Think of stealing bases as a bit like one of those commercials for breakfast cereal. You know, the ones where they say it takes 14 bowls of Cereal X to equal what you get from one bowl of Cereal Y. In this case, it takes three stolen bases to equal one walk of shame back to the dugout. If you’re stealing at less than a 75% success rate, you’re better off never going at all.
The Yankees pick up Travis Lee, while cutting Aaron Boone loose. The Blue Jays sell Pete Walker to the Yokohama Baystars. And the Devil Rays place Seth McClung on the 60-day DL. All this a much more exciting news from around the league in your Friday edition of Transaction Analysis.
The Indians look to take a big step forward, even if much it can be chalked up to the fabled “Ugueto Effect.” The Dodgers biggest off-season acquisition didn’t come on the field, it came in the front office. And the Mariners enter 2004 with a checklist a mile long. All this and much more news from Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Seattle in your Friday edition of Prospectus Triple Play.
Thus the main import of Yawkey’s largesse was mostly symbolic. As a competitive program, he and Collins were misguided. As is now grudgingly accepted, the difference between a star and an average player may only be a few wins a year. There is no player, pair of players, or trio of players, that is capable of taking a team staffed by replacement-level players and turning it into a pennant winner. Improved talent must be diffused throughout the roster. In the 1933-1936 period, the Red Sox never came close to achieving this goal. Two key problems: The Yawkey/Collins program never got around to addressing the outfield; the Sox annually presented the most punchless pasture aggregation in the league; after Grove and Ferrell, the Red Sox were unable to dig up anything like another eight decent pitchers, or even another three. One lesson to be drawn is that even in an environment in which rival teams are “freely” giving away talent, it’s almost impossible to buy enough to staff an entire ballclub. Not only will the pool of available talent, at its deepest, be unequal to the demand (note that even this year’s Yankees, who have acquired a number of big-ticket items from more conservative clubs, have not been able to buy certainty for their starting rotation) but buying off the rack forces a team to be overly dependent on making the right selections–that is, on luck. A team that chooses to bank on stars rather than on depth faces a greater risk of having no fallback should their star prove to be infirm, unreliable, or simply on the way down. The large influx of talent that comes with developing a strong minor league system gives a team the depth to survive its own misjudgments.
February is like being stuck in a footlocker with Katie Holmes: Short, cramped, and full of distractions.
I can’t stretch out my arm in February without hitting some date of importance. I guess I could blame my mom, who pitched me out into the world 33 years ago yesterday, setting the stage for the month to hold a bunch of birthdays: my closest cousin’s, both my parents-in-law, and a number of other relatives on both sides of the family. Valentine’s Day is wedged in there, of course, a day that requires weeks of planning and meticulous…oh, heck, Sophia doesn’t read my column…a day that requires my attention.
The month features less enjoyable markers as well. While I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve lost just a small number of loved ones over the years, many of those have died in February, some recently enough to still cause pain as the anniversaries approach.
Memorable dates aside, February has less emotional ways to turn my head. I have a passion for college basketball–Jonah, Will and I often kid about launching College Basketball Prospectus–and the game holds my attention throughout the shortest month. While I don’t play the game as much as I used to, the February arrival of the new Strat-O-Matic cards is a time sink that will probably be with me until I can’t see anymore.
The point of all this is to say that as I sit at my laptop at 5:15 a.m. on Friday morning, I genuinely have no idea what to write about. That happens maybe a half-dozen times a year, and you’ll usually recognize those times as columns with an awful lot of bullet points or reader mail. I have concepts, I have great and wonderful writing ideas, but they’re not making through the process today, caught up in the mind along with memories of a birthday wine-tasting, analysis of bubble teams, missing my grandparents, and the jaw-dropping power of an Eric Gagne Strat card.