I’ve been avoiding columns on columns lately, because I feel like every time I try, I dig myself in ever-deeper. But I got a ton of email on Tuesday’s column, and it ran about:
33%: “That was hilarious, loved it.”
33%: “I don’t get it.” or “I’m tired of your ranting.”
33%: “How can you say that Derek Jeter’s the AL MVP when he’s only ninth in overall offensive value and your own metrics….”
So skip ahead a couple paragraphs to get to the baseball if you’d prefer not to hear the meta stuff.
To 66% who didn’t get it: the column was intended to make fun of the sports talk radio Jonah and I had to listen to while we were driving back and forth to the Baseball Prospectus business meetings in San Diego last week. I don’t even remember the names of the personalities, but between San Diego and Los Angeles, every time we hit the seek button to get away from one of these guys, we ran into another broadcaster spewing the same stuff. They all talked in circles as they tried to figure out what they were going to say, and when they finally got to the point, you’d think, “I waited two minutes for that?”
The Phillies lose their most effective reliever. The A’s set Eric Karros free. The Twins bring up another prospect to torment. And a Curtis Pride sighting! All this news and much more in your Thursday Transaction Analysis.
Winless on the week, including a three-game series against the Rockies in which they scored a grand total of six runs. The only two players who actually reported to work were the two most likely to be exiled, Randy Johnson (15 IP, 13 H, 2 R, 1 BB 20 K), and Steve Finley (.934 OPS). The rest of them played as if they were Charlie Bucket’s dad, screwing the caps onto toothpaste tubes for a living… One thing that many observers miss about the Yankees is that they are not the only team that can afford to take on salary at the deadline, but may be the only team willing. The difference is that the Yankees’ owner, answerable only to himself, may decide in a given year to take home less money by cutting into his own profit margin (and that of the junior partners, who may take home relatively little as a result). Other teams, particularly those that are components of larger corporations, may fix a profit goal for the year and stick to it at the expense of winning. Most execs of public companies are uncomfortable telling the shareholders that they lost money on the sports operation this year because they decided to gamble on winning a World Series. Thus, if the DBs chose to dump salary and other objects of refuse in New York’s general direction, there’s nothing unfair about it at all. GRADE: F
As the trading deadline approaches and the hype surrounding a potential Randy Johnson deal reaches a deafening crescendo, I decided to take a look at how well the Yankees have done in dealing young players. I’m not concerned with who they get in return except as a footnote, nor do I care whether they “won” a particular trade according to a value measure. Those scales can wait to be balanced for another day. The question is whether the Yanks have let another Buhner, another unproven product of the Yankee system, slip out the door. How well did the players they traded turn out?
With pitchers, there’s always a fine line tread between health and effectiveness. Use someone too much and his effectiveness drops; don’t use him enough and the team loses value. As with Jason Schmidt last year, the Astros face a hard decision with Andy Pettitte. The injuries are extremely comparable. Schmidt elected to pitch through his last year, leading his team to the playoffs. Pettitte is asking the same of the Astros, but there’s some major differences to consider. First, Schmidt was (and still is) about the only pitcher the Giants had, while Pettitte is the third-best pitcher on his own team. Second, the Astros may be playing for the last time with this team, but they owe Pettitte a lot of money in the future. His backloaded contract simply has to be taken into consideration now and in the off-season when the team tries to replace what it’s sure to lose. Finally, the Giants were favorites to win the NL West and were coming off a World Series appearance; the Astros are losing sight of the wild card. It’s a decision I’m glad I don’t have to make.
Not far over .500, if at all by the time you read this, but suddenly looking like contenders in a division that’s aimlessly drifting down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico–any day now the Detroit Tigers will be the New Orleans Beignets. Travis Hafner (.423/.467/1.077) and Victor Martinez (.379/.419/.517) make a heck of a one-two punch, and they are now joined by young Grady Sizemore, who will be the best Grady since Grady Little (not hard) and Whitman Mayo, the Grady from “Sanford & Son” (tall order). If he takes some plate appearances away from Coco Crisp and Jody Gerut, neither of whom have been the life of the party, so much the better… The bullpen is still the stuff of nightmares, with an ERA that can flirt with 6.00 if you put a couple of drinks in it. You hate to say that a team is one reliever away, because Lord knows we watched Steve Phillips and the Mets chase that chimera for enough years, but the Indians might legitimately claim that to be the case. GRADE: A