Some say that prayer is the last refuge of the scoundrel. I say, no, it’s the letters column. Why so? Because it allows the author to utilize–free of charge–text written by others and whacks a serious chunk off the writing time required. Now, in my defense, I’ve been at BP for some time now and have yet to resort to a letters column, so slack must be cut. If I do it again next week, well, then you can hang me in effigy outside the general store where you and your buddies have your hot stove gab sessions.

A general note on letters

I try to answer all of my mail, but understand that if I don’t, it’s not because you disagreed with me or pointed out a flaw in my logic causing me to pout while in a fetal position in a dark corner of my bedroom closet. I’m pretty secure in that I’m right most of the time. In fact, according to an independent source I contracted to monitor my actual correctness, I usually run at about a 91.3% rightness quotient. (Although, I noticed when I was late with my payment they reported my quotient as only 67.4%.)

Anyway, if you write and I don’t write back, sometimes it’s a simple matter of not having the time to respond. Don’t give up after one non-response.

Wally Backman vs. Arizona Diamondbacks

Some of you wrote to disagree with my stance that the Diamondbacks owed something more to Wally Backman than a quick pink slip when they discovered he’d had some personal problems along the way. Was I a little hard on the Diamondbacks? Perhaps, but they should have known that any member of the 1986 Mets comes with the tag caveat emptor.

Mike Cameron: all apologies

Speaking of the Mets, I used the term “bounce back” for Mike Cameron and that was not an accurate assessment of what he needs to do in 2005. Reader Ray DiPerna pointed out to me that “He hit for a .272 EqA last year, right in line with his career EqA of .271. And he’s hit for EqAs in the .270s for five of the past six years (the other year was a .292 EqA, which looks like a peak at his age-28 season.)” So, apologies to Mr. Cameron and his family and thanks to Mr. DiPerna for making his point without casting aspersions on me and my lineage. While we’re on the topic of mail, I have to say, BP readers as a group are a diplomatic lot. You all seem to know how to point out errors or give a contrasting opinion without making a personal attack on the writer. This, to me, is the sign of emotional maturity and it’s most appreciated on this end.

As a Mets fan, I’m hoping they don’t automatically ship Cameron elsewhere now that they have Carlos Beltran in the fold. I think they need both men in order to compete. An outfield of Beltran, Cameron and Floyd (for however long he lasts until his annual injury makes its presence known) is a pretty nice one.

Derek Lowe, multi-multi millionaire

I’m still trying to figure out a universe in which Derek Lowe gets a four-year contract and Eric Gagne gets but two from the same team for about the same money per season. All feelings about closers (and their worth relative to starting pitchers) aside, what they have each done the past few years is mind-monkeying. On the face of it, they come out about even in terms of VORP:

Year:  Gagne  Lowe
2002:  31.2   81.0
2003:  39.4   24.7
2004:  28.2  -11.5

Saying their three-year average is almost equal is a bit spurious, though. Most of my mail on Lowe found people as puzzled as I was. A couple responses found logic in the deal, though. Reader Kostya Medvedovksy suggested this as a reason:

“Frank McCourt. The new owner of the Dodgers, and as it would happen, a Red Sox fan. Rather than believe that (Paul) DePodesta has some sort of magical stats, or that he’s gone off the deep end, I tend to think that McCourt, responding to seeing Lowe clinch all three postseason series, forced DePodesta to go out and get himself what McCourt believed to be a clutch pitcher. Maybe I’m reading too much into McCourt’s Red Sox fandom here, but it seems to make more sense than believing that Depodesta is either far smarter, or far stupider than the we had previously believed.”

That’s as good an explanation as I’ve heard.

Another theory about the Lowe signing is the one suggested by a reader named Chris:

“Have you ever considered that a guy who spent years in Oakland exploiting what advantages he has (in that case intellectual) over the other teams is simply doing the same thing in a different environment?? What advantage do the Dodgers have that other teams in the NL do not??? Money of course. These deals aren’t made in a vacuum, the Kris Benson deal set the stage for all sorts of overpaid pitchers this year. What the Mets did and what the Dodgers seem to be doing is setting the market higher than the other teams can bear. Do you not think that the Eric Milton deal has severely handicapped the Reds for three years. No single contract of Lowe’s type could do that to the Mets or Dodgers. Lowe’s deal will be held up as a standard next season for free agents and Arbitration cases. In both instances many teams will find themselves priced out of the market or worse giving in to the 10 million dollar mediocre pitcher and hopelessly cripple themselves.”

A grand conspiracy! I love it. The great thing about this theory is that it assumes heaps of logic where there does not really appear to be any. It implies that the Benson and Lowe signings appear to be so far out of line that there simply has to be a greater scheme at play. I wonder if the big market owners are truly that devious? Or clever? If they are that clever, that’s pretty impressive. Basically, what they would be doing is signing players who might actually hurt the team in the hopes that it will price good players out of the market for poorer clubs. This must be done without alienating fans. It’s a tough juggling act but a neat one to pull off if it can be done.

Yankee odds

Reader Brien Aronov wrote in with this:

“I’m curious as to your thoughts on the Yanks being listed at winning the AL title (not the AL East mind you, the league pennant) at -105. Surely with the variance in the possible rotation performance (possibly fragile, but possibly great) this is sheer lunacy, right?”

One thing we often forget about odds is that they are not set as a means of predicting the future, but as a way to entice people to take the money they had earmarked for their baby’s kidney operation and make a bet with it instead. This is especially true with New York teams and some of the other franchises with especially large followings, because the lines can be manipulated to entice large numbers of people who might be prone to bet with their hearts. Bookmakers aren’t out to impress you with their abilities at knowing how things will come out, they are out to lure you into keeping them in business. They are especially savvy people, so if they set the Yankee line at -105, it’s because they are trying to get the vast Yankee diaspora to plunge on their favorite team. Remember, too, that this line is for the pennant–not the division. The line writers are smart enough to know what BP readers understand–anything can happen in the playoffs and the odds of the Yankees surviving to the World Series are greatly reduced by chance. If things go wrong in the postseason–as they did in 2002 and 2004–then all the money thrown down at -105 becomes the property of the house.

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