Carlos Delgado, 2005 = Jim Thome, 2003?

Two years ago, another American League first baseman practiced in the art of lumberation came on the free agent market. Jim Thome played out the string with the Indians in 2002, much as Carlos Delgado did with the Blue Jays last year. Although they came to this particular juncture within two of each other in career home runs (336 to 334, advantage Delgado), Delgado was a year older in his walk year.

More importantly, it was Thome’s good fortune to have had his best season in his audition year. In 2002, Thome had his highest-ever EqA by a good margin (.367 to .348 in 1996) and best ever WARP-3 (10.8 to 10.3, also in ’96). To the contrary, Delgado is coming off his worst season since 1997, all or in part because he missed 34 games due to injury.

How much is this going to cost Mr. Carlos? Probably not all that much, really. He’s going to end up making about the same amount on a per-year basis as did Thome (about $12 million), although probably not for as many years (Thome signed for six). Thome has had a somewhat better career, but Delgado will probably end up taking more money out of the game.

How times change. Last winter, the Marlins were in a great hurry to see Derrek Lee go away, as they claimed they could not afford his free agent self. Now they are actively pursuing a player who is four years older than Lee was at the time they traded him away, and are willing to pay much, much more for him.

Backman still ticked–as he should be

Let me start out by saying that this is how society should deal with drunk drivers: they should be handed a shovel and made to dig a deep hole next to where they’ve been pulled over and failed their breathalyzer test, with swift justice to follow.

I bring up this hard line because I’m about to defend a convicted drunk driver: Wally Backman. I think Backman got completely hosed by the Arizona Diamondbacks. If he was good enough to get hired as their manager, then what do the revelations that he filed for some bankruptcies (joining over a million other Americans a year) and got caught driving drunk have anything to do with anything? I don’t approve of any of the things Backman has done (bring back debtor’s prison, I say!) but don’t see their relevance to the job he was hired to do. The Diamondbacks hired Wally Backman, baseball manager, not Wally Backman, holder of a perfect life record. If matters of a non-family-friendly nature are abhorrent to a team, then they need to do their due diligence before making a hiring decision and making a commitment to a man. It was utterly gutless of the Diamondbacks to bail on Backman under these circumstances.

Do we really need to list the managers who have been accused of that which fills Backman’s Invisime? (A word I just this moment invented to describe those portions of your life you purposely leave off your resume.) Leo Durocher was well-known as someone who couldn’t keep money in his pocket. Joe McCarthy and Billy Southworth–not to mention Billy Martin–often consulted with bench coach John Barleycorn. I am not condoning such behavior, just pointing it out as being not necessarily relevant to the task at hand. If it was relevant (Martin’s drinking certainly had a debilitating effect on his career), then it was up to the Diamondbacks, upon learning of this past conviction, to do a little research to find out if Backman had allowed alcohol to impact his managing career.

Perhaps this will work out to Backman’s betterment in the end. Taking over the Slytherins at this juncture of their existence might have left him with a career .400 winning percentage after a few years. Maybe a couple of years down the road he’ll happen upon a better opportunity to make his major league debut.

More on the World Series ball

Last time out we discussed the ball used to record the final out of the Red Sox World Series and who should be its rightful owner: the Boston baseball club or first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz. Several of you wrote in to say that since the home team provides the baseballs for game use, it should really belong to the St. Louis Cardinals. Now, I once knocked over an LSAT book at a Barnes & Noble, so I think that qualifies me to give the following legal opinion:

There exists a vast precedent of players on visiting teams being allowed to take possession of baseballs used to record final outs of games of a historic or personal milestone-oriented nature. Owing to these countless precedents, the St. Louis Cardinals do not have any legal claim to the ball that ended the 2004 season.

I know that we count a number of lawyers among our readership, so I wonder if they are wowed at my layman’s grasp of the concept of “precedent.”

Mets poised on the brink of history

Readers of this column know the real reason the Mets signed Carlos Beltran. It was to bring together the most accomplished base thief in history with the fourth-most accomplished base-stealing team in history so as to pursue this all-important team record, expense be damned!

Here are the top five all-time best basestealing teams ever:

1) 1994 Orioles (84.15%), 69 SB, 13 CS
2) 1995 Blue Jays (82.42%), 75 SB, 16 CS
3) 1975 Reds (82.35%), 168 SB, 36 CS
4) 2004 Mets (82.30%), 107 SB, 23 CS
5) 1962 Dodgers (82.16%), 198 SB, 43 CS

The addition of Beltran and his career 89% success rate nearly guarantee the Mets the record–especially if they don’t let anybody but Beltran attempt steals. Kidding, of course. They’ve got a number of guys who just refuse to lose on the basepaths:

Jose Reyes: career 32 for 37 (86%)
David Wright: career 6 for 6 (100%)
Kazuo Matsui: career 14 for 17 (82%)

These are very small sample sizes from three players who haven’t spent a lot of time in the majors just yet, but if stealing is limited to this core on a limited basis, the record is theirs for the taking. Now, if they could add Carlos Delgado and keep Mike Cameron (who is bound to bounce back from his 2004), then there will be more to talk about than team stealing records.

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