The Padres are winning the National League West on a shoestring budget but the Pirates are last in the NL Central.
The matchup was quite ironic.
Two franchises, one in the process of rebuilding and just four losses away from an 18th consecutive losing season, the other thought to be in need of retooling but instead leading its division, clashed in a three-game series between the lowest-payroll teams in the major leagues last week at Petco Park in San Diego.
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History shows that trading established veterans for propsects rarely works out.
Some truths are eternal. About 93 years ago, the Philadelphia Phillies traded their right-handed ace, Pete Alexander, to the Cubs. Alexander, 30 years old, was in his seventh season. He had two ERA titles, and had led the NL in wins five times, including the four seasons prior to the trade. Overall, his career mark was 190-88 with a 2.12 ERA and 61 shutouts, a category which he led in annually. Pete Alexander and his sidearm sinker and curve were deadly. The Phillies were fearful they were going to lose him after the season—not to free agency, which didn’t exist, but to the military. They resolved to get whatever they could for him. That turned out to be a catching prospect, Pickles Dillhoefer, a middling right-handed pitcher, Mike Prendergast, and $55,000.
The Reds have been the lone team giving the Cardinals fits atop the division, and while there is reason to believe that luck may run out, there is still hope for them to keep at it. Mike Leake has been excellent as a rookie (one sans minor league experience, to boot) but he's been a bit lucky and has faced a soft schedule thus far. The same can be said for Johnny Cueto and Bronson Arroyo, but fear not: the Reds have ways of dealing with this. Another rookie, Travis Wood, has been slotted into the rotation, and there's reason to believe he'll be of use. If things take a turn for the worse, Aroldis Chapman is still waiting in Triple-A, though his path to the majors for 2010 will most likely involve the bullpen, where the Reds are lacking in production outside of the ageless Arthur Rhodes. Things are even brighter on the hitting side, where the Reds rank second in the NL in True Average. Joey Votto has been one of the best hitters in baseball, a trend that should continue not just in 2010, but for years. Brandon Phillips has been himself after a slow start, up-and-coming star Jay Bruce has seen his development continue smoothly, and the resurgence of Scott Rolen has been a boon to club. Orlando Cabrera is the lone weak spot in one of the league's finest lineups—if the Reds are to look outward for help at any position by July 31, shortstop is the one, though giving Paul Janish more at-bats wouldn't hurt either.
A look into how teams are assembled with talent from different sources at different prices.
In my last two columns, we discussed when rebuilding teams should sign free agents. Two weeks ago, I explained that teams with outside shots at competing could be doing themselves a favor to sign free agents who would be tradable for prospects at the trade deadline. Several insightful readers pointed out that signing free agents may be a way to work towards improving in the future. I investigated this claim in last week's column, in which I looked at how well free agents who signed multi-year deals performed in subsequent years of their deals. The overwhelming likelihood was that the biggest value from a free agent comes from the first year of their deal; in many cases, they declined considerably after the first year. Thus, the logical next question in my view is how winning teams are comprised. In this article, I grouped each type of player based on their service time-implied contract status, and checked how each team did at getting wins via each type of player.
Will a third time be the charm rebuilding the Indians, plus news and views from around the game.
Mark Shapiro understands rebuilding. In eight years on the job as the Indians' general manager, he has been forced to do it twice. The first time came in 2002 in his first season after replacing John Hart as the club's general manager. When he took over, the Indians had been to the playoffs six times in the previous seven seasons, but the core group of players of those teams had either gotten too old or too expensive.
Hue and cry in Pittsburgh and Cleveland risks overlooking the gains made to teams that needed change.
Contrary to popular opinion, the Pirates have not been rebuilding forever. It just seems that way. Since Sid Bream beat Barry Bonds' throw home to rally the Braves to a 3-2 victory in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game Seven of the 1992 National League Championship Series, the Pirates has been undergoing one rebuilding program after another.
In the city by the bay, the Giants can make a play for hitting talent, but will they play for high stakes or not?
After dropping the rubber game in Denver yesterday, the San Francisco Giants slipped two games in back of the Colorado Rockies in the National League's wild-card chase, as far back as they've been in some time. With just a few short days to go before the trade deadline, the Giants have to make a decision that is among the hardest of any potential playoff team: to cash in some of the high-value chips in their system to make a run this season, or hope that the current roster is good enough to hold off the competition for the final playoff spot.
Ranking the major league teams from worst to first.
It's time to lay it on the line again. I've done this by divisions, by league, and overall, and I think I like overall the best. The distinctions between the leagues have been blurred so much that what we really have now are the American and National conferences of MLB, rather than separate entities with many differences. Other than the DH-which is a big difference, of course-the leagues do play much the same game. Illusions about "National League baseball" persist, but the one-run strategies in the league are really all automatic and tied back to the lack of a DH. There's more bunting, but not necessarily more strategy.
A workhorse named CC, Cashman takes responsibility for his own narrative, and off-season calculations from around the major leagues.
Dale Sveum understands the value in the pitching arm of ace CC Sabathia, and how the big left-hander is going to cash in on it this upcoming winter when he becomes eligible for free agency. "He's going to make more money than any pitcher in the history of the game," said the Brewers' interim manager. "It couldn't happen to a better person, either. He's as nice of a guy, for a superstar, that I've ever met in my 27 years in professional baseball. He's a very special person."
Names you should know, whether you're a Mariners fan or simply curious about who the head honchos of tomorrow might be.
In a post-Moneyball world, a new generation of baseball minds have ascended to the top of their teams. While initial returns have been mixed-Paul DePodesta was forced out of Los Angeles after a perfect storm of weak ownership and a hostile local media conspired against him-the trend is still running strong. That's because like most sports baseball is a game that thrives on imitation; if you win, someone will try to copy your success or at least steal someone that knows the formula. Josh Byrnes got a shot in Arizona because the Red Sox won, even if the second Sox title didn't start a run on the next Sox assistant.
It's time to take a look at the names you'll be hearing next year. While some of these are people who have already been interviewed for positions and might already be on your radar, some of them aren't. I've also taken some of the more easily-anticipated names off of the list. For example, any time there's an opening, Chris Antonetti's name has come up, and for good reason, but after turning down several job offers, Antonetti seems locked in with the Indians, and essentially removes himself from our list, though his name's going to keep coming up whenever a GM job does become available. I also removed former general managers from this list, even though that means keeping well-qualified people like DePodesta off; as with Antonetti, DePodesta will be in circulation as a candidate. This choice also keeps people like Gord Ash, Gerry Hunsicker, or even Pat Gillick off of my list. That's because what I would like to do here is add some names to your mental list. Inside baseball, these guys are known and known well; it's time you did too.