Working through some of the stories listed on this page, word-that-rhymes-with-slog style…
- Dodgers recall D.J. Houlton. I note this only because D.J. Houlton is a pitcher I’ve liked for some time, going back to when he was taken by the Dodgers in the 2005 Rule 5 draft. He’s a flyball/command pitcher, someone who survived in the PCL, and in Las Vegas, using that particular style. He is not a great fit for Dodger Stadium, which is a better park for groundballers, so I’m not expecting much right now. I do think, however, that in Petco or Safeco or someplace of that sort that he could be a valuable innings-muncher, roughly like Paul Byrd or Matt Morris.
- Craig Biggio, bench. Bench, Craig Biggio. Who could have seen this coming? With his 3,000th hit secured, Craig Biggio is going to play less so that Chris Burke can play more, except not so much at home. Burke hasn’t torn things up as a major leaguer, but then again, he’s been playing out of position, and sporadically, for the last three seasons as the Astros allowed Biggio to pursue an individual record.
The note that Biggio will play more at home than on the road just adds to the silliness. Why don’t the Astros just hand out a sign that says, “We’re more about one player than about the team”? Biggio is popular and short and has the dirty helmet and the right…well, he looks like baseball…so no one really comes down on the Astros too hard for this. But think about how this team would look if instead of trading Willy Taveras and change for one year of Jason Jennings, they’d instead kept Taveras, let Burke play second base, put Hunter Pence in right field, and leave Biggio outside? Loosely speaking, that means Taveras gets Luke Scott‘s playing time, Burke gets Biggio’s, and Jason Hirsh gets Jennings’ innings.
Burke is out-hitting Biggio by ten points of EqA, and playing a league-average second when he gets time there (versus Biggio’s execrable glovework). Willy Taveras is hitting about the same as Scott, but playing his usual excellent defense in center. Jennings and Hirsh have been worth about the same value-22 PRAR for the latter versus 19-with Hirsh doing that in 40 more innings.
Maybe the difference isn’t that great, although given the Astros’ problems preventing runs this season, I have to think the defensive upgrades in center field and at second base would have made a significant difference in their record. If they cared, that is, and that’s the shame: the Astros, as a franchise, blew off their record for a year so one guy could add to his stats. Benching Biggio at this stage just puts that into even clearer relief.
- Giants extend Brian Sabean’s contract. Are you kidding me? Somehow, the idea has taken hold that Brian Sabean isn’t responsible for the state of the Giants, that it’s the need to keep Barry Bonds around that has tied his hands, as if having the only guy in baseball with a .500 OBP (offer not valid at the moment) hamstrings the team and the GM. Barry Bonds is a bargain at his current price, not just for business reasons but for baseball ones. The real problem is that Sabean’s decisions outside of keeping Bonds-especially this past winter-are the reasons why the Giants are awful.
The Barry Zito signing has been poked and prodded enough that I’ll leave it alone here. Focus instead on the offense-despite having Bonds, the Giants have a .320 team OBP. Sabean brought in Rich Aurilia to play first base, for reasons passing understanding; he’s at .291. He signed Bengie Molina to a three-year deal; he’s at .295. He gave Ray Durham, who’s 2006 screamed “late-career power fluke,” a two-year deal; .320. He signed Dave Roberts to a two-year deal; .304. He brought back Pedro Feliz, who’s just an awful player; .269.
The Giants are lousy because Brian Sabean built a team around Barry Bonds that had almost no choice but to fail. He valued service time more than he did getting on base, and for that, he has a .440 team and a new contract extension.
- Mark Cuban in on the Cubs. I don’t think there’s much chance that MLB would ever let Cuban into their clubhouse, but it’s his type of ownership-desiring championships rather than short-term black ink-that would do more for baseball than any revenue-sharing scheme. MLB’s problem isn’t money, it’s ownership groups that are far too short-sighted and risk-averse to do the job of running a team well. I’m rooting for him to win in the Cubs bidding, and if that fails, to keep trying to buy MLB teams until he gets one. I’m certain he’d run a successful franchise both on and off the field.