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OK, so we’re 48 hours from an entirely different type of DTs, and the whitespace
on ESPNEWS is becoming far more pronounced than it already is. Let’s dive in….

  • Ted Frank
    wrote a piece
    yesterday piercing holes in the luxury tax proposal put forth by the MLBPA
    .
    Today, Doug Pappas aerates Ted a little bit.


    Interesting article — but there are a couple of factual errors.

    First, the luxury tax can’t be evaded through a series of easily attainable bonuses,
    because earned bonuses count as payroll for luxury tax purposes.

    Second,
    because of the average-annual-value treatment of multiyear contracts for luxury tax purposes,
    the Yankees’ 2002 payroll is $171 million, not $125 million. The Texas Rangers
    are second at $131 million.

    Another point: indexing the minimum payroll to national TV revenues will be
    difficult, because the ESPN contract jumps from $40 million this year to $175
    million in 2003, $200 million in 2004-05. The Fox deal has an average annual
    value of $417 million, but I’m not sure how that’s distributed within the
    contract.

  • Back to the diamond….

    In Monday’s Arizona/L.A. game, Alex Cora made one of the weirdest slides I’ve
    ever seen as he went into second base, basically whacking Tony Womack on the
    knee with his head. Cora was knocked out by the impact, and Womack doubled up
    with what appeared at first glance to probably be a nice, big-ass bruise come
    today or tomorrow. I’ve reviewed the play a couple of times, and have no idea
    what the hell Cora was thinking. If anyone can explain his slide, I’d sure love
    to hear it.

  • The Indians, who have already announced that they’re not going to be competitive
    until at least 2005, took a step forward on that bold path today. Joel Skinner
    announced that Danys Baez would be removed from the rotation, and installed as
    the Indians closer,
    following the injury and subsequent scheduling of surgery
    for Bob Wickman. The question which popped into my rather profane mind:

    What the *$%^ are Shapiro and Skinner thinking?

    I have never understood or agreed with the mystique of the closer. Saves are an
    artifice of the baseball accounting system, and like all arbitrary measurements,
    the further we move away from the time of their creation, the more perceived
    importance they gain.

    Here’s Baez’s line thus far for the 2002 season:

    
    GS      W       L       IP      H     BB      K      ERA
    26      9      10      154    151     75    121     4.44
    


    For a 25-year old, that’s not too bad at all, especially pitching in Jacobs
    Field, which is a pretty decent hitter’s park.

    You’ve got a young pitcher, doing moderately well in a starter’s role, with
    peripheral numbers that have some promise, specifically striking out just over 7
    batters per 9 innings. Your team has a rotation that consists of Baez,
    C.C. Sabathia, and a carousel of the aged, ineffective, or both. There’s some
    potential help in the minors, but the organization doesn’t have a great track
    record for developing rotation starters, and you’d be pretty happy if one or two
    of the prospects turned into Baez.

    So, naturally, you want him to be a closer. Rack up them save totals.

    Look, gang, closers are just not that hard to dig up. Saves are an artificial
    stat. Often, the most important outs in the game occur before the 9th inning.
    1 run lead, runners on 2nd and 3rd, 1 out in the 7th? That’s important. 6-3
    game, nobody on, nobody out, start of the ninth? That’s Dave Burba time. Get
    Terry Felton up.

    Baez has the potential to be an excellent front line starter. Excellent front
    line starters are harder to find than closers, which can come from failed
    starters, middle men, the minors, the waiver wire, or even the independent
    leagues. Clubs that buy into the mythology of saves are clubs that overpay for
    a relatively small number of innings. Saves serve primarily for roto, and to
    inflate the perceived value of a reliever for trading or draft pick
    compensation. Pump ’em up, and move ’em out.

    The Indians need Baez as a starter far more than they need him as a closer.
    Even if things work out great, then what? How does Baez fit in to the club’s
    plans as a closer? Maybe they can jack up his perceived value by having him run
    up his save totals, and be anointed as “a major league closer.” Perhaps at that
    point, they can trade him for a promising young starting pitcher. That’d be a
    nice bit of closure.

  • Pizza Feed in Concord, CA tomorrow night.
    Come on out! Email
    huckabay@baseballprospectus.com
    to confirm. Make the trip! You can drive or take BART.


Gary Huckabay is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by
clicking here.