A conversation about MLB, on the field, off the field.

Friday, February 23, 2007

From the basement Feb 23 07

MLB.com is a shill for the owners. Yesterday there was a fluff piece on the George Mitchell investigation, his stormtroopers are touring Spring Training. The last paragraph of the story is I think indicative of what we're going to be seeing from MLB in their efforts to manage the "issue".

"In the meantime, documented steroid use at the big-league level has become almost infinitesimal, down from the 5-to-7 percent of players who tested positive in 2003. Last season, no player on the 25-man roster of the 30 teams tested positive. It was announced after the postseason that Mets reliever Guillermo Mota had tested positive and he will be suspended the requisite 50 games to open the 2007 season."

So MLB is going to be pounding home two messages on the steroid front. 1. George Mitchell will tell us as definitively as anyone can, what happened. 2. Testing is working, positive tests are on the decline ( see paragraph above ).

As I said before, the results of the 03 "anonymous" testing that revealed 5 - 7 % of players positive seems absurdly low.

For MLB.com to describe present day steroid use at the big league level as "infinitesimal" is ridiculous. Well at least I did learn how to spell infinitesimal" from this PR piece.

Any baseball fan who claims that they didn't know that steroid use was commonplace in MLB over the last 15 - 20 years is either naive or lying.

Steroids and amphetamines will remain in the game, it's the perception of what's happening that is being controlled, not drug use.

The question that I want answered is why so much talk about it the last few years? We all knew Big Mac & Sammy were juiced, nobody said anything. What has changed? Has the zeitgeist done a 180 in America? Or is the zeitgeist unchanged, is Barry Bonds symbolic of something that a lot of Americans dislike? Maybe I don't need Buster Olney, maybe I need Lewis Lapham. ( and my bong ).

Pete Laforest update. According to ESPN, Laforest missed all of 06 ( it's Clintonian to point out that this isn't 100% accurate ) with a "lower abdominal strain". Laforest has moved up to 4 from 5 on the depth chart at Catcher because Todd Greene, who entered camp as the #3, just dislocated his throwing shoulder. Another hoser Catcher is involved here. George Kottaras, who in all likelihood will open the season as the #1 in Pawtucket, is a Canuck. Kottaras was obtained from the Red Sox for David Wells late last season.

Evidently, Grady Little has decided to hit Furcal leadoff and Pierre second. I think he's got it wrong, it should be reversed. Pierre will run less hitting second and if he's not running he isn't as valuable. Speed is also Furcal's game, but he has more sock than Pierre and would benefit from seeing more fastballs with Pierre on. What we folks outside of the game, Gammons calls us "people between walls" or something akin, don't know though, are the egos and psyches involved.

Is winning your arbitration case always a good thing? Todd Walker won his arbitration case against the Padres, submitting a figure of $3.95 million. The Padres can walk away from $3.3 million of that commitment if they release him before March 15. Remember Walker is expected to be a backup. He won't make up that $3.3 million this year if he is released.

Brandon League is hurting. Very bad news for the Jays. Are you ready for Jason Frasor & Jeremy Accardo as the set up guys?

Early reports from Arizona are that Bonds looks very healthy, moving very well, which indicates his knee is doing well. I predict a big year, 35 homers.

I may become a Curt Schilling fan. He's taking some heat this spring over the size of his gut. That's endearing, well, if you're me.

Buster Olney has link to an article in the AJC re. Liberty Media & The Braves. Amongst Liberty's holdings are a 51% stake in a "sports betting-information Web site". We all know that owners are to stay far away from gambling however Mr. Selig has been lenient in enforcing the rules recently. Marian Ilitch owns a casino and Steve Swindal ( yes, Mr. Steinbrenner's drunk son in law ) is in the horse track / slot machine business. Also in this article, speculation that Liberty's ownership of the Braves will be short term. It will be interesting to see where John Schuerholz is in a year.

From bizofbaseball.com, the Nationals have a 1 year agreement with a Mexican League team to "share" scouting information and "information". According to this same article they have recently become very agressive in their International signings. Jim Bowden knows he needs a lot of players, the system is bare from the years of MLB ownership neglect.

My February 18 post links to an interview on Baseball Prospectus between David Laurila from BP and an academic / sabermetrician named Andy Andres. My post that day mistakenly identifies Mr. Laurila as the academic / sabermetrician, not Mr. Andres.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

From the basement Feb 21 07

Keeping track of the Canucks.

LH Eric Cyr signed with the Dodgers, I'd lost track of him. Evidently he played in Taiwan last year before pitching very briefly for the Quebec City Capitales of the Indy Can Am League. He then went on to play for Team Canada at the 08 Olympics qualifier. He's had a good career, drafted in the 30th round in 98 by the Padres, he's bounced around the minors mostly at Triple A up until last season. He did pith 6 innings for the Padres in 02.

C Pierre Luc ( Pete ) Laforest, local boy from Gatineau, has re signed with the Padres. Laforest is also enjoying a good professional career. He was signed as a free agent by the Devil Rays in 97. After 8 years in the D Rays organization, including brief stints with the big league team in 03 & 05 he was claimed off waivers by the Padres in Dec 05. I haven't been able to confirm that he was hurt last year but the only stats I can find are 15 AB's for the Padres Rookie Level team. Better luck to Pete in 07, he also has played for Team Canada extensively.

ESPN reports that 3B Corey Koskie is not expected to be fit to play when the season starts. Ongoing concussion problems.

Carl at the Ottawa Lynx blog http://ottawalynx.blogspot.com/ might be interested to know that former Lynx Brooks Badeaux signed with Tampa, guess we'll be seing him this year in a Durham Bulls uni.

Also for Carl, re. C Carlos Ruiz. According to ESPN "The Phillies' official site is reporting that Ruiz is a "lock" to make the major league roster." If that is accurate is Chris Coste, the real life Crash Davis, the Lynx #1 catcher?

The Winnipeg Sun is reporting that the Indy Northern League is interested in putting a team in Saskatoon. The Northern League Commissioner, Clark Griffith, is the source of the speculation. I suspect they are floating a trial balloon. On one hand it makes sense, with teams in Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton, a team in Saskatoon would reduce travel expenses for the other Cdn teams. On the other hand, Edmonton is struggling at the gate and I don't think attendance is boffo in Calgary either. Any Indy ball in Ottawa rumors? The Can Am League has a team in Quebec City.....

Maury Brown at bizofbaseball.com is telling us to check out the interview in Sports Business Journal with MLBAM's Rob Bowman. I am a subscriber to SBJ, but am 3 issues behind because I moved and they haven't caught up to me yet. I'm mad as hell and....I'm gonna call first thing tomorrow AM.

At http://www.hardballtimes.com/ there is a column by John Beamer from Feb 19 "Measuring & Managing the Value of Ballclubs (Part I ). Mr. Beamer is reiterating what I read repeatedly, the Industry is flush with cash. "The average franchise grew in value by an astonishing 14% between 2004 and 2005, outperforming almost every other asset class. To put it another way, Frank McCourt trousered an extra $60 million in paper capital gain last year simply by owning the LA Dodgers." Since 1995 the Compound Annual Growth Rate ( I won't pretend to undertand exactly what that is ) of the franchises collectively ( save the expansion teams ) is 13.1%. I guess that's good because Mr. Beamer describes it as "hedonistic".

As for the unprecedented free agent spending this offseason, Mr. Beamer echoes what Maury Brown told USA Today, that it is a "market correction". To quote Mr. Beamer "Since 2004 average payroll has risen by only 2% a year, but values have accelerated at 15% a year. Based on that we’d expect 2007 to be a bumper payroll year and the current goings on in the free-agent world definitely support that." He goes on "....valuations have risen faster than mean payroll over the last 15 years. Total payroll as a percent of total value has dropped from 24% to 22% over the last decade. Collectively the owners are dripping with lucre."

I comment frequently that I don't believe that the sabermetricians are accurately measuring defensive performance. As an example I frequently point to their opinion that Derek Jeter is crap in the field. To wit, here is a quote dated Feb 21 from Matthew Carruth @ http://www.hardballtimes.com/ "Derek Jeter is not good at defense. I don't care what the Gold Gloves say, he's not. Furthermore, he's nowhere near one of the 50 greatest defensive players of the last 50 years. He might be one of the 50 worst cumulatively given that he's allowed a ton of playing time at a premium position because of his bat, but 50 best? Seriously? They're wrong." The 50 greatest over the last 50 years that Mr. Carruth is referencing is a marketing gimmick courtesy of Rawlings. They are asking fans to vote on the top 50 over the last 50 yada yada. I'll say it again, what am I missing? Am I impressed by his star power, the Yankee uni, the smile, the high end tail that he gets? Derek Jeter is crap in the field?

Baseball Prospectus just published their list of Top 100 prospects, we are still awaiting the word from on high at Baseball America. For what it's worth the Blue Jays have two players on the list. Travis Snider at # 40 and Adam Lind at # 43. Both are hitters first, OF DH types second. Canuck Joey Votto, likely coming to Lynx Stadium with Lousville this year, is # 53. Votto is a 1B, MVP in his AA league last year.

This has only very recently come to my attention but it is interesting. Last May, Seton Hall released results of a poll they conducted measuring Americans attitudes towards steroids in baseball and in particular towards Barry Bonds. Well, no surprise, opinion is divided between African Americans and non African Americans. "....35 percent of African-American respondents thought race was the most important reason for Bonds being the center of attention on the steroid questions, while only 2 percent of non African-Americans felt that race was the reason for Bonds being “singled out.”" I think race is a big part of it, as I've said before, why is Jason Giambi not scorned remotely as much as Bonds? Is it race? On the other hand, Gary Sheffield is part of the Balco scandal as well and it is also rarely mentioned. I'll blog more about this after I read "Forty Million Dollar Slaves" next week but I've always thought a big part of the hatred towards Bonds is not just that he is African American but that he is an arrogant, conceited, aloof, obnoxious, ungrateful African American. I think baseball fans, moreso than fans of NBA or NFL, aren't comfortable with this type of African American athlete. The poll also indicates something that I've blogged about before, that most sports fans are not keenly interested in this story, it's only baseball's chattering classes ( I'm at the front of that line ) that are interested. "Meanwhile, Bonds’ alleged use of performance enhancing drugs is likely of more interest to the media and sports commentators than it is to sports fans, according to the poll. Sixty two percent of sports fans have little or no interest in stories about Bonds and his alleged use. Only 11 percent have high interest." Thanks a lot to Arthur Pincus for emailing me the poll press release.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Satan's arrival in Arizona is imminent ( Bonds )

With the arrival imminent of the satanic Barry Bonds to spring training, let's take a look at back at some of the commentary re Bonds, steroids, Balco etc. on this blog the past handful of weeks.

January 31 07

Does MLB honestly believe that there will be a fan backlash as a result of Bonds breaking Ruth's record? Or are they just wacking his pee pee to appease the fans? I think the latter, this will be the biggest story in sports this year. I believe no publicity is bad publicity. I'll be shocked if attendance is down in 07. Bet your ass, finger waggling moralists across America will be flocking to their home parks in droves when Barry comes to town to express their contrived outrage.

Speaking of steroids, Sammy, one of the incredible shrinking men, signed with the Rangers. I heard somebody say recently that he is the size of a jockey. Will he make the team? I say yes unless he stinks in spring training. I can only conclude that the Rangers think the novelty will put some butts in the seats, and if he gets close to 600 that will generate a lot of interest. Sammy is still a celebrity. Will he be scorned like Barry? No, because the fans soak up all that false humility that Sammy exudes. Baseball been berry.......I love the fans......bs. Barry's the opposite, I'm the greatest and I don't give a shit what you think. I prefer Barry.

Why did the Jason Grimsley HGH scandal die? Because Caucasian ( in the extreme ) American sports legend Roger Clemens had his name linked to it?

This about steroids but not necessarily Barry. Many baseball fans, including me, wonder why our game is ridiculed far and wide over performance enhancing drugs while the NFL receives in comparison very little criticism. Stephen Brunt in the Globe & Mail has an excellent column on this subject today. He quotes one of his readers on this subject "Baseball is the game of American myth. Football is the game of American reality." Wonderfully stated.

Feb 10 07

MLB and Bud Selig are so petty with Bonds. They reject Bond's contract on some insignificant " promotional appearances " clause, they leak that he tested positive for amphetamines, they leak that he blamed a teammate ( and name the teammate ) to add embarrassment. Bonds is dirty, get in line. At the power hitting positions I would argue it's been, by in large, a level playing field for a number of years, i.e. Juiced.

Has there been no interest in Bonds from anybody but the Giants because teams think he will hurt their gate or are they afraid of pissing off Bud Selig?

Read today that what Bonds is really pissed about is the leak about the inclusion of language that allows the Giants to terminate his contract if he is indicted. I don't blame him for being pissed about that. If you are bargaining in good faith you don't continually leak details which are embarrassing to the other party.

Peter MacGowan is spineless, he tacitly allows MLB to leak all the anti Bonds info they please by not standing up to Selig on Bonds behalf.

Feb 11 07

David Steele in the Baltimore Sun points out what a stark contrast it will be, the stage managing of Bonds 756th in comparison to McGwire's 62nd. I hope Bonds hits #756 on the road just to hear and see the reaction. Sanctimonious asses.

So much is made of everything happening off the field with Bonds, but when you get down to winning and losing, the Giants need Barry big time. It would be next to impossible to find a power hitter at this point in the season and the Giants have nobody else. What would the middle of their order look like without Bonds? Winn, Durham, Feliz? Ryan Klesko? The NL West is wide open, the Giants with Barry have as good a shot as anybody else.

I don't remember a pro athlete in my lifetime who alienated every sector of the game as completely as Bonds; teammates, media, PA, ownership, fans.

Why didn't Jason Giambi get crucified by the NY media over his grand jury testimony / admissions?

Feb 13

Steroids in the baseball news again today. This from the AP, the PA "asked a federal appeals court late Monday to revisit its December decision to allow investigators probing steroids in sports to use the names and urine samples of more than 100 players who tested positive for performance enhancing drugs."

If the PA doesn't win this court battle the players will have gotten screwed. We all know the owners and players agreed the results of these tests would remain anonymous. The PA agreed to the testing in 03 to determine whether or not testing with penalties would be introduced in 04. Because there were more than 5 % positive tests ( approximately 100 out of 1400 + ) said testing with penalties was introduced for 04.

The low percentage of positive tests boggles me. 100 out of 1400 is 7%. Am I to believe that in a typcial MLB game, 7% or 3.5 out of the 50 players on the rosters are taking performance enhancing drugs? That figure seems ludicrously low to me. Are the cheaters really that far ahead of the regulators? I know there is no test for HGH and perhaps that contributes to the low figure but I have to think that the bulk of pharmaceutical cheating is amphetamines & roids.

Once spring training games commence I will be on MLB.com a lot until the end of the season, that's where I read most of the boxscores. I find the beat writers on MLB.com are also well informed. The one problem I have though is their reporting of off the field issues. For example, today there is a typical off season story, "Top 20 topics for Spring Training". There is only one mention of Barry Bonds, "Bonds won't be the only one in the spotlight as Giants camp
opens in Scottsdale, Ariz. The other Barry, Zito, just crossed the Bay....." Come on, the Barry saga isn't one of the Top 20 spring training stories? How much media will be at the Giants camp the first day Barry arrives?

Feb 15 07

Josh Peters from Yahoo had it right in his December 21 article, http://sports.yahoo.com/top/news?slug=jo-balco122106&prov=yhoo&type=lgns Troy Ellerman has confessed to being the source of BALCO Grand Jury leaks. I never took this article seriously. Maybe it's because I'm a Canuck, but this combination of Professional Rodeo and practicing law, well....Rodeo? If your Victor Conte you have to know things don't look good when your legal counsel is also part of PROFESSIONAL RODEO. Am I just a smug, chauvinistic Canadian?

I still don't think we know the whole story, there is some unpleasant history in Professional Rodeo between Ellerman and a PI, Larry McCormack, who tipped off the FBI to Ellerman. Bonds' attorney also doesn't believe that Ellerman is the source of the leaks because he didn't have access to all the information that was leaked. Is Ellerman to BALCO as Lee Harvey Oswald was to JFK? Should I retire my bong?

I've always wondered why a Grand Jury investigation into BALCO. No doubt Conte, Valente, Anderson et. al are guilty as sin. But pro ( and amateur, Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery ) athletes across North America are being supplied with steroids, why BALCO and not one of the others? Grand Jury investigations are not the result of happenstance. I started to go all Oliver Stone when President Bush got up on his soapbox about steroids in a State of the Union address, and there was that self serving show in front of Congress with parents of kids who had died from steroids being trotted out to shame pro athletes. ( Screw off, if your teenager is on steroids have a look at the values you have taught them, not to pro athletes ). But I read this article http://www.usatoday.com/sports/2007-01-24-ryan-balco-cover_x.htm in January about the lead prosecutor in the BALCO investigation and I think the genesis of the witch hunt is no more complicated than a failed jock looking to get even. Thanks again to Biz of Baseball for linking to the story.

Feb 18 07

Murray Chass reminds us that there is a new U.S. Attorney atop the Grand Jury investigation into Barry. The new guy will have to decide whether to continue efforts to indict Bonds or drop it and move on.

How loyal is Greg Anderson to Barry Bonds? He is presently in jail for a second time for refusing to testify to the grand jury about Barry. He was incarcerated November 20 and earlier last year was jailed for 57 days.

Murray Chass asked Anderson's lawyer, Mark Geragos, about speculation that Barry will look after Anderson financially for refusing to testify and going to jail. The lawyer's response; “There’s no truth to that,” Well, what else is he to say?

I am so sick of reading that it has yet to be proven definitively that Bonds is / was juiced. BS. My point is, yeah, get in line. Everyone, fans, reporters, players, owners, agents, PA, has known for years. What is the source of all this contrived outrage?

Of course Bud Selig is saying nothing about MLB's official plans ( if any ) for #756. He could still get lucky, by which I mean, indictment or injury.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

From the Basement Feb 18 07

Murray Chass reminds us that there is a new U.S. Attorney atop the Grand Jury investigation into Barry. The new guy will have to decide whether to continue efforts to indict Bonds or drop it and move on..

How loyal is Greg Anderson to Barry Bonds? He is presently in jail for a second time for refusing to testify to the grand jury about Barry. He was incarcerated November 20 and earlier last year was jailed for 57 days.

Murray Chass asked Anderson's lawyer, Mark Geragos, about speculation that Barry will look after Anderson financially for refusing to testify and going to jail. The lawyer's response; “There’s no truth to that,” Well, what else is he to say?

I am so sick of reading that it has yet to be proven definitively that Bonds is / was juiced. BS. My point is, yeah, get in line. Everyone, fans, reporters, players, owners, agents, PA, has known for years. What is the source of all this contrived outrage?

Of course Bud Selig is saying nothing about MLB's official plans ( if any ) for #756. He could still get lucky, by which I mean, indictment or injury.

Keith Foulke announced his retirment. He was never the same after the Red Sox won the 04 World Series. He allowed himself to be abused that postseason and it paid off in the championship but you have to wonder if it cost him the balance of his career.

The Nationals signed Ronnie Belliard to a minor league deal. I will be shocked if this doesn't result in Christian Guzman going to the bench ( or released ) and Felipe Lopez moving to short. It's not a long term solution for the Nats, Lopez is better at second.

Jim Bowden is signing a lot of veteran free agents recently. In addition to Belliard, earlier in the week he signed Dimitri Young & Tony Batista. One of the reasons behind the signings is his hope that he can deal them at the trade deadline for prospects. The Nationals system is awful due to years of neglect from the league. I'm not criticizing the league, there was no motive ( i.e. money ) for any of the owners to plough one more dime into the Expos / Nats than was absolutely necessary while they waited for someone to build them a stadium for free.

The Pirates bad luck with picking Starting Pitchers in the First Round continues. In 00, 01 & 02 the Pirates picked in the first round, Sean Burnett, John Van Benschoten & Bryan Bullington. All three have had plenty of injury trouble. 06 first rounder, RH Brad Lincoln, is now hurt. I don't think the Pirates should be criticized, predicting the health of pitchers is a fools game.

There is a guest column @ http://www.bizofbaseball.com/ from Feb 14 written by Wayne G. McDonnell Jr. Mr. McDonnell is well qualified to write about the baseball business, he has worked for MSG as an accountant & analyst as well as being an Asst Professor of sports management at NYU. He is very crtical of the record free agent spending in MLB this past offseason. I was surprised to see this column on this site. Maury Brown, who is de facto Bizofbaseball, told USA Today in January that the spending was a " market correction ", that salaries rose 18% during the last CBA. I believe revenues increased 40% during the last CBA.

http://www.bizofbaseball.com/index.php?ption=com_content&task=view&id=749&Itemid=41
Another guest column at bizofbaseball, this one written by Diane M. Grassi. This column is extremely critical of MLB's relationship ( or absence of one ) with African Americans. Ms. Grassi details the efforts that MLB makes to develop players in foreign countries and compares them unfavorably with MLB's efforts to develop players in urban African American communities. Ms. Grassi also comments on recent changes in immigration laws that are favorable to MLB. Given the declining numbers of Americans on MLB rosters, 23% of players in 06 were from outside the US, more than double the percentage in 1990, this is increasingly important to the industry. 40% of minor leaguers are from outside the US. Most of the foreign born players are from the Dominican Republic. Ms. Grassi points out that most of the kids from the DR who come to the US to play minor league baseball remain in the US once their visas expire and work illegally, predominantly in NYC.

Coincidentally, I recently purchased the book "Forty Million Dollar Slaves" by NY Times reporter William Rhoden. This book is a condemnation of the exploitation of African American athletes by American professional sports. Should be reading it next week in Mexico.

A link on http://www.thesportseconomist.com/ to a Feb 17 article in the WSJ about the declining demand for luxury boxes across North American pro sports. Different reasons are given. Interesting to note though that with all the talk about RSN's, national tv deals, new media, multiple platforms, licensing etc. that "ticket revenues remain a sizable part of overall revenue, accounting for as much as 65% of overall revenue for some baseball teams. Premium seating, which includes luxury suites and club seats, can make up close to 40% of that."

Also at http://www.thesportseconomist.com/ another link to a WSJ column. This, a book review of Economist J.C. Bradbury's upcoming "The Baseball Economist: The Real Game Exposed". Professor Radbury also has a blog http://www.sabernomics.com/ According to the WSJ review, more baseball orthodoxy is debunked by the math geeks. In particular that "protection" in the batting order is beneficial to a hitter. Professor Bradbury proves that this is a "myth". Well, he understands regression analysis(es) and I am in my basement...

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=5881&PHPSESSID=4626c13805186fad1b9ff85eea047ef7
Speaking of regression analysis, this is a link to a good interview with David Laurila. Mr. Laurila is a PHD in biology and is also a sabermetrician, teaching a course "Sabermetrics: The Objective Analysis of Baseball" at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. He has some interesting comments about steroids in baseball, and in particular HGH, he is a PHD in biology. He did remind me that baseball was reluctant to introduce weight training to the sport. I remember back in the day the commentators would talk about how being too too muscle bound detracted from a players all around abilities. As Mr. Laurila points out, this changed in the 80's and 90's.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

From the basement Feb 15

http://www.bizofbaseball.com/ I thought there was nothing new left to read about the DirecTV - MLB EI issue. Well, leave it to Maury Brown. Maury has a link to an article, http://biz.yahoo.com/indie/070209/620_id.html which makes a compelling argument that MLB is removing their EI package from cable in part, to drive fans to their MLB.TV broadcasts. MLB.TV is part of MLBAM. According to this article, MLB is positioning the wildly successful MLBAM for an IPO. Moving viewers from cable to MLB.TV would increase the value of MLBAM. Evidently, late in 05 MLB was ready to proceed with the IPO but backed out because "team owners did not want chests full of cash on their doorsteps as they were in the midst of negotiating a new labor contract. That excuse is no longer valid because MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association reached a new five-year agreement last October." Well, business is about one thing and one thing only, the dirty, rotten, filthy, stinkin money.

Some good reporting on ESPN.com about steroid use amongst players from the Dominican Republic. The spin is that because of the desparate poverty in the country, young players take anything & everything in hopes of furthering their status as prospects. The articles also illustrate something I've read repeatedly over the years, that the men that control these kids are exploiting them big time. I didn't know this, there are roughly 6,000 "independent baseball acadamies" in the DR. I knew of their existence, I am surprised by the large number of them. The acadamies are operated by "buscones", baseball street agents. The buscones have no interest in these kids beyond their earning potential, abuse abounds.

There is a Canadian aspect to the story. A "trainer" on the island, Angel Presinal, is extremely well connected to many of the superstars from the island. "Presinal has been a persona non grata around the majors since an October 2001 incident in which he and former two-time American League MVP Juan Gonzalez, then Presinal's top client, were connected to an unmarked bag discovered by Canadian Border Service agents at the Toronto airport. The bag had come off a Cleveland Indians charter flight and, according to a New York Daily News story last summer, contained anabolic steroids and hypodermic needles." Presinal has
since been banned from all MLB clubhouses.

Apparently pro players from around the island flock to Presinal during the offseason for help with rehabs and conditioning. I can understand that, I'm certain many of these guys have a higher level of trust with a countryman than they do with the team employed trainers. In particular the younger players who haven't yet developed a workable command of English.

On the subject of Presinal's ban from MLB clubhouses, there is a growing trend around MLB to scale back the superstar's posses', which I think ( I am in my basement after all ) always includes a trainer(s). Isn't trainer a euphemism for something else? Let's be polite, supplement supplier? Barry's "trainer", Greg Anderson is in prison.

If you read the CP article yesterday previewing up and coming Canucks in MLB this year, there is an error. Yes, Scott Mathieson is a highly regarded Phillies prospect, but no, he will not play at the big league level this year. Mathieson underwent TJ surgery this offseason, the Phillies hope he can pitch in Short Season. Too bad for us Triple A fans in Ottawa, Mathieson would likely have pitched some of the season here.

Josh Peters from Yahoo had it right in his December 21 article, http://sports.yahoo.com/top/news?slug=jo-balco122106&prov=yhoo&type=lgns Troy Ellerman has confessed to being the source of BALCO Grand Jury leaks. I never took this article seriously. Maybe it's because I'm a Canuck, but this combination of Professional Rodeo and practicing law, well....Rodeo? If your Victor Conte you have to know things don't look good when your legal counsel is also part of PROFESSIONAL RODEO. Am I just a smug, chauvinistic Canadian?

I still don't think we know the whole story, there is some unpleasant history in Professional Rodeo between Ellerman and a PI, Larry McCormack, who tipped off the FBI to Ellerman. Bonds' attorney also doesn't believe that Ellerman is the source of the leaks because he didn't have access to all the information that was leaked. Is Ellerman to BALCO as Lee Harvey Oswald was to JFK? Should I retire my bong?

I've always wondered why a Grand Jury investigation into BALCO. No doubt Conte, Valente, Anderson et. al are guilty as sin. But pro ( and amateur, Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery ) athletes across North America are being supplied with steroids, why BALCO and not one of the others? Grand Jury investigations are not the result of happenstance. I started to go all Oliver Stone when President Bush got up on his soapbox about steroids in a State of the Union address, and there was that self serving show in front of Congress with parents of kids who had died from steroids being trotted out to shame pro athletes. ( Screw off, if your teenager is on steroids have a look at the values you have taught them, not to pro athletes ). But I read this article
http://www.usatoday.com/sports/2007-01-24-ryan-balco-cover_x.htm in January about the lead prosecutor in the BALCO investigation and I think the genesis of the witch hunt is no more complicated than a failed jock looking to get even. Thanks again to Biz of Baseball for linking to the story.

The Cubs are selling ad space on the outfield walls at Wrigley for the first time this season. I understand, I'm a purist but also a realist. Reminds me though of my first and only trip to Chicago a few Novembers ago to see The Bears. ( I won't count being stranded at O'Hare several years ago ). You know you're a baseball geek, because it's November, you've never been to Chicago before and the first place you go is Wrigley Field just to see the exterior and walk around it. Thoroughly enjoyed it, can't wait to go back.

Latest invites to Nationals camp, Dimitri Young & Tony Batista. I don't remember a team with so many veteran NRI's coming to camp, at last count 33. See my post from Feb 03 for comments re. Batista, he has quite a history with the Jays & Expos.

I agree with Matthew Carruth at The Hardball Times, the Carlos Zambrano posturing is not interesting.

On the subject of http://www.hardballtimes.com/ they provide a link to a 2 part interview on gaslampball.com with Paul DePodesta. I have been asking this offseason, where is Paul DePodesta? Well, now I know, reunited with Sandy Alderson in San Diego. As the Gaslamp guys point out, DePodesta is a polarizing figure in MLB.

The DePodesta interview is very good. It's not the SABR numbers fest that you might anticipate, in fact it is primarily about the nuts and bolts of the Padres baseball operation. I was also happy to read DePodesta's opinions about what he refers to as "defensive metrics". He and I are in agreement that the Rob Neyer / Baseball Prospectus community have not answered the question yet on measuring defensive play statistically. "There is a lot more subjectivity with defense. It's also just a lot tougher to measure. The primary reason being, as of right now, we can't measure where every single player starts. So just measuring ultimately the outcome deprives us of the beginning context of the play, which is critically important if you are going to use it as a reliable metric." Yes. However I do agree with the long held SABR opinion that fielding percentage is a worthless stat.

I hope Alderson & DePodesta have success in San Diego, they deserve as much credit ( or derision ) for "Moneyball" as Billy Beane. Beane never met a microphone he didn't like.

I love the political incorrectness of this. From the Philadelphia Daily News a description of Jon Lieber's new truck: "Lieber rumbled into spring training yesterday in his 2-week-old Ford F650 SuperTruck, a customized blue-and-black beast, 9 feet, 2 inches tall and 25,000 pounds, with six doors, 45-inch wheels, seating for seven, a satellite dish and customized leather interior." I assume he hasn't seen An Inconvenient Truth.

In light of the Liberty Media acquisition of the Braves, respected sports business writer John Helyar has a nice article arguing why corporate ownership of teams is bad for their fans. http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?id=2766652

Robert MacLeod of the Globe & Mail tells us that Brandon Leaugue is a major key for the Blue Jays this year. Absolutely, I think it's League or bust for the eighth. I am optimistic, he has big talent.

Former Lynx Termel Sledge is the odds on favorite to be the Padres starting left fielder when the regular season begins.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

From the Basement Feb 13 07

Steroids in the baseball news again today. This from the AP, the PA "asked a federal appeals court late Monday to revisit its December decision to allow investigators probing steroids in sports to use the names and urine samples of more than 100 players who tested positive for performance enhancing drugs."

If the PA doesn't win this court battle the players will have gotten screwed. We all know the owners and players agreed the results of these tests would remain anonymous. The PA agreed to the testing in 03 to determine whether or not testing with penalties would be introduced in 04. Because there were more than 5 % positive tests ( approximately 100 out of 1400 + ) said testing with penalties was introduced for 04.

The low percentage of positive tests boggles me. 100 out of 1400 is 7%. Am I to believe that in a typcial MLB game, 7% or 3.5 out of the 50 players on the rosters are taking performance enhancing drugs? That figure seems ludicrously low to me. Are the cheaters really that far ahead of the regulators? I know there is no test for HGH and perhaps that contributes to the low figure but I have to think that the bulk of pharmaceutical cheating is amphetamines &
roids.

So much for the Villone to Blue Jays rumors that I mentioned yesterday, he's going back to the Yankees. The one surprise is that he was only able to secure a minor league deal.

There is a photo on MLB .com of Carl Pavano throwing a baseball. Can you belive it? I can make a claim that many baseball fans ( well Yankee fans ) cannot. I have actually seen Carl Pavano pitch, live in the flesh, when he was an Ottawa Lynx. Way back in the day after he had been dealt to the Expos in the Pedro deal.

I think Kerry Wood will become a dominant closer for the Cubs this season.

Once spring training games commence I will be on MLB.com a lot until the end of the season, that's where I read most of the boxscores. I find the beat writers on MLB.com are also well informed. The one problem I have though is their reporting of off the field issues. For example, today there is a typical off season story, "Top 20 topics for Spring Training". There is only one mention of Barry Bonds, "Bonds won't be the only one in the spotlight as Giants camp opens in Scottsdale, Ariz. The other Barry, Zito, just crossed the Bay....." Come on, the Barry saga isn't one of the Top 20 spring training stories? How much media will be at the Giants camp the first day Barry arrives?

The Devil Rays acquired righthander Jae Kuk Ryu from the Cubs, I think he's a good candidate for their rotation. Still young, 23, and good numbers in the PCL last season and in AA in 05.

Jeff Blair is a very astute baseball writer, well don't we all think that anyone who shares our opinions is astute? Mr. Blair shares my dislike of parity, ( see my posting Feb 06 The NECESSARY EVIL Empire ) in Mr. Blair's words "parity in any sport sucks" http://www.theglobeandmail.com/blogs/baseball. Amen to that. As well Mr. Blair wonders how committed Liberty Media is to the Atlanta Braves. ( see my blog February 08 ). Braves fans, say goodbye to Andruw Jones.

Monday, February 12, 2007

From The Basement Feb 12 07

Just discovered last nite that Canuck catcher Maxime St. Pierre has left the Tigers organization after nine seasons. Maxime spent last season in the IL with Toledo. He is headed to Royals spring training as an NRI.

http://www.thehardballtimes.com/ Good article from February 12 by Sal Baxamusa who attended the recent MIT Sloan Sports Business Conference. The real baseball geeks are also big ( MIT big ) math geeks.

J.P. Ricciardi ( good New England boy ) was one of 2 keynote speakers. Mr. Baxamusa tells us that Mr. Ricciardi thinks that Moneyball "really opened up the industry to new ways of thinking." ( I think he is paraphrasing there ) I suspect Mr. Ricciardi is overstating the impact, perhaps because he is part of the book and got caught up in basking in the MIT limelight. There is a whole lot more to the introduction and increased influence of statistical analysis in
baseball than Moneyball. Read the book "The Numbers Game" by Alan Schwarz.

Mr. Baxamusa also reports that he was left with the impression by an insider that "only three or four teams in baseball are as rigorous with and as receptive to analytics as they ought to be." That surprises me, I was under the impression that practically all teams either employed in house stat analysis guys or worked with consultants. This same insider thinks that what we see publicly available on the stat geek websites is as sophisticated as anything the teams
are doing.

No surprise, Mr. Ricciardi says the Blue Jays have a big focus on OBP and OPS. Don't all teams at this point? I think we can all agree that OPS is the most important offensive stat. A stat that I recently ridiculed, VORP, was not only discussed but the INVENTOR Keith Woolner was in attendance. Mr. Ricciardi is evidently skeptical about the importance of VORP.

Ricciardi slagged the DirecTV deal "It's a bad deal." It doesn't effect Ricciardi's team, MLB EI will be available in Canada on the Blue Jays owner's cable company - Rogers. Also I don't know how qualified Mr. Ricciardi is to comment on this, he is primarily a talent evaluator not a businessman.

The other keynote speaker was Jamie McCourt - VP Dodgers. Mr. Baxamusa is skeptical, with good reason, about Ms. McCourt's claim that Corporate Sponsorships are important in keeping the price of tickets down for the average Joe. I have been making this claim for years, the price of tickets is determined by one factor only, supply and demand. There is a common misperception that the price of tickets is determined largely by player salaries, poppycock.

Both Ricciardi and McCourt think the PA needs to play a big role in addressing the steroids issue. I think the PA has bent over backward to accommodate Management on this issue. I predict that when Bonds retires the issue will fade into the background.

The big geekfest though was the panel discussion featuring Rob Neyer ( previously ridiculed in my anti VORP riff ) the most prominent geek in the mainstream media & the EMINENCE GRISE of the geekdom Mr. BILL JAMES. I have immense admiration and respect for Bill James, he is the seminal geek.

Mr. James discussed the tools he uses in his evaluations for the Red Sox, surprisingly it included old school scouting reports. They discussed the future of sabermetrics, seemingly confident
that they have "adequately addressed offense, pitching and defense." I disagree with the geeks on the value of stat analysis of defence, I don't think they are accurately measuring it. I question if defence can be measured by stat analysis, I stll think the eyes are best when evaluating defence. I said it before, I just don't see Jeter as a sub par defensive shortstop, the geeks have infinite data proving otherwise.

Anyway, I would loved to have been there, sounds like it was a lot of fun.

What is Buster Olney suggesting we read today?

A Newsday column by Ken Davidoff about Mr. Steinbrenner. Seems as if the decline in Mr.
Steinbrenner's health is quite serious. Mr. Davidoff tells us that Mr. Steinbrenner is no longer THE BOSS, he describes him now as the Yankees partriarch. I miss Mr. Steinbrenner. I think he bottomed out when he had Dave Winfield investigated by a PI, but for an extended period now he has been a class act. He made the Yankees into the YANKEES again.

A Philadelphia Inquirer column by Bob Ford about the hypocrisy of Bud Selig vis a vis Bonds. Mr. Ford, you are preaching to the choir.

That's it for Buster today, more stuff.

Says here that Andy Phillips breaks camp as the right handed part of they Yankees First Base platoon. His competitor Josh Phelps ( remember him Jays fans?) will head to Scranton.

The Ron Villone to the Jays rumors don't die.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

From the Basement Feb 11 07

http://ottawalynx.blogspot.com/ is posting daily Ottawa Lynx player profiles. This is useful considering we have a new affiliate in town this year and a whole raft of new players ( save for some 2nd tour of duty guys, Pedro Swann, Ron Calloway, Joey Hammond, who am I missing?) Nice work. Thanks to http://neatesager.blogspot.com/ for the link.

Thanks to Buster's blog for links to the below. http://insider.espn.go.com/espn/blog/index?name=olney_buster#20070211

More phony moralism in MLB. The Red Sox are feigning concern over a beer ad airing in Japan which shows Dice K, are you ready? DRINKING BEER! They think this is sending a questionable message to the impressionable youngsters of Red Sox Nation. Evidently in part of the ad he is shown wearing a Red Sox uni, but in the portion of the ad where he is drinking beer he is shown in civvies. How's that for playing both sides of the fence? You get your brand exposure in the ad and simultaneoulsy claim the moral high ground. One more thing, the last time I was at Fenway it was ok to drink beer, in fact I recall they encouraged it. What sort of message is that sending to the youth of Red Sox Nation? Ok, one more thing, is there any signage at Fenway promoting beer?

There is serious talk that the Red Sox will open th 08 season in Japan. MLB is dead serious about growing the game in Asia. On the same note, Murray Chass reports that China is ready to start televising MLB.

Mr. Chass also reports some revealing numbers about recent trading in MLB. Trades are down from 56 at this point last offseason to 35. Mark Shapiro comments that it is a reflection of the economic health of teams, there is not as much salary dumping. Omar Minaya comments that teams are more motivated to keep their prospects.

Carl Everett is looking for a job.

Didn't know until today that the Cubs plan to give Neal Cotts an opportunity to start some games.

David Steele in the Baltimore Sun points out what a stark contrast it will be, the stage managing
of Bonds 756th in comparison to McGwire's 62nd. I hope Bonds hits #756 on the road just to hear and see the reaction. Sanctimonious asses.

Enough Buster stuff, randomly....

So much is made of everything happening off the field with Bonds, but when you get down to winning and losing, the Giants need Barry big time. It would be next to impossible to find a power hitter at this point in the season and the Giants have nobody else. What would the middle of their order look like without Bonds? Winn, Durham, Feliz? Ryan Klesko? The NL West is wide open, the Giants with Barry have as good a shot as anybody else.

I don't remember a pro athlete in my lifetime who alienated every sector of the game as completely as Bonds; teammates, media, PA, ownership, fans.

Why didn't Jason Giambi get crucified by the NY media over his grand jury testimony / admissions?

Who will win the Cubs shortstop job out of spring training, Ronny Cedeno or Cesar Isturis? My money is on Isturis.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

From the Basement Feb 10 07

Bud Selig, what a hypocrite, he will not be in attendance when Bonds breaks Aaron's record. He's known for years that MLB was juiced and chose to do nothing about it. Now he's taking the moral high ground, screw him.

Today I read something that conflicted with something I blogged about recently. Evidently not only will the humidor still be used at Coors Field but MLB is mandating that all 30 teams store balls in a "temperature - controlled" setting. Hmmm is MLB looking to decrease offense in reaction to the BALCO scandal?

Interleague record last season, AL 154 wins / 98 losses. Parity or mediocrity, choose your own term, that is the NL.

Wow is MLB flush with cash. I have been reading that slightly over 1 billion dollars was spent this off season on free agent contracts. Buster quotes a figure today approaching 1.6 billion. Maybe this higher figure represents not only free agents but arbitration eligible players who were signed to multi year deals?

Roy Halladay. As mentioned a few days ago, Baseball Prospectus reports that Halladay is hurting. Today in the Globe & Mail Robert MacLeod reports that Halladay threw a bullpen session earlier this week in Dunedin and was fine. MacLeod goes on to report that Halladay "struggled with forearm stiffness through much of last season". I was in the camp last year that thought Halladay was pitching hurt. I think the evidentce is the decline in strikeouts to IP ratio. Stated another way, he wasn't as dominant. Having said that, pitchers pitch hurt, it's part of the game. Halladay hurting is still a frontline pitcher. Maybe Burnett should take a cue from Doc.

Ran across Kevin Kouzmanoff's name today in an article about the Padres. He is much talked about this offseason, the Padres acquired him from Cleveland to play 3rd in exchange for Josh Barfield. I saw him play for Buffalo against Ottawa last year and he was incompetent in the field, but he did hit a home run. I predict it will be a failed trade for the Padres, his glove will be too big a liability and given how difficult it is to hit home runs in Petco his bat won't be enough to compensate.

Good game of chicken being played between Hennepin County and the folks who own the property where the Twins proposed new ballpark will be built. I suspect they will reach an agreement, the landowners are simply trying to extract every last dime they can from the taxpayers. In the event that they can't cut a deal the Twins are in a weaker position than they have been when negotiating with local governments. The threat of contraction, with a new CBA, is off the table until at least 2012. Relocating the franchise. With a team now in Washington alternate markets are scarce. Portland would seem to be next in line.

Bernie Williams has declined the Yankees invitation to their camp on a minor league deal. He would be an ideal 4th outfielder with the Jays. I think Stairs can still hit but I haven't seen him play enough recently to comment on whether or not he can still play the outfield. As well, Adam Lind would be betterserved by playing everyday in Syracuse rather than part time in Toronto.

Baseball Canada http://www.baseball.ca/ recently posted profiles of 3 up and coming hosers.

1. Local boy Philippe Aumont. Bby all accounts will be drafted this year in an early round. Philippe is a right hander.

2. Joey Votto, MVP in the Double A Southern League last season. Expected to start the year in Triple A Louisville as the everyday 1st baseman. I think Votto is the next prominent Canadian big leaguer, catch him at Lynx Stadium this year if he comes through town with Louisville.

3. Blake Hawksworth, I thought he was Canadian and then I wasn't sure and...well Baseball Canada knows, is scheduled to start the year in the rotation at Triple A Memphis but don't be surprised if he gets a shot with the Cards this year.

Why is John Henry investing in NASCAR? Revenue sharing avoidance. Similarly, the Red Sox investment in Dice K is very much about avoiding luxury taxes on payroll. The 50 million "posting fee" does not count as salary. I think Dice K is a really smart investment. Avoiding Revenue Sharing is also the reason the Giants hosted the Rolling Stones at AT&T in November 05. This is a term you see often when baseball accounting is discussed - Related Party Transactions. Lies, damn lies & accounting.

New York is the media capital of the world. Lots of press recently about the Yankees being at the forefront of developing baseball in China. Well, looks like all those reports were not entirely accurate. The Dodgers have been in China for quite a while.
http://www.latimes.com/sports/printedition/la-sp-baseball10feb10,1,5968716.story?coll=la-headlines-pe-sports&ctrack=1&cset=true

First manager fired this season: Clint Hurdle.

MLB and Bud Selig are so petty with Bonds. They reject Bond's contract on some insignificant " promotional appearances " clause, they leak that he tested positive for amphetamines, they leak that he blamed a teammate ( and name the teammate ) to add embarrassment. Bonds is dirty, get in line. At the power hitting positions I would argue it's been, by in large, a level playing field for a number of years, i.e. Juiced.

Has there been no interest in Bonds from anybody but the Giants because teams think he will hurt their gate or are they afraid of pissing off Bud Selig?

Read today that what Bonds is really pissed about is the leak about the inclusion of language that allows the Giants to terminate his contract if he is indicted. I don't blame him for being pissed about that. If you are bargaining in good faith you don't continually leak details which are embarrassing to the other party.

Peter MacGowan is spineless, he tacitly allows MLB to leak all the anti Bonds info they please by not standing up to Selig on Bonds behalf.

Does Don Fehr return Jeff Borris's calls? Should he?

I'd forgotton about this guy - Dan Meyer - LH SP with Oakland. He was the key guy rec'd from the Braves in the Hudson deal. Typical pitcher, hurt for a couple of years and now coming back.

Evidently the Brewers have already handed a starters job to Claudio Vargas? I read that Carlos Villeanuava thinks he's already ticketed for Nashville? I don't think Vargas is that good, he's not awful but I think it's a bit early to hand him the job.

I am curious to see who starts they year at shortstop for Angels Triple A Salt Lake - Brandon Wood or Erick Aybar. I predict Wood will be moved to 3rd.

A quasi Canuck, Ryan Braun, born in Kitchener raised in California, has a good shot at making the Royals bullpen out of spring training. Has he ever played for Canada a la Jesse Crain?

I think Edwin Encarnacion is going to have a big year.

Is being a Rule V pick good or bad for Josh Hamilton?

Says here that Shin-Soo Choo gets more AB's for the Indians this season than Trot Nixon. And I'll still think that when Choo starts the year in Buffalo.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

From the Basement Feb 08 07

Shannon Stewart signs with the A's. If healthy, he'll be a great addition to the top of the A's lineup. Getting off the turf of the Metrodome should help him healthwise. Billy Beane has the reputation of finding the undervalued players on the market. Stewart could be Beane's 07 version of Frank Thomas, who nobody wanted prior to the 06 season.

Maruy Brown from bizofbaseball.com answered my following question yesterday on a Baseball Prospectus chat.

PeterToms (Ottawa Canada): The impending sale of the Braves to Liberty Media, what sort of impact will it have on payroll? Is Mr. Malone a hobbyist who wants to win a ring or will the payroll be determined solely by concern for the bottom line? Why has the Braves payroll been in decline under Time Warner ownership? Thanks a lot. Pete Ottawa

Maury Brown: Hi, Pete. Thanks for the question… On the latter, I think this is still an unknown. If McGuirk is still at the helm as president, (which is whatMLB would prefer and is pushing for) and it’s simply a matter of setting player payroll, you may not see much of a difference from Time Warner’s ownership (emphasis on MIGHT). That said, I don’t feel Malone and Liberty have much interest in owning the club. It’s part of a larger deal with the Braves simply being a cog within it. As for why the payroll has declined… Such is the way of some ownership. The question isn’t about the decline in payroll, it’s how well the money that is available is spent. Scholholz, for the most part, has done as good a job as any in that respect over the Time Warner tenure.

Before Mr. Steinbrenner's health started to fail him, he was a vocal critic of small market teams NOT using their revenue sharing loot to improve their on the field product. In that vein, Maury speculates that there is a POSSIBILITY that the Pirates are using their revenue sharing gains to pay down team debt. Hadn't read that one before.

More of the same, Maury has a link to a St Petes Times article where it is noted that the D Rays have a projected 07 payroll of 24 million, lowest in MLB. In 06 the D Rays rec'd 36 million in revenue sharing, I don't foresee the 07 figure being significantly different. This is an example of a small market team being awful because being awful is what's best for the bottom line. If the D Rays much hyped young talent flourishes ( Young, Baldelli, Crawford, Upton, Kazmir, Longoria, Dukes ) maybe they will jack the payroll to acquire some pitching. Also in this piece, Joe Maddon says newcomer Akinori Iwamura will "most likely" play third base. By extension we assume that Cantu will play second, Zobrist short and Upton will be a Chone Figgins type player ( they hope ).

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

From the Basement Feb 07 07

Caribbean Series, tuned in top of the 8th, Venezuala vs Puerto Rico. The "dancers" on top of the dugouts between innings are HOT!

MLB.com in promoting MLB.TV, is claiming that this season the video quality will be twice as good as previous. Well, let's hope so, because if it wasn't-20 Celsius / -4 Farenheit outside I sure as hell wouldn't be watching this. ( The dancers aren't THAT hot ).

There are great players and there are stars. Stars transcend what they do on the field. The Yankees more so than any other team in MLB understand the importance of stars. A Rod is a star. It's early February and he is everywhere in the New York papers, on TV, over nothing more than his new childrens book. Did he write it or is it a "as told to" type deal?

The Reds locked up Aaron Harang for 4 years. In my estimation he has been the most underrated pitcher in MLB the past 3 years.

Buster has a link to a Boston Herald interview with Scott Boras.

Boras mentions that in negotiating contracts for top picks, teams are often in competition with other pro leagues. Not in this Q & A, but elsewhere, I have read his concern that changes to the Rule 4 draft will leave MLB in a less competitive position when competing for talent. I think MLB has made it less harmful for teams to walk away from top picks by giving them near identical picks in the following years draft if they don't come to an agreement.

Boras, and his staff, are probably as astute as any of the teams in evaluating talent at major, college & high school levels. Will the trend continue of agents crossing over? Jeff Moorad is part owner of the Diamonbacks. In hockey, Pierre Lacroix crossed over. I always thought it made sense, agents understand the market, the industry and talent evaluation.

Boras on the much ridiculed A Rod contract: "I get asked about the A-Rod contract all the time. (Rangers owner) Tom Hicks is now building an emporium around his stadium, with shops, the whole thing, the value of that property went through the roof. The football arena is being built right near there, he got a $ 100 million Ameriquest signage contract. His TV contract once he signed A-Rod went from $4 million to $ 35million a year there, the property value’s increasing, the franchise value increased, and then literally he paid for that contract in a short period of time, the 160 acres of land went through the roof, the value of the TV contract, the whole thing."

Boras foresees a Pacific Rim Division in MLB in 15 to 20 years. It makes sense to me, a lot of baseball industry observers noted that the Dice K signing is as much about developing the Red Sox brand in Japan as it is about baseball. The Yankees recently sent some suits to China, they aren't stupid. The downside? If MLB goes to Japan, because of the time zone, there could be MLB games on round the clock. I am in danger of becoming Boo Radley.

Boras thinks the Japanese baseball pros are going to revolt over the posting system. The system is poor, the Japanese clubs get way too much money. Andrew Zimbalist, post Dice K, wrote a good column in SBJ about the posting system, he thinks it poor as well. Will there be a Japanese Curt Flood?

Canuck Ryan Dempster has reportedly lost 20 lbs this offseason. Not sure what impact that will have on his performance, one thing I like about baseball is the overweight can excel.

Read that the Rockies are doing away with the humidor. I don't get it, I thought it had precisely the desired effect, namely making baseball at Coors Field baseball.

Oh shit, is Halladay hurt? Jeff Blair quotes Baseball Prospectus has reporting such, don't know how I missed that. As well Mr. Blair writes a column about something that's been puzzling me recently. Why have Tom Hicks and George Gillett purchased the Liverpool soccer team?



Tuesday, February 6, 2007

The NECESSARY EVIL Empire

The monicker says it all, the "Evil Empire". Larry Lucchino, President of the Boston Red Sox uttered the famous phrase in December 2002 after losing the José Contreras auction to the aforementioned New York Yankees. We all know instantly when we hear of the EE which team it is, there is only one. But the facts are, whether you love or hate the EE, everybody wins, fans and Industry.

The Yankees have been held up in many misinformed quarters over recent years as symbolic, if not the cause, of everything that is perceived wrong with MLB; Competitive imbalance, greed, grotesque salaries etc. I disagree, I believe that there is sufficient parity in MLB, the Yankees are good business partners and the players get paid a fair wage.

There are two types of sports fans, Yankee lovers & Yankee haters. Either way, it's fun. ( Don't underestimate the pleasures of hating. ) In particular,the EE Red Sox rivalry has evolved into one of the most entertaining spectacles in professional sports. The rivlary is enhanced greatly by the Yankees & the Red Sox ability to afford, elite, highly skilled, star powered teams. MLB is extremely popular at local levels, but on a National scale, only the Yanks / Red Sox games garner the attention they do. Many sports fans I encounter criticize MLB for not having a salary cap, because it allows the Yankees to grossly outspend their competitors. Well if you don't allow for that, they are no longer the EE that everyone loves / loves to hate. The Manny, Big Pappy, J.D., Dice K, Schilling, Beckett vs Giambi, Jeter, A Rod, Damon, Rivera, Matsui rivalry doesn't occur any longer in cap leagues. Cap leagues do not allow for the extended competition, over several if not more seasons, between great teams. Casual fans are interested in the Yankees, they're always in the playoffs, superstars, controversy, tradition, glamor. What's wrong with that? Would capping the Yankees payroll make MLB better?

Contrary to the prevailing opinion amongst casual sports fans, there is competitive balance in MLB. MLB can point to 7 consecutive different World Series champs. Thanks to the Wild Card, most teams are "in the hunt" come August for a playoff spot, which is likely the principal cause of record attendance. Parity, which means everyone is just above or just below .500, has been achieved in the NL. The Cardinals qualified for the playoffs with 83 wins last season, in 05 the Padres qualified with 82 wins. In the AL, there is parity in the West and Central ( save for the Royals ), the most unfortunate position to be in is competing in the AL East with the superstars, well no system is perfect.

The Wild Card, along with Revenue Sharing, Luxury taxes, and the money being distributed from Central Fund revenues has created the current Competitive Balance. The Yankees pay the bill. Steinbrenner paid out $100 million in Revenue sharing & luxury taxes last season, about 1/3 of the total dispensed. As well, no other team has the impact that the Yankees do on the amount of money that flows into the Central Fund, i.e. National TV contracts, licensing, merchandising, etc. The Yanks competitors see their biggest gates of the regular season when the EE rolls into town.

The EE, at least until they move into the new Yankee Stadium, seem to have maxed out payroll. No free agents were signed this off season, in fact they jettisoned a few big salaries. You can't blame the EE for inflating the value of free agents this off season.

MLB has found the perfect balance, a system that allows the glamor teams ( EE, Red Sox & Mets, once they move into Citifield ) to maintain their status while practically everyone else has an opportunity to contend, while sharing in the glamor teams largesse.

You can have the NFL and NHL ( I can't comment on the NBA ), no continuity, mediocrity by decree, player movement mandated by accountants, not GM's or coaches. I'll take MLB.

From the Basement Feb 06 07

Maury Brown has good news for Canuck hard core ball fans www.bizofbaseball.com MLB EI will be available in Canada on Rogers Cable even if it is moved solely to satellite on DirecTV in the US.

Murray Chass reports that the sale of the Braves to Liberty Media is getting closer. Time Warner has been reducing the Brave's payroll, what will Liberty do? Is this strictly a dollars and sense deal or is Liberty owner John Malone a wealthy hobbyist ( a la Ted Turner ) who wants to own a team just because he wants to own a team.

Fomer Lynx Bruce Chen will go to camp with the Rangers on a minor league deal.

Fomer Lynx Ed Rogers will go to camp with the Red Sox on a minor league deal.

http://neatesager.blogspot.com/ Interview with new Lynx skipper John Russell and a preview of what we'll be seeing at Lynx Stadium this season. New affiliate so there's lots to get up to speed on.

Monday, February 5, 2007

From the Basement Feb 05 07

Biz of Baseball interview with Jasyon Stark www.bizofbaseball.com

Mr. Stark's opinions about DirecTV / MLB EI: I disagree with him on a few points but he IS Jayson Stark and I am a guy in his basement. The larger issue in this move is the launch of the 24hr MLB channel. MLB doesn't want it on cable because it will only be accessible on the ghettoized "sports tiers". I said it a day or two ago, there is a big showdown between pro sports and cable in the US.

Mr. Stark is polite when asked to comment on the place of baseball geek websites in the baseball media. The 2 sites that he is asked to comment on Baseball Prospectus and Hardball Times are both sites that I visit, but for commentary on business issues primarily as opposed to the stat analysis end of it. I don't read Mr.Stark's column, not because I think him uninformed, but I read Gammons, Law & Olney already on ESPN, at some point the reporting becomes redundant.

Caribbean Series Mexico vs Venezuala, watched the first few innings, random thoughts.

ESPN just posted up the Mexico lineup and there are a couple of guys with a connection to our hometown Lynx. Karim Garcia, a Phillies NRI to spring training is described in the Philadelphia Daily News as follows "He is possibly best known for assisting Yankees teammate Jeff Nelson in a fight with a groundskeeper at Fenway Park in the visitors' bullpen during the 2003 American League Championship Series." I remember that, it was fun! He can also hit. As well, Geronimo Gi who caught here during the O's era is catching for Mexico.

Erubiel Durazo is hitting in the 3 spot for the Mexican team. I always associate him with the infamous 4 way trade that the Jays were a part of when they effectively dealt Felipe Lopez for Jason Arnold.

Poor turnout for this match up.

Hugo Chavez, from a strictly MLB standpoint, it's not good. What I have read indicates that teams will be cutting back drastically on player development in Venezuala. Too bad for us fans, there have been more and more great players coming from there.

Watching this caused me to flash back to a former co worker and geek who would watch Winter Ball in Spanish on his dish. This is obviously a long time ago because he used to laugh that the announcers would pronounce Wally Joyner's name as Hoyner. To this day, if I think of Wally Joyner, in my head I hear Wally Hoyner.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

From the Basement Feb 04 07

Let's talk Fantasy, inspired by the article on MLB.com that they are partnering with the Indians on a face to face get together with fantasy players. Good idea, an opportunity to see some of your best customers face to face and make them feel special.

I also read recently that the Philadelphia Flyers and Minnesota Wild are both offering team specific fantasy games on their web sites (as opposed to the league wide fantasy play offered on MLB, NFL and NBA team web sites ), a new trend.

The evolution of Fantasy has been one of the biggest changes in pro sports the past several years. Obviously there is big money involved, we all know how popular it is. The big thing to watch is the legal battle over licensing rights between CDM Fantasy Sports & the MLBPA / MLBAM. I quote from SBJ 9.35 "CDM, through a summary judgement issued in August....gained the legal right to use MLB player names and statistics in commercial fantasy games without a license". No surprise, there is an Appeal with the support of everybody, NFLPA, NFL, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, PGA & WNBA, does anybody know from amicus briefs?

If I could find my bong I might comment on how Fantasy has changed fans' relationships with the sports & teams they follow, but I'll just SAY NO.

I do like baseball Fantasy reporting though. Although I don't play Fantasy the most current & relevants facts about what's happening on the 30 rosters are found in the Fantasy columns.

Questec. Remember the big flap about that? The electronic evaluation of the accuracy of umpires ball and strike calls. MLB put it into use in 02 in an attempt to achieve more conformity amongst their umpires in calling balls and strikes according to the rulebook definition. Remember Curt Schilling smashing one of the Questec cameras in Arizona in 03 out of frustration? Not to single out Schilling, many pitchers were outspoken in their opposition to it. The umps and their union ( who knows which incarnation and exactly who was a member, can anybody follow that labor schmozzle?) were opposed to it as well.

There is an informative article titled "The Outside Corner" from February 01 at http://www.hardballtimes.com/ on the impacts of Questec and umpiring in MLB.

The conclusions? Questec is a success. The spread between the umpires with the largest and smallest strike zones has decreased 25% over Questecs reign. In fact after reading this I wonder if the "pitchers ump / hitters ump" aspect of the game within the game is overstated. I quote "Regressed to the mean, the most extreme umpires are within 2% of the league average in terms of the percentage of pitches they call a strike." Well, I guess that's why we don't hear about it anymore.

While we're talking about The Hardball Times, I glanced at something that surprised even a geek like me. A discussion about whether or not PI (sic?) could be useful in Fantasy. PI? PI? I was wrong, I do need my bong.

Caribbean Series last nite - Puerto Rico vs Venezuala - tuned in late, random thoughts while watching.

Armando Rios is playing for Puerto Rico. Briefly played for my hometown Lynx subsequent to having his name reported in the BALCO witch hunt.

Drinking seems to be a big part of the culture in the stands, I asked my wife during the 7th if I could go some year.

Couple of other guys who also briefly played for the Lynx, Luis Matos - who I thought had a legit shot at being a regular big league centre fielder & Hiram Bocachica who I've always thought was good enough to be a utility player in the bigs.

JUAN GONZALEZ. I would hear murmurs about Gonzalez, he played Independent ball last year. I would see talk about him working out for somebody. But I'd kinda forgotton about him. What a shame, he was a dominant hitter for a number of years. I remember the Rangers playing the Yankees - I think in more than one playoff - and thought Gonzalez was the best player in the series. Did he get too big? Would he have had fewer health problems if he had been a little smaller?

Former Lynx Larry Bigbie is going to camp with the Dodgers. He should be a fourth or fifth outfielder somewhere.

I am one who thinks the Rockies blew - BIG TIME - the Helton to Red Sox deal. I read now that he will exercise his veto over any future deals. The Rockies desparately need to free up some payroll, Helton is getting about 30% it. I think Montfort's sentimentality won out.

The only Manitoban to play in the bigs, Corey Koskie, might be forced to retire due to concussion problems. If this was the NFL.... I digress. Too bad, I like Koskie, super fielder, plays hard. Will Ryan Braun jump from AA to the bigs as his replacement?

Saturday, February 3, 2007

From the Basement Feb 03 07

Watched a bit of the 18 inning Dominican Republic vs Venezuala game last night on my PC, some random thoughts while watching.

Miguel Tejeda looks overweight. I have read speculation that the O's weren't too happy with his conditioning last year. He still made a really good throw from the hole though.

Randall Simon is playing for the Venezuala team. He could be in Ottawa this season, he is a Phillies NRI. The guy has had a long career bouncing around pro ball but his #1 claim to fame is that he is widely believed to be the "fat monkey" that John Rocker referred to in the infamous SI interview that was the beginning of the end of Rocker's career.

Luis Polonia is playing for the Dominican squad. Wow what a flashback! Looked him up, he is 43 now. What a career, 12 seasons in the bigs. Unfortunately in this era of Arena Baseball he is the type of outfielder, speed guy, who is disappearing from the game.

Tony Batista is playing for the Dominican. In 99 playing shortstop for the Blue Jays he hit 27 homers, setting the club record for that position. The following season he hit 41 for the Jays playing 3rd base, setting the club record for that position as well. In 2004 playing 3rd for the Expos he hit 32 homers setting the club record for the position. Is he still the holder of those Blue Jay records? His Expo record, well unfortunately that will never be broken.

Anderson Hernandez playing 2nd base for the Dominican, made a great play behind the bag in the 15th to throw out a runner at first. Last season, playing 2nd base for Norfolk, he made maybe the best play I saw all year in a game at Lynx Stadium.

I was bored between half innings watching the bit of the game I saw last night, which led me to glance at Rob Neyer's most recent column. It reminded me of why I don't read Rob Neyer. The subject of the piece was VORP. I have seen this acronymn on some of the seamhead sites but hadn't paid any attention. I now know that VORP is "Value over Replacement Player". Get out of your parents basement and get a life! Ok, I'm in my basement, but I'm one of the parents. Is there anything left for the SABR community to reveal? I think as far as measuring offence, no, it's been scrutinized to absurd lengths. Don't get me wrong, I think the stat geeks did convince the baseball establishment that they were wrong about some established thinking. I.E. Batting average was overvalued, ERA, particulary with relievers was overvalued, fielding percentage was overvalued etc. What remains to be seen is if the stat analysis community can come to a consensus on measuring defense. I am skeptical, there are too many variables, but don't underestimate the geekdom. I think you have to trust your eyes when it comes to defense. Do you know that the stat geeks think that Jeter is shit in the field? I think they have concluded that his range is subpar. What am I missing? I have seen Jeter play a LOT and I think he is outstanding. If I start blogging about PECOTA, please someone come to my basement and smash my PC and force me outdoors.

Edmonton Cracker Cats - Northern League. Evidently they are trying to persuade Hoser Baseball legend, Stuby Clapp, to return for another year. Jonathan Huntington at the Edmonton Sun reports that they paid him $8,000 per month last year. That dollar figure surprised me, but good for Mr. Clapp. Huntington also reports that the Cracker Cats are losing a lot of money. Out of Left Field, the Naete Sager site, also reported a while ago that both the Calgary and Edmonton Northern League teams are struggling at the gate. On a positive note, Winnipeg loves the Goldeyes!

Friday, February 2, 2007

From the Basement Feb 02 07

Email from Riley Denver @ the Lynx today, he is lookin forward to some NL style ball at the yard this season. Yes that is good news, we lost that when the O's came to town. NL rules will be in effect when visiting team is affilated with an NL team. I'm a purist, I will never like the DH.

Buster, more chatter about DirecTV / EI deal. Man, this is getting a lot of attention, but I am in the camp that thinks it is largely unimportant. Yes a lot of the current EI subscribers are pissed and vocal about it but this audience is also the hardest of the hard core. They love the game, they can't walk away from it.

Will I tune in to MLB.TV the next several days to watch the Caribbean Series? Well, probably a little bit, I am a geek.

A guy I didn't know was available signed a minor league deal with the Pirates - Michael Tejera. He's far from awful and pitching is thin, good signing byLittlefield.

It is extremely rare that I read athlete interviews but I did glance at the Schilling / Dan Shaughnessy tête å tête only to find the juicy bits where Schilling insults Shaughnessy. Very refreshing to read some candid remarks instead of the "110%" clichés.

I think Felix Hernandez is going to have a big year.

Paul Shuey is going to camp with the O's on a minor league deal. I didn't know he was still playing.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

From the Basement Feb 01 07

Received the most recent edition of Sports Business Journal in the mail today, there is some baseball stuff in it.

Some stuff that I had already read elsewhere, changes in ownership with the Pirates, DirecTV / MLB Extra Innings.

There is an NHL article with an MLB bent to it. GM's in the NHL are jumping on the Statistical analysis bandwagon ala the Billy Beane, Moneyball yada yada yada school. Former Black Hawks GM Mike Smith is part of one of the more succesful consulting companies, Coleman Analytics. I can't see it translating to hockey, so much of what makes a good hockey player cannot be measured by stats.

Couple of other baseball stories in SBJ. The Yankees continue to be at the forefront of generating new revenues. They were one of the first teams to start an RSN, they are on the cutting edge of interactive TV on their YES broadcasts and now they've cut a deal with Google "that effectively sets up a YES Network channel on the site". The Rangers are the most recent team with plans to build a "ballpark village". The Cards, A's, & Twins all have similar plans in the works.

ESPN.com, a list of achievable milestones in MLB this upcoming season: Bonds 756, Glavine 300, Sammy 600, Thomas, Thome, Manny, ARod & Sheffield 500. (Is 500 still a milestone?).

Buster says the back & forth over Barry's contract isn't that uncommon but because it's Barry, it's news.

Phillies trade rumors that won't go away. Rowand for Linebrink; I am one of the guys who doesn't see the Phillies making this deal, thier outfield is already thin. The other persistent rumor is that they will deal a starter - bets are on Leiber. I don't see the former "Stand Pat" making that one either, or not at least until he is confident that his other 5 starters, Myers, Garcia, Eaton, Moyer, Hamels are healthy at the end of Grapefruit. I had been hopeful that the Rios for Leiber trade would happen, but now with Thomson & Ohka...well will they be healthy when the season starts?

MLB.com. Johnny Damon will be facing off against Snoop Dog this Friday in Miami, in a game of Madden NFL 07. I'm 44 and I don't get it, but it is undeniable that video games are a big part of pro sports today and will only get bigger. Licensing dollars are huge, it's often kids first exposure to the sport, and unknown to me up until a few weeks ago, there are now Professional Gaming Leagues, with big purses, Corporate Sponsors, competitons on TV etc. It's part of the present and the future.

Pirates signed Tony Armas. I said it yesterday, they could be decent, young starters Duke, Snell, Gorzelanny, Maholm, plus Bay & Laroche. If 83 wins is good enough again in the NL Central then everybody is in the hunt ( it's February ).