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January 28, 2009

Prospectus Today

Catching Up

by Joe Sheehan

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Did I miss anything?

I've been absent of late for a mix of reasons. I'm writing from Los Angeles right now, coming to the end of a two-week break in warm…well, warmer…weather than New York provides while seeing friends during what is about the only time left on the baseball calendar that can be considered "slow." Then again, there really is no slow season any longer, what with the postseason ending later and later, and free agents and teams more than happy to extend their dance well past Little Christmas.

If you're assembling a book or trying to recharge your personal batteries, it can be a little aggravating to have so many unknowns so close to the Super Bowl. Then again, it's probably worse for the free agents trying to secure jobs and the general managers with roster holes.

In any case, the last few weeks were a bit more active than I'd hoped, so let's briefly get caught up, with an eye towards hitting the ground running on Thursday. (Admittedly, the ground might be hardwood, so check Basketball Prospectus-where I've been spending most of my time-for an imminent byline.)

  • I don't really care what a "Jay McGwire" is. Truly. Maybe I don't get to say this, being an only child, but if your existence is so empty that you have to write a book about your brother to become a person, you'd be better off as a tester for experimental parachute designs. "Out of love"? Really? Your brother wants nothing more, as is clear by his actions, than to be left alone, and you think putting him in the spotlight by telling decade-old stories is love? Just go away.

    Of course, he's telling the story some people want to hear, so he'll get his 15 minutes. In the same way that Jose Canseco and Kirk Radomski and Brian McNamee and other paragons of society have value because they're feeding the approved narrative, so too will McGwire have his voice heard. It sure is a good thing MLB spent $30 million on their Truth Commission so that this story would go away.

  • Jeff Kent is a Hall of Famer. If you don't accept this, you either have an exceptionally small Hall or an exceptionally small brain. The guy combined bat and glove at a tough position for a decade, and although the mainstream press underrated his defense for years, there's no reason we have to do so. Throw in post-season work that is a mark in his favor, and it's not unreasonable to think he should be a first-ballot guy, if that distinction matters. I'm not completely sure who the fifth-best second baseman in history is, and I'm open to the idea that it was Jeff Kent, especially if peak is your primary criterion.

  • Maybe Joe Torre should have kept his mouth shut. I mostly think we should wait until the book comes out to pass judgment. With that said, we've seen this before. In the summer of 2007, Torre was far too opinionated about Alex Rodriguez in a long Tom Verducci piece for Sports Illustrated that became a cause celebre for that Yankee team. Torre subsequently ratcheted up the pressure on-or perhaps, embarrassment of-Rodriguez by sliding him to eighth in the lineup in the AL Division Series. In both cases, Torre chose to do the opposite of what he'd done so well after taking over the team: shield the players from the madness. This act, opening up in Verducci's new book, is more consistent with the recent version of Torre than with the 1996 version we lionized in New York.

  • No, I don't think we're seeing collusion. It's a perfect storm of a bad economy, a free-agent pool in which the talent was clustered in a few limited areas, a tipping point in terms of how defense is evaluated and valued (hence all the bad-defense left fielders left waiting), and just random variation.

  • No, I don't know where Manny Ramirez will sign. I get this question a dozen times a day, easy. Manny Ramirez has been inscrutable for the better part of two decades; why are we now supposed to think that he's predictable? He'll sign somewhere for less than anyone thought he'd get and hit a bunch, play poor defense, and be lampooned by the local media. There's some Andre Dawson potential here, where Ramirez just signs for a pittance on a one-year deal wherever he wants to play the most, and goes nuts for the six months.

Back tomorrow with more.

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

23 comments have been left for this article.

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Premium Article On the Beat: Roads Les... (01/28)
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