), but you're not going to do better by firing him. But Gammons' remark seems clear:
    "Melvin is loyal and would never stab Yost in the back on his way out the door. In fact, Monday afternoon the Brewers' GM went out of his way to place the non-playing blame on himself. So if the Brewers do not make it into the playoffs, even with
    CC Sabathia, there may be speculation about Melvin's job security with owner Mark Attanasio."
    Gammons is the insider's insider, so he's not one to engage in much idle speculation. But if there is speculation about Melvin's job security, it should not go any further than speculation. Hey, I'm a Doug Melvin fan.
  • Carlos Zambrano threw a no-hitter on Sunday night. I remember Zambrano's last serious run at a no-hitter against the D-Backs a few years ago and how disappointing it was that he missed out. It was a big moment for Zambrano and a great experience for all those Cub fans . . . in Milwaukee (wha?).
  • There's been a lot of end-of-season awards speculation that's just crazy, even considering. Considering C.C. Sabathia for the Cy Young isn't crazy, exactly; if you combine his AL and NL stats, he deserves serious consideration. But remember that this is the "NL" Cy Young Award, and as I said just recently, stats from another league don't transfer. So while Sabathia isn't a bad choice all considered, I think he'll lose out on a technicality. I'm rooting for Tim Lincecum, if he still has two arms at the end of the season (h/t Gary Huckabay).
    There's also been some support for Manny Ramirez as NL MVP. He faces the same problems as Sabathia in re trans-league stat transitioning. But he still looks to get strong support. But as Jay Jaffe points out, there are many NL players who've outplayed Manny since he joined the league; guys like Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, and Chipper Jones who have the advantage of spending the entire season in the same league. It looks now like the NL MVP will go to Albert Pujols who is, you know, the league's most valuable player.
  • The Yankees are tied for 3rd place in the AL East with Toronto at 80-70, but they're 9 games back. They're also tied in 3rd for the Wild Card,but they're 9 games back. The Yankees' Pythagorean record is 78-72, which is tied for 7th in the AL with Cleveland. I think the Yankees are due for a bounceback next year, especially considering the money they'll have to spend and the vast room for improvement among their young starters. But they'll take a big step back if they lose GM Brian Cashman. Cashman's powers may be curtailed after this season, so we don't know what his status will be. If he is fired, he has to be considered the best available GM out there and an easy candidate to move right into the Seattle front office.
  • The Blue Jays, despite being in 3rd place, actually have a Pythagorean record of 85-65, which is 2nd-best in the whole AL, after Boston. If GM J.P. Ricciardi doesn't get fired this off-season, it will be because ownership sees that this team isn't as bad as it looks. Their pitching staff is the best in the league by far, but without a step forward offensively (Ricciardi's weakness), they'll be lucky to make the Wild Card in two or three years.
  • The Twins are currently 1.5 games back of the White Sox in the AL Central. They've got a fighting chance, but time is running out. If the Twins miss the postseason, it would be an interesting exercise to add up all of the big mistakes they made in terms of misappropriation of talent and wonder if they could have closed the thin gap with Chicago with nothing but a more intelligent set of executive decisions.
  • Prediction: the Astros will be next year's Mariners. I.e. a team that lucks into a good record, thinks they're a lot better than they are, and suffer a huge disappointment. Less bold prediction: with the exception of the Cubs and maybe the Brewers, the NL Central is basically a mess. And for that matter, so is the NL. How many October-less AL teams would have made the postseason just by switching leagues? 3 or more?
  • Finally: rumors have surfaced that Tony LaRussa may leave the Cardinals in search of a position as GM. It's just a rumor at this point, but it's fascinating to speculate. I suggested in one chat that a great destination would be Toronto; a team with a lot of good parts that's not too far away from contention. Of course, that's assuming that LaRussa makes a good GM. The transition from manager to GM (and vice versa) is one that rarely works out in baseball, although there are a few good success stories (Branch Rickey, Bobby Cox, Paul Richards).
More to come, including a team-by-team look at the postseason contenders and my best guess as to who's going to win.

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