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January 24, 2003

From The Mailbag

Bartolo Colon, George W. Bush, and the Newly Important All-Star Game

by Baseball Prospectus

THE APPEARANCE OF MISCONDUCT

If the Bartolo Colon trade was some big Selig conspiracy, how come Minaya offered Colon a $50-million, four-year extension? Bud had to approve that contract. Only after Colon rejected it, did Minaya trade him. Why wasn't that mentioned? Oh, I get it - if it's A FACT but it doesn't fit the conspiracy template/make Bud look bad in EVERY situation template - just ignore it.

The end always justifies the means when it is Bud we are attacking. I don't mind opinionated journalists, but when you ignore important facts to make your argument look better, it destroys your credibility. Is BP's urge to bash Bud that strong that you must always embellish your pro-MLBPA side and ignore facts that might weaken your argument?

--KS

Thanks for your message.

Briefly:

  1. I actually didn't know (or more likely, didn't remember) about the deal offered to Colon.
  2. For as long as the league owns the team, these kinds of (potential conflicts) are going to come up.

    In the case of the contract extension: OK, they offer him good money to stay. Fine, they don't want the team to completely go in the tank (and what good would it do them?). Colon says no. Fine, he'd rather pitch someplace else.

    Now, given that Colon has nixed the extension, it's clear that he's going to have to be traded. My scenario (which, remember, I termed "a thought experiment") could, just possibly, ensue.

  3. This is the first piece I've ever written for BP. So it's just my take on things rather than part of any overriding editorial instruction to slag Selig.

The inherent nastiness of any league owning one of its teams--and we could just as well be talking about Man United or the Portland Trail Blazers or whatever--is what's creating the problem.

--Tim Walker

CARDINALS TEAM HEALTH REPORT

I enjoyed your look at the Cardinals' team health. I have to take issue, though, with your characterization of Tino Martinez as "old and fragile." Although Tino is indeed old (and slow, and mediocre, and grotesquely overcompensated), one thing you cannot call him is fragile. He's played in at least 150 games four years running, and hasn't been on the DL since Theo Epstein was in high school.

Also, while Jim Edmonds is sometimes reckless afield, he has nevertheless managed to play in 446 games over the past three years (81 more than Larry Walker), so I think it's a little unfair to question his durability, at least for now.

Finally, Scott Rolen's back problem seems to be completely behind him (haw, haw), as he played in 155 games last season and 151 in 2001.

--RR

Fragile is a relative term. While he always manages to play, Tino always seems to be nicked up, hobbled, whatever. Even in New York, Tino was always a "gamer" - out there doing his thing whether or not he should have been.

Edmonds also is nicked and banged up, but also always about one play away from missing the season. A player with that risk needs to be factored into the equation. A comp is a guy like Andruw, who glides, perhaps even loafs, but you never really worry about him hurting himself.

Back problems never go away. Rolen made it through a season. Good. Let's see him do it again. Does this risk make him less valuable? Maybe. Again, I've got to point out the risks. He's obviously a bit less likely to do it again the further he goes without problems, so maybe by next year, it won't even be worthy of mention.

--Will Carroll

MINI-CAMPS AND POLITICS

Aren't you setting up a straw man to defend yourself from the gratuitous dig at George W. Bush? The problem that I (and I'm assuming others) had with your needle wasn't that it was political commentary. The problem that I had was that it was political commentary that was completely irrelevant to baseball, the topic at hand.

Yes, discussions about the CBA are political in nature, but they are also about baseball. Although I generally disagree with your pro-labor attitudes, I appreciate your articles related to labor because they are relevant to baseball and are usually well-researched and well-written.

Non-baseball-related political digs like the one aimed at President Bush make you seem petty and petulant. Disingenuous defenses of such digs, like the one that you offered in this issue of Breaking Balls, are even worse. They show a contempt for readers who do not share your leftist views, and worse, a lack of respect for their (our) intelligence.

--James Mathis

You're making a logical jump that's not justified. For me to take, for instance, a dig at Bush--whether or not that's in itself justified, or accurate, or anything--doesn't mean I have contempt for readers, and it makes me sad to think that it's interpreted as that. When someone argues in favor of school vouchers, it's not fair to take that as a compliment or an insult of you personally, depending on what your views are.

And you missed my larger point, which is that there is no clear dividing line between politics that involve baseball and politics in general. To repeat an example in the article, supporting Bush means supporting his policies on media consolidation, which has meant the coverage of the game and labor issues related to it are in turn changed. There's no way to separate the world of professional sports and politics.

--Derek Zumsteg

THE COLON TRADE

I have been thinking about the inherent corruption in the Expos' ownership situation. This goes back to when the payroll decision came down (made even worse by the conclusion of the labor deal and a 2nd-place finish), and the trade rumors came and went. I ultimately came with a plan that would have almost certainly worked:

You are Omar Minaya, and you guarantee Bud his $40 million payroll. You scour the six-year free agents and the other leavings (sort of a mini-Homestead, maybe pick up one or two). You take a very hard look at the guys on your team making little funds and dump them if need be, but you leave the big-money guys alone.

When you start the season, you keep all the big-money guys. After 60-75 games, you look at where you are. If you are within a couple of games of either the NL East lead or the wild card, you sit tight, because walkups (which are bigger in Montreal than any other MLB market) will pay for any coverage north of $40 million and the Commissioner et al. will not dare - I hope - fix a division race by demanding an in-season fire sale. If you're either 10 games out either spot, everyone becomes available: Guerrero, Vidro, Tatis, Vazquez, Barrett, Cabrera, etc. You take anything in return, and play rookies the rest of the year.

What do you think?

--TC

It wouldn't work. If you include all the arbitration-eligible guys and other raises that were due to be doled out, even after axing Herges, Yoshii and say, Eischen, you'd still have well over $10 million to chop off, which means (since Tatis is untradable), you're looking at dumping Colon or Vazquez, or Armas, Barrett, Cabrera + 1, or something along those lines. Having jettisoned Lee Stevens and Graeme Lloyd last year, the team actually didn't have a lot of fat to trim, just a lot of solid players getting expensive at once. Thus a $40 million payroll wasn't going to happen without at least 1-2 significant trades. Still, given the Expos' pitching depth, Minaya could have kept a possible contender intact if he'd have landed even one legitimate bat in exchange for Colon or Vazquez.

Of course if MLB could see the forest for the trees, they'd go for an idea just like yours, letting the Expos try to contend in a weak division with a strong core intact. If they succeeded, your scenario of fans boosting gate receipts would have a good shot at coming true, if the spike we saw after last year's Colon trade were any indication. If they didn't, like you said, they could dump excess salaries at a reduced price near the trade deadline and meet MLB's payroll request. Given Minaya has shown he's playing for the here and now anyway, that would seem to please all parties involved.

--Jonah Keri

BOTTOM OF THE NINTH

The ongoing debate over the decision to award the home field advantage in the World Series to the league that wins the All-Star game has been an entertaining diversion for baseball fans who are counting the days until Spring Training. What too many people fail to realize is that MLB was looking to fix the game itself, not the random assignment of home field advantage. No one was complaining about the alternating-year method, so why are people only now decrying the fact that the team with the better record doesn't get the advantage in World Series play?

Opponents to the new plan fear that the important advantage is now in the hands of players elected by the fans, as well as the players who represent teams that have no shot of making the World Series. What they should realize is the managers of each team are the ones who were in the World Series the year before. Odds are they are managing a club that has a good chance of contending, so it would be in their best interests to manage the game to win, not to satisfy every player on the squad. These same managers are the ones who correct voting mistakes by choosing the reserves, and they'll be the ones who leave Barry Bonds in the game for nine innings.

--PA 

 

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