December 29, 2011
The Lineup Card
9 New Year's Resolutions for Players, Managers, GMs, and Teams
1) Ned Colletti
Convince the World He's a Stathead
Once upon a time, a general manager could blow 20 or 30 or 50 million dollars on a bad free agent contract and shrug his shoulders while saying, "Who could have known that Jason Schmidt's shoulder was a ticking time bomb from looking at a health report?" or "Who would have guessed Juan Pierre wasn't a home run hitter?" or "Who says Juan Uribe can't get on base?" But now, waves of young GMs armed with MBAs, propeller beanies, and dog-eared copies of Baseball Between the Numbers can tell you these things, and Ned Colletti knows he's losing his edge to the kids whose footsteps he hears when they get on the spreadsheets.
With the Dodgers up for sale, Colletti knows he's not long for his job, so his New Year's Resolution is to recast himself as one of those hip, young statheads as he seeks his next job. He already bought a subscription to Baseball Prospectus and a couple of Brad Pitt DVDs. He's handed out two-year deals to thirty-something infielders to lock in those low, low prices and found busted fly-ball pitchers who need a spacious park to resuscitate their flagging careers. He's planted stories about how the Dodgers have gone Moneyball because he knows how to look up Juan Rivera's lefty/righty splits on Baseball-Reference.com.
But there's still work to be done in 2012. Colletti must memorize the complex formula used to calculate on-base percentage. He must goad T.J. Simers into calling him "Google Boy" in print at least once, which will make Bill Plaschke so jealous that he'll probably do it twice. He must be interviewed by MLB Network with copies of Baseball Prospectus annuals visibly lining the shelves behind him. And he must buy a gorilla suit. —Jay Jaffe
2) Bud Selig
Find New Owners for the Dodgers and Mets
All in all, 2011 was a pretty successful year for Major League Baseball. From Justin Verlander’s incredible season, to Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit, to that incredible final day of the season and the thrilling World Series, there was lots of good PR to go around. Of course, guaranteeing five more years of labor peace doesn’t hurt in that department either. The dark cloud that hangs over the league at the moment is the ownership situations in Los Angeles and New York. The McCourt divorce and Wilpon’s financial issues have left both teams as raging dumpster fires. This is why number one on Bud Selig’s New Year’s resolution list should be to find new owners for both teams as soon as possible. Both teams have had massive payroll constrictions due to the instability at the top of the organization. While this might be overlooked if it was going on in smaller markets, the fact that this is unfolding in two of baseball’s largest markets means they are situations that needs to be remedied sooner rather than later.
The Dodgers are in danger of having part of their fanbase siphoned off with all of the moves that the Angels have made this offseason. The public war over the team between the McCourt’s has been embarrassing to the employees and fans of the Dodgers, and it only promises to be dragged out even longer as Frank refuses to waive the white flag.
The Mets were already in a precarious situation because the Yankees are kind of popular in New York, not to mention their poor record the last three seasons. Their payroll is likely going to be reduced once again this season, and Sandy Alderson admitted that even with their lowered 2011 payroll, the organization suffered huge financial losses. Selig’s number one priority in 2012 should be to make sure the Mets and Dodgers find not just new owners, but ones with actual money—a concept which Selig has struggled with and is part of the reason the Dodgers are in this predicament in the first place. Hopefully this is a resolution that Selig has the resolve to stick with and doesn’t end up as the equivalent of someone not running on the treadmill after January. Without new owners, the Mets and Dodgers will continue their respective spirals down the standings and attendance lists, which in turn will hurt MLB financially each season until these situations are mercifully resolved. —Sam Tydings
3) Albert Pujols
Back to Ash
Baseball’s new labor deal bans low-density maple bats but with an exception that nearly swallows the new rule. New major leaguers may not use the hard, brittle wood prone to shatter, but thanks to a grandfather clause, current players may continue to wield maple. Make us safe, but not just yet.
No player, at any level, wants anyone messing with the tools of his trade, but it might be helpful to kick-start the beginning of the end of the maple era if an established star who didn’t have to make the switch gave an old-fashioned ash bat a try, even if only during spring training. Make it a 2012 resolution. Think of the new marketing opportunities! How about the guy who carries the biggest stick in the game, Albert Pujols? Compared to all the other changes coming his way this spring—Disneyland, a new league, and a halo—it’s a small thing. And the newest Angel always can quietly go back. Just make it to March, and he’s bound to outlast my own resolutions. —Jeff Euston
4) Bryce Harper
A simple New Year’s Resolution for the Washington Nationals phenom is to live up to the hype that he has created for himself. Not since … well anyone… has a minor league ballplayer garnered so much attention and gained such iconic status as Bryce Harper has done in his one and only season in professional baseball. At the age of 16 he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, and the hype began, the spotlight was on, and the next "Nuke" LaLoosh was fueling his own hype machine. In a Single-A game at the age of 18, he blew a kiss to an opposing pitcher as he rounded the bases on one of his 23 homeruns split between Single-A, Double-A, and winter ball in 2011. As they say, all things come in threes, and the “Harper Condition” is no different. The now 19-year old phenom got a Chocolate Lab puppy for Christmas and promptly introduced him to the world on Twitter (@BHarper3407), naming him “SWAG”. Seriously… who does that? Where is Crash Davis when you need him? This teenager is simply getting too big for his britches, and a 2012 resolution for him is easy: “Act like a minor leaguer until you make it to the show, and then once you prove you can hit higher than the .256 you hit in AA, you can strut.” Otherwise, you’re likely to get a major-league heater in the ear if you act like this in the bigs. —Adam Tower
5) Juan Carlos Oviedo (the pitcher formerly known as Leo Núñez)
Embrace your identity and help authorities in the Dominican Republic
On one of many summer nights at Kauffman Stadium as a teenager, I sat behind the Royals' bullpen and watched how Royals reliever Leo Núñez worked. He pervaded calmness, stability, and fragility. I nicknamed him "Baby Face", partly due to his demeanor and partly due to his boyish appearance. In 2008, the Royals shipped him to the Marlins for Mike Jacobs (who lasted one season in KC before getting released), but I continued to follow his career as a closer. The bombshell dropped this September — Leo Núñez wasn't Leo Núñez. He is actually Juan Carlos Oviedo. So much for stability.
Since Oviedo agreed to cooperate with a false documentation investigation in the Dominican Republic, he won't be prosecuted on a fake identity charge. He wants to play for the Marlins again, but he needs to acquire a U.S. visa, for which he has been denied previously.
If Oviedo resolves to embrace his identity, help authorities curtail illegal documentation, and create awareness for an ongoing problem in the Dominican Republic, he might be able to find his way back to the States. He changed his name and age to be able to sign a professional contract, which is immoral. He deceived his employers, but he did so in order to escape poverty. Acknowledging the mistake and being open about it is certainly better than hiding it.
If he pays his debt, Oviedo should get a second chance, either with the Marlins or a new team. His team changed its name, too. He'd fit right in. —Clark Goble
6) Mike Matheny
Work on Communicating with Bullpen Coach Derek Lilliquist
Tony La Russa endured his most embarrassing moment in 33 years as a big league manager when a failure to communicate with bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist allegedly cost his Cardinals in Game Five of the World Series. The Redbirds rebounded, of course, but as first-year skipper Mike Matheny looks to fill La Russa's shoes, he ought to learn a valuable lesson from his predecessor's mishap.
Jason Motte, Marc Rzepczynski, and Lance Lynn—the three pitchers involved in the snafu—will likely be on Matheny's Opening Day roster, and Lilliquist will still be down in the bullpen answering the phone. The three names certainly don't sound the same, but if Lilliquist can't tell them apart, Matheny, who ushers in a new generation of managers that were still playing in the 2000s, might as well revamp the process.
It's hard to picture La Russa or Charlie Manuel sending a text message, but Matheny and Lilliquist—both in their 40s—could probably pull it off. Smoke signals? Carrier pigeons? Adding "messenger" to Skip Schumaker's responsibilities as a utility man? Anything to avoid, well, this. —Daniel Rathman
7) Dave Dombrowski
Don’t Trade Away Top Prospects
Here’s a 2012 New Year’s resolution for you Dave Dombrowski and your Detroit Tigers: don’t trade your prospects for a player that you traded away as a prospect. DD made a mistake on 10/29/07 when he sent a young Jair Jurrjens to Atlanta along with another prospect at the time (Gorkys Hernandez) for National League shortstop Edgar Renteria. The new Tigers shortstop would hit only .270 in 2008—his only season in Detroit—coming off of a 2007 season for the Braves in which he hit .332. Hernandez would never pan out, but Jurrjens has become a mainstay in the Atlanta rotation, winning 47 games in four seasons, including two seasons of 13 wins and one of 14 wins. Now he is on the trading block if for no other reason than that the Braves have younger pitching to take the place of the 25-year old former Tigers prospect. As tempting as it is to pull the trigger and fix the mistake, Dombrowski and the Tigers should resolve to not trade any of their top 10 prospects to bring Jurrjens back to the Motor City. Instead, they should look to give Atlanta exactly what they got for Jurrjens in 2007; they should look to send Ryan Raburn and a Single-A first-baseman to Atlanta. The ‘ol “eye for an eye” seems like as good a resolution as any. Is it Opening Day yet? —Adam Tower
8) Bobby Abreu
Be More Considerate by Swinging at More Pitches
Abreu has offered at between 32-to-34 percent of pitches seen since 2009, making him one of the most economical batters when it comes to swinging. Yet, think about the crippling self-doubt Abreu causes in strike-throwing pitchers. Imagine throwing a perfectly hitable strike, only to see Abreu look down his nose at the pitch. Even Abreu’s own teammates think he comes off as an elitist. Abreu wants to change and will try to atone for his sins by swinging more often in 2012. —R.J. Anderson
9) Dayton Moore
Stop signing Yuniesky Betancourt
This one will have to wait for 2013. —Ben Lindbergh