The regular seasons for the various winter leagues are over now, although the various league playoffs leading to the Caribbean World Series are still ongoing–a process that runs almost as long as their regular season, kind of like the NBA.
The Caribbean World Series is a contest between the winners of the four regional leagues: the Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Venezuelan winter leagues, plus the Mexican Pacific League. What I’m going to do here is to give an overview of those four leagues, plus the Arizona Fall League, with an emphasis on how to make sense of winter league statistics.
The process for working out the talent level of a league depends on, number one, having a large number of players in the circuit who have played in other leagues; and number two, knowledge of how good those other leagues are. Every player who has played here and elsewhere becomes a data point: You rate the player’s hitting (or pitching) level, relative to league average, with park adjustments when you have them, in both leagues. If his relative offensive level gets worse, that is a (slight) argument that the new league is tougher than the old. If it gets better, that’s an argument that the new league was easier.
Aaron Boone hurt his ACL playing basketball on Monday, which could mean that he’s out for the season. His contract isn’t guaranteed if he plays basketball, which he did, so the Yankees aren’t going to pay him his full salary, which they shouldn’t. It may be a different situation if it’s a minor tear and he’ll be healthy for spring training in less than 30 days, though, so we’ll have to wait and see. (I can’t express the jolt of joy I just felt typing “spring training in less than 30 days,” by the way–only a month of this seemingly interminable purgatory remains, where I’m forced to watch whatever my wife has found on one of the 80 different home improvement channels DirecTV was kind enough to cram into my package.) If it’s minor and he’ll miss a little time, the Yankees might decide that 90% of Boone is worth 100% of the deal he signed (though that seems difficult to justify). But more likely they’re going to set fire to his contract and then mail him the ashes. Boone at $5.75 million for a year was high when he signed it, and considering comparable signings this offseason (Adrian Beltre was the only close signing, and he’s way younger, though BP’s PECOTA forecasts have Boone hitting better in 2004, while others like Scott Spiezio came much cheaper). The Yankees might just even call do-over and see what Boone will take, now that almost everyone else has signed their third basemen and are probably not going to offer Boone anything close to what he was scheduled to receive.
Boone, who recently agreed to a one-year, $5.75 million contract, has freely admitted that the injury he sustained occurred during an activity not related to the playing of, or training for, Major League Baseball. Brian Cashman has already gone on record saying that basketball is a prohibited activity under Boone’s contract. In a fairy tale world of grand rewards for moral behavior, Boone would get credit for admitting his error without having fabricated some Jeff Kent-style story in which he tore up his knee after slipping off the top of Roger Clemens’ Hummer while polishing the foghorn. Unfortunately, New York is the place where contract language trumps contrition every time out; truth is no defense when you’ve signed on the dotted line.