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March 11, 2002

The Daily Prospectus

Spring Notes

by Joe Sheehan

I spent my weekend watching college hoops and delving into Jeff Torborg's managerial career, so today's column is everyone's favorite: Short-Attention-Span Theatre!

  • I really like the Ramon Hernandez signing. Hernandez hasn't been a great hitter yet, but he did improve in 2001, is a pretty good defensive backstop, and is just 26. The A's have locked up his 26-29 peak at a total cost of $9.5 million. This deal has very little chance of being a disaster--even if Hernandez doesn't improve at all, he's probably worth the money--and an excellent chance of being a bargain if he develops as expected. He'll have a .290 EqA season at some point during the contract.

  • There's talk that the Cubs are interested in bringing Jeff Shaw in as a replacement in the closer role for injured Tom Gordon, which seems like an extreme example of placing too much weight on the "closer" label. The Cubs have hard-throwing Kyle Farnsworth, who was dominant last year in the late innings, as well as reasonable depth in Courtney Duncan and Jeff Fassero.

    Shaw has already indicated that he doesn't much care if he plays baseball any more. I don't mean to get all sportswritery here, but what message are you sending Farnsworth and Duncan if you'd rather talk a guy out of retirement than give them a shot at the job? And what good does it do a team to bring in someone who'd rather be in Ohio raising his kids?

    In my mind, Shaw has always been the best example of the absurdity of the "closer" myth. He was a failed starter turned good middle reliever, who got a chance to close when, and only when, Jeff Brantley was injured. Thirty-odd saves later, he was seen as having the scarlet "C" on his chest, and a millionaire. The lesson--good pitchers can pitch the ninth inning just as well as they can pitch the seventh and eighth, and that there's no reason to think an accumulation of saves reflects a special ability--was lost.

    For as much complaint as people have about statheads, no stathead would ever let a statistic as meaningless as saves drive usage patterns, player valuations, and resource allocation. The nominal professionals do it all the time.

  • Somebody really ought to make a movie about Bobby Knight.

  • One of the dangers of having an aging team is the increased risk of injury. Veteran teams that stay healthy can outperform expectations--see the Diamondbacks of 2001, or the entirety of the recent Yankee dynasty--but the risk of older players missing time, or seeing their performance suffer due to nagging hurts, is one of the big reasons we're always emphasizing building with young players.

    This year the Yankees, with one of the oldest rosters this side of a sewing circle, are starting out on the wrong foot. And hamstring. And neck. And calf. And elbow. And rib cage. It's something to keep in mind when faced with the endless stream of predictions about how no one else has a chance against the Mighty Yankee Revenue Stream.

  • The White Sox look better to me every day, mostly because I can't figure out what the Indians are doing. Bartolo Colon is fine, but behind that there's the guy who ate C.C. Sabathia, a 39-year-old Chuck Finley, the ongoing moving-Danys Baez-back-into-the-rotation project, and, for the 14th year in a row, the comebacks of Charles Nagy and Jaret Wright.

    For a team that's nominally rebuilding with pitching, there's not much there. The bullpen could be a source of strength, especially if they'd leave Baez in it and give his rotation slot to Ryan Drese or Tim Drew. The Indians are going to score maybe 100 fewer runs this year, and this isn't the pitching staff to make up that shortfall.

  • A six seed?!?! What, does Gonzaga need to schedule better? Perhaps they can get a home-and-home with the Sonics.

  • Free Erubiel Durazo! He's hitting .545 and slugging 1.000 through about ten days of spring-training games. Maybe the D'backs can at least play him in right field when strikeout pitchers Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling are on the mound, in an effort to minimize his exposure on defense.

    To be honest, a lot of the benefit from having a guy like Durazo has already been lost. He'll be arbitration-eligible after this year, so if he gets an opportunity to play in 2002, he'll be expensive in 2003. He's not a young player any more, either. Still, he's at .285/.387/.519 for his career, in essentially a season's worth of playing time. At some point, you'd like to think the D'backs would either give him a job or let him get on with his career in an organization that can use him.

    There's more to loyalty than just demanding it from a free agent.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

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