Sunday, January 04, 2009

Slow News Day

It’s been a slow period for baseball news. Here’s hoping that things pick up soon.
  • Mark Teixeira signed a blockbuster free agent deal with the New York Yankees, at 8 years and $180 million. Teixeira fills a BIG hole in the Yankee lineup, as they’ve needed an impact productive first baseman for some time now. Teixeira’s great bat and great glove are both important additions to a Yankee lineup that needed an infusion of both offense and defense. The move also has the effect of forcing Nick Swisher to the outfield. Considering that he’ll be taking playing time away from Melky Cabrera and/or Xavier Nady, this is a good thing for New York.
    Signing the deal has gotten the Yankees a lot of heat for so thoroughly outspending the other 29 major league teams. My response is this: a) it’s asinine to get mad at a team for making themselves better, and b) if you’re mad that the Yankees have so much money, blame Michael Blomberg and the city of New York for saving them a bunch of money on their new stadium.

    There have been renewed calls for a salary cap in baseball, which is so stupid an idea that it won’t ever be adopted, thankfully. Any owner who talks about a salary cap should have his head examined. And would you believe that even with the Teixeira, Sabathia, and Burnett contracts, the Yankee payroll is about the same as it was in 2007? Get over yourselves, please.
  • The Angels signed Brian Fuentes to a very reasonable free-agent deal, 2 years and $17.5 MM. Fuentes will benefit from throwing in a pitcher’s park and should be just fine for the Angels. In fact, he’s a safer bet than Francisco Rodriguez, who go signed for more money and a third year.
    The only problem with this signing is that the Angels are ignoring their offensive problems. They need hitting a lot more than they need relief pitching, and they don’t seem to realize it. They could use one or two of the DH-type hitters still out there (Dunn, Abreu, Giambi, Burrell, etc.), but it doesn’t look like they’ll sign one since their offensive style is so different. It’s their loss if they want to have a middling-to-bad offense next year.
  • The Cubs have made some puzzling cost-cutting moves recently, selling off Mark DeRosa for some spare arms and arranging a deal to send starter Jason Marquis to Colorado for reliever Luis Vizcaino. They seem to be freeing up money to sign their favorite free agent, Milton Bradley. While I can understand the move, I don’t know if there’s a free agent more likely to be a disappointment than Bradley. He’s tantalizingly good, but he’s a terrible injury risk and shouldn’t be playing the field every day. But the Cubs are so desperate for a left-handed hitter that they’ve completely limited their chances of making the right move. Lucky for them the division is so winnable.
  • Recent reports suggest that Tony LaRussa may try using ace Chris Carpenter as a closer in 2009. Carpenter would likely be a good closer, and the Cards certainly don’t have anyone better. But they’d be so much better off with him in the rotation. Of course it may be that his health problems have made a return to the rotation a bad idea in any circumstance. At any rate, it’s a bad sign for the Cards; getting back a healthy Carpenter was the only solid improvement they seemed able to make for next season.
  • Andruw Jones has agreed to re-work his contract with the Dodgers, and in exchange, the team has guaranteed that they will trade or release him. This is good news for L.A., as they remove one of the payroll albatrosses around their necks (can they talk Juan Pierre into a similar deal?). But it’s not real good for Jones. From what I’ve heard, it seems likely that he’ll be released, as no team will want to give up anything of value for him. Once he’s a free agent, I’m sure someone will take a low-cost flyer on him, but it will most likely be as a backup or fourth outfielder. If Andruw thinks anyone’s going to pay him to be their starting center fielder in ‘09, he’s deluding himself.
    In his latest column, Buster Olney addresses the Andruw issue, wondering if his career is over. Barring a historic comeback, it just may be. But Buster also says that he considers Andruw a “borderline” Hall of Fame candidate.
    Let me add my name to the list of people who think that’s utterly preposterous. Unless he comes back from the dead, Andruw’s career will look a lot like Curt Flood’s. Andruw was a great defensive center fielder, and so was Curt. Andruw had a lot more power than Flood, but Curt had a much better average and OBP. In fact, adjusted for era (Davenport Translation), Andruw’s career OBP is .340, compared to .354 for Flood, and Flood has 38 points of batting average over Jones. It’s almost enough to narrow the gap in slugging (.504 for Jones, .418 for Flood).
    Andruw has 256 career Win Shares. That puts him at 38th all-time for center fielders. He’s right behind Chet Lemon, Ellis Burks, and Rick Monday, but just ahead of Dummy Hoy and Marquis Grissom. Andruw has amassed 84.4 WARP (Wins Above Replacement) over his career. That’s pretty impressive, but not near the 100-level, which is pretty standard for Hall-of-Famers.
    Olney’s argument is, on one hand, a qualitative mush (“many within the game have viewed him as a difference-making defensive player”) and utterly useless comparisons (“these are the players to which Jones' offensive numbers compare at age 31: Sammy Sosa, Johnny Bench, Ron Santo, Al Kaline and Dale Murphy.)
    As to the latter point, Olney is right. Jones is about as good as Dale Murphy and Sammy Sosa were . . . minus the last eight years of his career. According to Buster, if you take a borderline Hall-of-Famer and eliminate everything after the age of 31, you’re left with a borderline Hall-of-Famer. I can’t say that I agree with the math.
    If he had played a full career, then I would agree with the Andruw-for-the-Hall argument. But he didn’t, so let’s not waste everyone’s time with fallacy-plagued arguments.

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