Archive for ‘Baseball’

March 3, 2011

Carlos Silva Shows Us Why Spring Training DOES Matter

by npiller88

sending this one right at your face, Aramis

14 errors in 4 games. That’s how the Chicago Cubs’ Spring Training has started.

And out of that mess, miraculously, comes a story of real interest.

Two Cubs got into a scuffle in the clubhouse yesterday. One is on the bubble of making the team. The other is an established regular guaranteed a starting spot. Can you guess which one made the error? (Hint, its not the guy who had something to play for).

But despite not committing any errors, Silva did give up two home runs in the first inning. Not a good start for a guy trying to lock down the role of fifth starter for the Cubs. Even though he got into it with a teammate, its hard not to sympathize with Silva. He was a guy who was probably the Cubs’ best starter for the early part of 2010, and may have believed he wouldn’t have to fight for a spot this Spring.

Let’s not forget that this is the second such recent bench kerfuffle for the Cubs between a pitcher and a position player (the other being the disastrous, frightening Carlos Zambrano outburst directed at Derek Lee, among others, which eventually landed Zambrano with a suspension/anger management therapy). Apparently, as former ace Zambrano can attest, Cubs pitchers don’t seem to be fond of position players making errors behind them. New manager Mike Quade (known as a player’s manager) may have inherited a bit of a toxic environment from Sweet Lou Pinella. Or not. Maybe this means nothing.

But it does make for a fascinating case study of Spring Training baseball and player effort. Ramirez knows he’s going to make the team. Maybe that’s why he didn’t focus hard enough to catch the fly ball he dropped in the first inning, one of three errors the Cubs committed in that frame. Or maybe he just made a mistake. Silva, on the other hand, was probably giving it his all, and then some. Maybe pressing too much, or at least, enough to give up a couple of dingers. What I’m guessing happened was Silva made some noise in the dugout about his fielders not making the plays. As a veteran taking offense, Ramirez probably got in his face. An angry Silva, concerned for his job, probably lost it, or maybe he said something to make Ramirez lose it. It doesn’t really matter. What’s interesting are the unique circumstances:

If not for the errors committed behind him, Silva probably wouldn’t have had the window to give up those two home runs, or at least not both of them. Now, he may be struggling with his command or velocity or something, and you could argue that such a thing can’t be hidden from the decision-makers for an entire Spring. Or you could argue that if it was truly an aberration and not a result of command or velocity problems, the rest of his performances during the Spring will be successful and cement him as the team’s fourth or fifth starter in the rotation. But one wonders, if Ramirez and some of the others had focused a little harder in that inning, perhaps Silva wouldn’t have been exposed in such a way. He also would have avoided the frustration of having errors made behind him, which could have improved his performance as well. As immature as both players’ reactions were, it’s hard to fault Silva for getting heated, since his job is on the line, and the Cubs have played the worst defense of any team this Spring.

Silva’s resume was affected by Ramirez’ screw-up, because the errors left Silva on the mound longer, pitching from a position of weakness (with men on base where he probably had to throw more hittable pitches), and generally more vulnerable to failure.

This is not to say Silva is blameless. The entire inning sounded like a disaster. But if I was Silva, I’d be pissed too. It may be Spring, but damn man, make the plays.

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February 28, 2011

The Motives of Free Agents

by Jeeves

After the formation of, for lack of a better name, (I’ll oblige them), the Heatles and now that Carmelo officially has become a Knick, it appears that the free agency landscape has changed drastically in the NBA. Throw in the impending (2012) free agencies of Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Dwight Howard and it would be perfectly reasonable to assume that the (star) players now have all the leverage in terms of where they end up. The teams that these stars are leaving are desperate to get at least pennies on the dollar so they kowtow to the wishes of their star even as he orchestrates his departure. Inevitably, that star will leave for greener pastures in a larger market. That is, at least, the perception.

It is that perception that I want to take a look at. Do stars really leave their teams to sign larger contracts in a city they deem better? Plus, what qualities do these cities have that make them “better”?

So these are the rules, if you will, of the way I treated the data. I scoured the Internet for reliable lists of the highest paid players in their respective leagues. For the NBA, I used a HoopsHype list of the highest salaries of players for this season. This means that I wasn’t looking at the largest total salaries, just single season salaries from this current season. The site listed the top 30 players. For the MLB, I used the invaluable Cot’s Contracts. He had the top 33 total contracts in history listed, meaning the total value over the life of the contract. That means for the MLB, it’s more of a snap shot of the last 15-20 years rather than a single season snap shot. Finally, for the NHL, I used a listing from USA Today which had the top 25 salaries from LAST (2009-2010) season. (I ignored the NFL because things get hairy after including signing and roster bonuses).

So after choosing my lists, I parsed the names to find out which players either A) Signed with a different team as a free agent or B) Forced a trade/was traded and immediately signed an extension. Those in group B weren’t technically free agents, but things worked, to the same effect. It does, however, exclude players such as Matt Holliday who was traded to the Cardinals, played through the remainder of the season, hit free agency, and then resigned with the Cardinals.

Let’s take a look at the lists starting with the NBA since this is what set me on this line of inquiry:

NBA – 10/30 – 33%

Rashard Lewis (Magic)

Carmelo Anthony (Knicks)

Gilbert Arenas (first salary) (Wizards)

Amare Stoudemire (Knicks)

Kenyon Martin (Nuggets)

Elton Brand (76ers)

Peja Stojakovic (Hornets)

Lebron James (Heat)

Chris Bosh (Heat)

Carlos Boozer (Bulls)

Of the 30 highest paid players in the NBA, only 10 of them met my criteria. Bosh, Lebron, and Carmelo are all prominently on that list. They also, make up a sizable portion. The teams that the players signed with don’t seem to have any sort of correlation. For every Carmelo who wanted the big market you have a Peja who signed with the small market Hornets. For every Lebron James who headed for warm weather, there’s a Carlos Boozer who went to a cold weather city. I think what it comes down to is that the players went to the teams that could pay them the most. They also seem not to be (LBJ excluded) the premier talents of the league. Yes, Amare Stoudemire is a very good player but he wouldn’t be in your top 7 of players with whom to start a team with. Taking this all into account, it seems (recently) that star players usually sign extensions with teams that drafted them (2/3 of the listed 30). It means that the Heatles and Melo are breaking the mold, so to speak, with the way that they orchestrated their moves to their current teams. It’s impossible to say whether this is a trend or a blip, but if history says anything it is that you can expect some superstars to move about, but the vast majority will stay put.

After the jump we’ll take a look at the NHL and MLB.

read more »

February 9, 2011

Mark Buehrle in Search of Media Filter

by Jeeves

I think we all heard it as a kid, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it all.” Unfortunately, for his sake, Mark Buehrle decided not to heed the advice of mother’s and father’s all over the country when he was quoted as saying,

“Even if you are not a dog lover, how can you sit there and make two dogs fight and one is going to die?” said (Buehrle). “How could you do that if you are somewhat sane?

“(Vick) had a great year and a great comeback, but there were times where we watched the game and I know it’s bad to say, but there were times where we hope he gets hurt. Everything you’ve done to these dogs, something bad needs to happen to these guys.”

Those quotes were from an interview he gave on MLB.com about the charity work he’s done with stray dogs. (The quotes have since been scrubbed from the article). Buehrle famously paid for the vet bills for a dog that was found with an arrow piercing its side; he’s a good man and he clearly loves dogs. The sad thing is that from here on out, anytime anyone thinks of Mark Buehrle and dogs, they’ll think of this quote and not all the good he does.

I love Mark Buehrle, in a sports  and platonic context. He’s a good pitcher, he works quickly, he is nice, he is forthright, he does charity work, he’s loyal to the team, he used to do this during rain delays:

he pitched a perfect game and a no hitter, he was really cool to my friend when he threw out the first pitch at a Sox game, I could go on and on. And no matter how highly I think of him, he is in the wrong here. It’s one thing to privately wish harm on another person. I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s a bit seedy, but in the grand scheme of things, thinking that inside your head isn’t so bad. I’m sure thousands of people thought the same thing about Michael Vick over the past year. However (or as Steven A. Smith would say, HOWEVA), you just cannot, under any circumstances air out those feelings through the media. It’s just not the way our society works. There was no way for those words to be interpreted, other than negatively (with regards to Buehrle). Those are the type of comments that you need to filter out, especially when you’re on the record.

Michael Vick made a mistake, and he’s paid his debt to society. Mark Buehrle made a much, much smaller mistake and he’ll now have to pay his debt in the form of being analyzed and ripped on by the media, bloggers, pundits and really anybody else who has an opinion. Here’s hoping things blow over quickly, because when it comes down to it, Buehrle is a good man. He’s an animal lover who went a little overboard in some personal statements. Let’s keep in perspective and keep the real barbs handy in case he decides to go Jeff Gillooly on Vick.

January 27, 2011

Money on the Table – A Goodwill Gesture and a Leverage Ploy

by Jeeves

A little more than a week ago Gil Meche announced his retirement. Under normal circumstances this wouldn’t have been all that newsworthy. Meche amounted to a league average pitcher over his career (ERA+: 99) and made a well deserved appearance in the All-Star game in ’07; this isn’t what interests me about him, as those types of plaudits could describe any number of pitchers (around 114 to be exact). What I find fascinating and admirable is the fact that Gil Meche retired with $12.4 million in guaranteed salary left on the table. This isn’t football where he could have been cut and his contract would have disappeared; as long as he didn’t retire (and didn’t come into breach of contract) he would have seen $12.4 million dollars (less taxes) flow into his bank account by this time next year. His reasoning is as follows:

“I didn’t want to go try it again for another season and be the guy making $12 million doing absolutely nothing to help their team,” Meche said. “Yeah, a lot of people might think I’m crazy for not trying to play and making this amount of money. I don’t think I’m ever going to regret it.”

It’s a rare person who passes up that type of money because he’s concerned about not making the value up to his team and teammates. I don’t think there are many who would fault him for rehabbing and collecting the last year of his salary. I know I would, and that’s without even considering that the Royals have some blame in the current state of his arm. When he was clearly ailing last year, they had him go out and pitch 121 pitches and then 115 pitches his next time out, which contributed to him hitting the disabled list.

The most striking thing to me is his comment, “I don’t think I’m ever going to regret it.” This is a guy who is clearly happy with his place in life. He is grateful for the lavish amounts of money he has made in his career, and he clearly cherishes his time with the Royals despite the fact that their on-field performance was dreadful.

All this serves to contrast nicely with the rumblings surrounding Carson Palmer. According to Chris Mortenson, Palmer has threatened the Bengals with retirement if they do not trade him. He is willing to forgo the final 4 years of his contract which would see him make 50 million (unguaranteed, of course) dollars. His salary for next season will be somewhere north of $10 million.

Palmer has made a lot of money in his 7-years in the league. It’s well within his rights to end his career on his own terms, but I wonder if it makes him feel a little dirty, at all, that he’s trying to leverage himself out of Cincinnati in such a fashion. Yes, the Bengals were terrible this past year, but they are, after all, only 2 years removed from a division title in the tough AFC North.

I find it hard to believe that Palmer wants to bail out on his team so badly. This truly is his team. He’s the face of the franchise and has by far the largest cap number. I find it unfathomable that he publicly submarined his trade value by announcing that he’d rather retire than be paid handsomely to helm the Bengals’ offense. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, but I feel a player should afford his organization some modicum of respect. If Carson really, really wanted out and privately met with management and gave him his ultimatum, fine. I still think he’s shirking on his contract and responsibilities, but at least that way he gives Cinci a fair shake and time to try and accommodate him while recouping some value. By letting this mess get to the public, it makes it sound like he wants to have his cake and eat it too.

Ultimately, I do care where Palmer ends up. He has the ability to still be an effective QB in the NFL, but until then, let’s all take a moment to appreciate Gil Meche the person. He gave his all to his team, to the detriment of his own health. He stuck with the Royals through all the losses. He maintained a sense of duty and loyalty to his employer, which is far too often overshadowed by the petulance normally associated with pro sports. So here’s to you Gil Meche.