CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run... (12/06)
<< Previous Column
BP Unfiltered: Winter ... (12/07)
Next Column >>
BP Unfiltered: Doublin... (12/07)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: ... (12/07)

December 7, 2011

BP Unfiltered

Winter Meetings Dispatch: The Social Ramble Ain't Restful, with Jose Reyes, Albert Pujols, Huston Street

by Steven Goldman

Overture: as I look over at the MLB network set on my left, I see that Peter Gammons has moved over to make room for Harold Reynolds. No matter how far you run, Peter, you cannot get away.

As Satchel Paige noted, the social ramble ain't restful. If the purpose of these meetings is for general managers to meet and make deals, they fail woefully. There is also a great deal of redundancy in the media coverage: the same stories echo and repeat and there is no utility to it. Realistically, John Heyman and Ken Rosenthal could be sent here by subscription and the rest of us could stay home and follow them on Twitter.

Intermission: as I type these words, Jose Reyes is being introduced as a member of the Miami Marlins, AKA the Team Nobody Could Love (Because They Don't Deserve It). I had wondered if Reyes would get a haircut for the occasion. A: Are you kidding? The Marlins are the essence of screw-you capitalism. They are far from unique in this, but that doesn't mean I have to like them or fall for the sucker punch that is their current ostentatious build-up, a shopping spree that cannot and will not be sustained. On a pure baseball level, however, I am impressed by their resolve to not be satisfied with Hanley Ramirez's defense at shortstop. I also wonder at the apparent lack of communication with Ramirez, although perhaps that was purposeful.

On a similar note, Jim Bowden just asked Reyes if he had reached out to Ramirez. Reyes: “We have not had time to talk yet.” Jose, when you are about to take someone's job, the classy thing to do is to reach out and give them a heads up, maybe ask them how they might feel about that.

Back to the social ramble: As you can see from the picture at right, the real purpose of these meetings is to forge relationships. The crowd depicted includes writers, broadcasters, job-seekers, scouts, managers, and general managers (the latter two fleetingly for the most part). They are talking, laughing, and drinking—mostly drinking—together, and the connections they forge here will facilitate communication within and around the game for the next year. That is the whole purpose, and has been for as long as baseball has had winter meetings—look at old issues of The Sporting News and you can see these same pictures, albeit on a smaller scale and populated by men now in the Hall of Fame (and, I imagine, a lot fewer women, more's the pity).

Note: John Heyman approacheth. He is tweeting things, resplendent in his spectacles.

Finale: Last night, the Mets picked up two relievers and this morning the Padres acquired Huston Street for a player to be named later, possibly Canal Street or Tenth Avenue. It seems as if when these meetings are not consumed with Albert Pujols—and kids, the impossible has happened, Pujols is now an overrated player—they are obsessed with closers. As I get older, crankier, and ever more attractive, I am becoming increasingly disgusted with the Cult of the Closer. I venerate Mariano Rivera as much as any baseball fan should, but damn it, we're talking about 60 innings a year out of a total of 1450. I don't care how important you think those innings are, that is four percent of the total. Four. Percent. The obsessive focus on the ninth inning is purely psychological; a team can lose games in any other inning, and often do, in part because they're devoting a disproportionate amount of resources to this almost entirely fictional Cadillac role.

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

24 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

ScottyB

But these are examples of acquiring not-as-overvalued-as usual closers. Isn't that progress?

Only Philly and Miami really went whole-hog on a closer so far, and the more economicial signings/trades of Fransisco, Santos, Nathan, Broxton, Rauch, etc. didn't really break the bank.

At least no one gave Madson or KRod $40mill yet...

Dec 07, 2011 10:23 AM
rating: 0
 
ostrowj1

Verlander pitched less than 18% of his teams total innings! 18%, what a putz!

Dec 07, 2011 10:43 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

You do realize that there is a very large difference between four percent and 18 percent, right?

Dec 07, 2011 12:14 PM
 
Joe D.

...in that one is over four times the other. Such that if a closer really is worth $10 million per season, the Verlanders of the world have a legit case for asking around $40 million per season.

Dec 07, 2011 14:24 PM
rating: 0
 
ostrowj1

I think there are 2 things that are commonly ignored when comparing starter salaries to relief pitchers. One, as Steven refereed to but quickly discounted, is that some relief pitchers pitch more "important" innings. Not having data in front of me, I would assume that in games where closer play, they (on average) pitch against the tougher hitters than any other inning save for the first inning. From a win expectation standpoint, a closer's 60 innings is more important than 60 typical innings of a starter (how much is up for debate). Second, the length of a star relief pitcher's contract is significantly less than a starters. CJ Wilson might sign a 5 yr contract that pays him $20 mil / year. That does not mean he is earning 20 mil during his first year. More likely, the team is paying him 40, 30, 20, 5, 5 for his performance in years 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (or something similar). Because a relief pitcher's contract is typically for 2-3 years, the annual amount seems higher because there are fewer bad years to average out the annual salary. If Wilson signed a 1 year contract, I bet it would be for >$30. In that context, I think Heath Bell's contract is aligned well with the market.

Dec 07, 2011 15:26 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

I gave up trying to figure out the economics of this year's offseason when I saw Jamey Carroll get a better contract than Freddy Garcia.

Dec 07, 2011 19:17 PM
rating: 1
 
tomterp

Non-sustainability really hasn't served the Marlins so poorly throughout their history. Two W.S. titles in their short history is pretty impressive.

Now KC, or Pittsburgh - those are sustainable models.

Dec 07, 2011 11:50 AM
rating: 2
 
Kreylix
(389)

It continues to amaze me that not one team has the courage to go without a "closer". To just use in relief whichever the best pitcher to bring in at the time is; not save anyone for the ninth inning.

It continues to amaze me. It continues to amaze me. It continues to amaze me.

Dec 07, 2011 14:04 PM
rating: 2
 
Lou Doench

I have a theory on that. The very inefficiency that bugs us also saves these guys arms arms a lot of wear and tear. So they are able to perform a lot more consistently than relievers that are called on more often. And as BP has highlighted in the past, saving your closer for the "save" often calls on them to face the bottom of the order, allowing them to pad their stats and appear more competent than a reliever that was being used optimally against the leagues best hitters in clutch situations (as I assume we BP'ers, would like to see.) So this usage pattern allows lesser pitchers to acquire a veneer of "closer mentality". Combine that with managers that are afraid to be risk takers and you practically grow the modern closer by natural selection. Give that guy a couple of seasons soaking saves for a bad team (Heath Bell?) and suddenly he's a brand name product, "Proven Closer"

The players have to see how this works, which is why they hate not having "established roles" or whatever.

Dec 07, 2011 14:37 PM
rating: 2
 
BillJohnson

In one of those delicious bits of irony, Tony La Russa, of all people, went at least partially with the best-pitcher-available model for much of the season. Sure, he always had a designated "closer." For much of the year, that closer was not the best pitcher available, and he'd run firemen out there who were better. And the flip side was that his use of his closer du jour was not always for the routine 9th-inning save; even after Jason Motte inherited the closer's mantle in late August, he continued to get called on in non-save, or at least non-9th-inning, situations.

Therein lies a lesson, I think. Once he finally wised up and defenestrated Ryan Franklin, Miguel Batista, etc., the Cardinals had a remarkably deep and capable bullpen that would allow good relievers to be used in just about any setting. And once he had that weapon, he used it. Stockpiling effective firemen had much to do with getting the Cardinals to the post season, even as the nominal "closer" position continued to exist.

Dec 07, 2011 14:51 PM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

This is a VERY good point, and one that Christina Kahrl grapples with, albeit indirectly, in a chapter in our forthcoming sequel to Baseball Between the Numbers.

Dec 09, 2011 09:58 AM
 
Richard Bergstrom

The Red Sox also went with a closer-by-committee for a brief period early in Theo's reign ago and caught a lot of flak for it.. not just from the media but from the pitchers who were no longer sure when they needed to warm up to enter the game.

Dec 07, 2011 19:19 PM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

Disagree on Jose Reyes. That's all on Florida as an organization to contact Hanley and iron out the details. Typical of Loria that he failed to do this. That's not Reyes' responsibility; he's a shortstop and he was hired to be a shortstop.

Agree on the Marlins as a franchise, though. And they will trade Reyes to the Yankees in a few years once Derek Jeter is done.

Dec 07, 2011 15:29 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

I have a hunch that seeing the Hanley mini-drama play out on top of the Marlins' existing reputation is a factor that might've turned Pujols off of the Marlins.

Dec 07, 2011 19:20 PM
rating: 0
 
eighteen

Furthermore, if Ramirez was doing his job at short, Miami wouldn't feel it necessary to pay $106m to get a new one. Reyes isn't "taking" Ramirez' job - Ramirez lost it on his own.

Dec 08, 2011 12:08 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Doesn't make sense to me to pay so much to Reyes when he's inferior to Ramirez.

Dec 08, 2011 12:12 PM
rating: -2
 
eighteen

I guess that depends on expectations of future performance. While Miami may not have drawn the right conclusions, it's safe to say their information on that score is superior to ours.

Dec 08, 2011 14:21 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

You expect Reyes to outperform Ramirez in the future when Reyes is older, has problems staying healthy and had an offensive peak lower than Ramirez's offensive peak?

Dec 08, 2011 16:12 PM
rating: 0
 
Patrick

Ramirez didn't even lose his job. He's still an everyday position player for the Marlins and not getting paid any differently. It's sort of like a cop going to a new beat; the job description isn't really that different, you're just in a slightly different place.

Dec 08, 2011 16:17 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

From an average Joe Schmoe perspective, can a random jobseeker just waltz into the Winter Meetings? I imagine there has to be some kind of list or something that prevents people from just walking in.

Dec 07, 2011 19:23 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Mike Fast
BP staff

Anyone can just waltz right in. You wouldn't have access to some media events and other functions, but the lobby crowd where much of the talking is done is completely free.

There is a job fair for internships that requires registration, but otherwise there are many people who just come on their own and hang out with the crowd. I even saw a couple kids there looking for autographs.

Dec 08, 2011 10:08 AM
 
Richard Bergstrom

Maybe I'll go sometime just to say hi to all the BP people, turn it into a pizza feed or something.

Oh, and also to call Buster Olney a sock puppet to his face.

Dec 08, 2011 12:11 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

One other thought, the "sources" at the Winter Meetings seem a lot less accurate than they used to be.

Dec 08, 2011 07:29 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Case in point...

"No, the Cubs have not been a player for Pujols. It didn't hurt the process to let the misinformation persist, but the fit never was right on either side.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/tom_verducci/12/08/angels.albert.pujols/index.html#ixzz1fyZfh6kJ"

Dec 08, 2011 12:13 PM
rating: 0
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run... (12/06)
<< Previous Column
BP Unfiltered: Winter ... (12/07)
Next Column >>
BP Unfiltered: Doublin... (12/07)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: ... (12/07)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
West Coast By Us: Whatever, I'm Wearing Jort...
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of Tuesday, May 2...
Fantasy Rounders: Engage the Cutch
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Wednesday, May 27
Premium Article Some Projection Left: Top 100 Draft Prospect...
Premium Article Rubbing Mud: Rubbing Not-Really-Mud
BP Wrigleyville

MORE FROM DECEMBER 7, 2011
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Three's Company in Mia...
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: A Two Buc Gamble
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Sweeping Street From T...
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: The Mets Build a Bullp...

MORE BY STEVEN GOLDMAN
2011-12-20 - The BP Broadside: Jersey Scrooge to Darvish:...
2011-12-14 - Premium Article The BP Broadside: Cottleston Pirates
2011-12-09 - The BP Broadside: The Best First Baseman in ...
2011-12-07 - BP Unfiltered: Winter Meetings Dispatch: The...
2011-12-07 - BP Unfiltered: Winter Meetings Dispatch: It'...
2011-12-06 - Premium Article The BP Broadside: The Singular Love of Manny...
2011-12-06 - BP Unfiltered: Winter Meetings Dispatch, wit...
More...

MORE BP UNFILTERED
2011-12-19 - BP Unfiltered: Best of Baseball Prospectus C...
2011-12-14 - BP Unfiltered: Best of Baseball Prospectus B...
2011-12-07 - BP Unfiltered: Doubling BP's BBWAA Body Coun...
2011-12-07 - BP Unfiltered: Winter Meetings Dispatch: The...
2011-12-07 - BP Unfiltered: Winter Meetings Dispatch: Gio...
2011-12-07 - BP Unfiltered: Winter Meetings Dispatch: It'...
2011-12-06 - BP Unfiltered: Winter Meetings Dispatch, wit...
More...