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November 15, 2002

From The Mailbag

Barry Bonds, the AFL, and Bob Klapisch Responds

by Baseball Prospectus

BONDS AND THE MEDIA 

I clicked on to the BP page to write an indignant e-mail about Rick Reilly's column on Barry Bonds, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that you beat me too it. I don't know if Bonds is a bad person or not, and I'm quite sure that Reilly doesn't either. And I don't really care if Bonds is nice to reporters or gives a good interview, which I suspect are the main criteria for getting favorable press.

It's interesting that the same reporters who rip Bonds' character left and right are the ones who anointed Kirby Puckett a media saint. Just goes to show how acute their judgment of character really is.

--Jake Vaccaro 

Puckett's always been beloved my fans and offered great quotes to reporters. Ripping him means aligning yourself on the wrong side of the fence, a position most reporters view as extremely undesirable. With Bonds on the other hand, you're laying into a guy who won't give you much in the way of quotes even in the best of times, who'll be equally ripped by your journalist peers. It's the safe place to be, so why the hell not.

--Jonah Keri

AL CY YOUNG

Among qualifying starting pitchers, Pedro Martinez was the best in the AL in ERA, winning percentage (.833), batting average against (.198), on-base percentage against (.254), strikeouts (239), strikeouts per nine innings (10.79) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.98).

Barry Zito's #1 rankings? Games started (35) and wins (24). No contest.

--Paul Daly 

Thanks for the interest. I'm getting a number of complaints from Boston supporters arguing Pedro's merits. Pedro has a case, but what does Red Sox Nation have against Derek Lowe? He allowed fewer runs per game than Pedro (2.66 to 2.80), and he pitched 20 more innings. That's a pretty good case, if you ask me.

(Contrary to the ESPN front page blurb that links to my article, the article itself actually supports Lowe for the Cy.)

--Michael Wolverton

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE 

Thanks for the AFL article, it's always nice to see baseball being played off-season. I have one question: the AFL's always been touted as an important league to evaluate young players. What is the criteria that clubs use to decide which players to send to the AFL? It seems to me the selections are rather varied. For instance, Oakland decides to send Adam Morrissey but not Bobby Crosby who I think is a better prospect. Is this about sending your best prospects or just the most advanced? Or are some other criteria used?

--FS 

It's a mish-mash of a bunch of things. First off, talking to one of the AFL managers, it's apparent most teams don't want to send their best pitching prospects to AFL, unless they missed time during the year due to injury or some other factor. Teams are learning that sending a 20-year-old fireballer fresh off 180 regular-season innings and seven months of competitive ball probably isn't a good idea. On the hitting side of the ledger, you do see more top-tier prospects such as Mark Teixeira and Hee Seop Choi.

Getting to talented but second-tier guys like Crosby and Morrissey, there can be any number of reasons. With guys like Morrissey, Lance Niekro and Corey Hart, their parent clubs wanted those players to gain experience playing new positions. If a guy has a good bat but can't field a position, it behooves his team to try him elsewhere basically. Other factors can include some of the same injury and playing time variables apparent with pitchers. Even when teams pull back some of their better players though, it's still a great talent showcase, one that has launched the careers of some notable prospects in the last few years.

--JK 

I'm a huge Rockies fan and the only guy you covered was J.D. Closser, and it sounds like he has got some potential as a hitter.

Did you get an opportunity to see Garrett Atkins, Choo Freeman, Matt Holliday, and Ryan Cameron? I know the organization has a couple of other players represented with Mesa, but these are the guys I feel the best about. Atkins at one time was hitting for average but had yet to draw a walk. Holliday was showing some power and Choo Freeman wasn't doing anything really well and had been playing mostly LF. Those are my observations from box scores and stats, was there anything there with those guys you found promising?

--Jeff Brainard 

I saw Atkins play. That high-average, low walks approach looks like his trademark, and he might be able to get away with it in Coors Field. Though I don't care much about strikeouts by hitters usually, but putting the ball in play a lot is a good skill to have in Coors Field and Atkins looks like he can do that in spades. That said, he's shown decent walk rates in the minors, so maybe these 80 AB are a fluke. Either way, he had a nice, level swing and didn't get fooled. If he stays at 3B he could be valuable. If they shift him to 1st, probably not.

I didn't get to see Cameron, but wow have his numbers been great as an AFL reliever. More importantly, his high K rates match his minor-league performance. He's said to have an all-world changeup as his best. Sometimes the numbers jump so far out at you, you can't help but take them to heart. I'd just be curious to see how a reliever with a high-80s fastball and a change as his best pitch fares in the pen. Come to think of it, that's kind of what Trevor Hoffman's become at this stage of his career, and he's held up fine.

Saw a little of Freeman--he didn't look very noteworthy. Doesn't look all that comfortable in the outfield, and doesn't command the strike zone the same way the better hitters did.

I don't remember seeing Holliday at all--I believe he's a part-timer for Mesa.

--JK 

Re: Mark Prior's hamstring injury (that put him out for the season).

Reminds me of what Nate Archibald said about his injuries (after they were using him 48 minutes a game).

"Those injuries saved my career."

--JD

A Tiny Archibald fan! I used to watch Jeopardy hoping that one day they'd sneak in a Famous Celtics Point Guards category, with a Kelvin Upshaw Daily Double question. Alas, still waiting.

--JK

FELIPE ALOU 

What are your thoughts about the Giants' hiring OF Felipe Alou? My memory/impression is that he was an outstanding handler of the pitching staff, both in terms of protecting young starters' arms and in creating effective bullpens out of thin air, but that he built very undisciplined offenses. He's also 67. Has the game passed him by, or can his recent "failures" be attributed to the general low quality of the Expos organization?

--David Goldstein

Alou's OK. I think his reputation as a miracle worker with pitchers is overblown, but he did get a fair amount out of the talent he had in Montreal. It's interesting that, despite Alou's many years of experience, we really don't have a great idea how he's going to do in SF. His experience in Montreal was exclusively with young teams, and the Giants won't (and probably shouldn't) have a young team in the foreseeable future.

Bottom line: the Giants could have done better (Davey Johnson), but they also could have done worse (just about all the other candidates mentioned). Solid hire.

--MW

BOTTOM OF THE NINTH

I read your posting and I thought you should know why a discrepancy existed between the two Bonds columns.

I was at the outer fringe of the 40-person scrum near Bonds' locker last Sunday. He spoke softly, at times inaudibly. Unfortunately, I never heard him say, "you're stepping on my son." In fact, I was unable to hear several of Bonds' responses. As any reporter will attest, this is often the reality in a crowded clubhouse on deadline.

I returned to the press box to write my Record column, using the quotes I heard. It wasn't until I finished and filed that I was made aware of the "son" reference. Had there been a later edition of the Record that night, I would've immediately included the passage. But because of the lateness of World Series, the column I wrote was for the Record's final Monday edition.

However, I still had an ESPN.com column to file two hours later, at which point I did include the "son" reference. So even though the Record column was written first and went into production first, the ESPN column appeared first, thanks to the Internet's immediacy.

The point is, the "son" reference wasn't snipped out, but was actually added.

--Bob Klapisch 

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