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November 10, 2006

Prospectus Matchups

This Week in Baseball Headlines

by Jim Baker

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Still on the high of Rutgers' stunning win last night, I thought we'd take a trip through this week's baseball headlines and see what's what.

Kouzmanoff and Brown to Pads for Josh Barfield

This is a puzzler on the San Diego end, especially considering they don't really have a second baseman waiting in the wings. Also consider that third base in San Diego has been one of the very worst positions in baseball for the 2005-2006 period. Is Kevin Kouzmanoff the answer? Well, he certainly can't be any worse than most of what they were trotting out there the past two seasons, but you would think they'd go for something a little more substantial than a 25-year-old rookie. That's not saying he won't be productive, but this is a player who was still in the Carolina League at 24. He bum-rushed Double-A and Triple-A last year, and was pretty impressive doing so.

Still, though, one would think Josh Barfield would land something a little more substantial than two rather gray rookies. Like Kouzmanoff (which is Ukranian for "Koosman"), Andrew Brown was born in 1981. A starter at one time, he's been working out of the pen exclusively at Buffalo the past two seasons to decent effect. Both new Padres deserve a shot at big league jobs given their recent minor league performance (not to mention that Kouzmanoff arguably had the best first-pitch result in major league history), but should they have cost a team a 23-year-old coming off a pretty nice rookie season?

Barfield registered a 6.8 WARP3 in his debut. That's basically what Ryne Sandberg was doing at that age. (In a minor irony, baseball-reference.com lists his fourth-most similar player as Hector Luna, the man he's replacing at second for the Indians.) This is not to say that Barfield is going to run off to Cleveland and have a Hall of Fame career. It's just that I'm left wondering if this is the absolute best deal they could make for a player with years of cheap servitude ahead of him.

Bud Black to manage Padres

You can picture Bud Black signing his contract and handing the pen back to Kevin Towers, who then idly says, "Oh, by the way, we traded Barfield for a couple of 25-year old rookies." Black then lunges for the contract but Towers snatches it away from him. "Nope, too late!"

It's so strange to have an ex-pitcher running a team. In fact, it's so rare that it seems damn near unnatural. Pitchers are never seen as big-picture guys, but perhaps Black and Orel Hershiser--if and when he lands a skipper job--will go a long way to changing that perception. Following a manager that is coming off two consecutive division championships has its positives and negatives. Black won't have to drive the team into contention, but both times, the Padres have won with such low win totals that Black could helm them to a 90-win season without winning the division and be derided for "failing" to continue the Bochy legacy.

Diamondbacks dump purple and teal for red threads

I love the names they gave to the colors of their new togs. "Sedona red" and "Sonoran sand." The black didn't get an adjective that pandered to the local population with a geographical reference. "Phoenix 91st Avenue Wastewater Treatment Plant black" wasn't considered, I guess. Now the Diamondbacks, who at last count had 416 uniform combinations, look like any number of other teams. Love or hate their old duds--and you could have a different opinion every day of the week with the way they ran them out there--at least they were distinctive. These look pretty Triple-A in my humble accoutermental opinion.

Reyes homer caps sweep in Japan

I love home runs as much as the next guy. In fact, I remember reading Ty Cobb taking pot shots at home runs in his biography, and laughing at him retroactively. Whenever Jose Reyes hits a home run, though, a little part of me cringes, because I think it takes him off his game. We saw the return of the overanxious version of Reyes in the playoffs just completed, the one who comes out of his batting set too early and lofts the ball to outfielders for easy outs. On the other hand, the upside is he might develop power like Alfonso Soriano, using essentially the same frame.

Twins announce Justin Morneau as MVP

I officially give up. This is my third and final rant on the Morneau-Joe Mauer comparison. This time around, I'm especially galled because this award was voted on by local writers. These are the guys who should best understand what a catcher of Mauer's level brings to a team, as opposed to a first baseman of Morneau's. Mauer's WARP3 was 10.6 while Morneau's was 8.6. Double-figure WARP3s are the stuff of Cooperstown. 8.6 WARP3s by a first baseman are the stuff of All-Star Games. In other words, it's desirable but not on the same level. Mauer also had a better EqA, .328 to .315 while playing a harder defensive position. The voters were obviously blinded by the 130 runs batted in that Morneau generated and the fact that he was the first Twin since, I don't know--Harmon Killebrew?--to hit 30 home runs in a season. It's just a silly award, though. The real winners here are the Twins and their fans because they have two position players of this caliber both under the age of 26.

Rangers hire Art Howe as bench coach

There needs to be a lengthy look at the concept of the bench coach. I don't pretend to know the actual evolution of bench coaching, but the first time I heard of the animal was when Don Zimmer showed up in Joe Torre's Yankee dugout. You could make a case that Jimmy Dykes served this function with the Philadelphia A's in the last years of Connie Mack's tenure--except that there's the question of who was advising who, as Mack's owner/manager-for-life role preserved him into the depths of senility, forcing sombody to take the team in hand. I suppose there's also Leo Durocher, who could have by no means been a silent partner when he was a Dodgers coach under Walter Alston in the 1960s.

It's an interesting approach, to be sure. Like microwave ovens and cell phones, are we going to get to the point where we wonder how we survived without bench coaches? Will it get to the point where every manager feels they have to have one as his own best very special friend and in-game tactical advisor? Stay tuned.

Related Content:  The Who,  Bud Black

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Premium Article Schrodinger's Bat: Fir... (11/09)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Prospectus Matchups: S... (11/08)
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Premium Article Prospectus Matchups: T... (11/16)
Next Article >>
Matsuzaka Madness (11/10)

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