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Tag:Tom Ricketts
Posted on: November 5, 2011 12:16 pm
 

Cubs continue rounding out brain trust



By Matt Snyder


Late Friday night, news broke that the Cubs had hired Joe Bohringer as director of pro scouting (ESPN Chicago). And the praise on Twitter soon followed. Keith Law of ESPN.com noted the Angels were also after Bohringer's services. Baseball author Jonah Keri said "Joe is GREAT, Cubs fans should be thrilled." Baseball America's Jim Callis noted it was "another tremendous hire by the Cubs." Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus said it was a "fantastic" hire.

The hiring possibly completes the major front-office moves in Wrigleyville, where they've added president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer, senior vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod and now Bohringer. Already in place were assistant general manager Randy Bush, scouting director Tim Wilken and personnel director Oneri Fleita.

One takeaway from the Bohringer hire is how much a Mickey Mouse operation the Cubs were previously running. Bush had reportedly been pulling double duty, serving as both the pro scouting director and assistant GM. This coming from one of the biggest money-making teams in the bigs. What a joke. But the laughs are beginning to subside now.

Allow me to formally apologize to Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts. Back in early September I said that Ricketts locking up Fleita could possibly sabotage his search for a general manager -- namely that it took the possibility of a "home-run hire" off the board. Boy, was I wrong. It could be argued Ricketts has hit several homers these past few weeks.

Epstein won two World Series with the Red Sox. Hoyer and McLeod have left the Padres' farm system in great shape and had helped Epstein build the Red Sox foundation (say what you will about spending, but Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis, Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard -- just to name a few -- were homegrown). Bohringer has 21 years of scouting experience (after graduating from MIT) and has been a lead scout for the Diamondbacks since 2006. Fleita was being courted by the Tigers before the Cubs re-signed him.

Obviously, front office personnel don't immediately pay on-field dividends nor do they necessarily equate to championships in the future. Further, these hires don't necessarily mean the Cubs have the smartest front office in the bigs. But the fact is that the Ricketts family has done absolutely everything they could possibly do this offseason to put a brilliant baseball brain trust in place. Success is not even close to being guaranteed, but simply seeing the effort is a departure from how things have been throughout Cubs history.

Now Cubs fans just need to be patient with the new brain trust -- as it's going to be a long process -- in hopes that on-field history is made as well.

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Posted on: October 16, 2011 10:49 am
 

Epstein to Cubs 'inevitable,' talks continue

By Matt Snyder

The Cubs and Red Sox continue to discuss a compensation package for the Cubs poaching Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein with a year remaining on his contract. As of the last update the two sides were far apart, but it's been a few days, so let's take a look at how things have gone since then, according to various reporters from the Red Sox and Cubs beats.

Cubs/Red Sox drama
• At one point, talks were growing "increasingly contentious" between the two clubs, as Red Sox president Larry Lucchino was reportedly making things very difficult due to his now-fractured relationship with Epstein (CSNChicago.com), but several others have reported this wasn't accurate. Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe reports that the talks are "business-like, civil and moving forward."

• The Red Sox are asking for at least two of the Cubs' top prospects, reports Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald, but Carrie Muskat of MLB.com reports top Cubs prospect Brett Jackson is not going anywhere.

• As things currently stand, no present Red Sox personnel will accompany Epstein to Chicago, reports Nick Carfardo of the Boston Globe. As for former employees, that could be a different story. Tom Krasovic reports that former Red Sox assistant GM Josh Byrnes will likely join Epstein in Chicago. Byrnes was the general manager for the Diamondbacks from November of '05 through July of last season and is currently the vice president of baseball operations for the Padres.

• The World Series begins Wednesday and Major League Baseball won't allow any deals to be consummated during it, so there's a bit of a clock on this thing, unless both teams are OK with waiting until afterward (and that's not likely, as they surely want the drama to end very soon). Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune has reported that a deal won't be completed this weekend, and Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald reports all signs are pointing to a deal being completed by the end of the day Tuesday.

WEEI.com reports a deal is "virtually inevitable" and that it's only a matter of time. So, realistically, it sounds like we should expect some sort of announcement Tuesday.

• Finally, the two clubs could be competing for the services of Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg as manager, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. Epstein is once again the common thread here, as he tried to hire Sandberg to manage the Red Sox's Triple-A team this past winter. Sandberg had already taken the Phillies' Triple-A job, so it wasn't like he snubbed Epstein's advances. Many others in the Red Sox front office are said to like Sandberg, while Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts is eager to repair the relationship with the former Cubs' second baseman -- who was snubbed by former Cubs general manager Jim Hendry last offseason for the managerial job in Chicago.

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Posted on: October 14, 2011 11:13 am
Edited on: October 14, 2011 11:48 am
 

Red Sox must fetch strong price for Theo Epstein

By Evan Brunell

With the departure of Theo Epstein, the Red Sox are faced with the most glaring void their organization has seen since the beginning of the franchise's recent upswing. And worse, it appears the only return they may get would be a paltry sum of cash or a couple of low-end players. And, even if those guys do contribute at the major-league level, they would be far from making up for the loss of a top-tier GM like Epstein.

Part of this reason, beyond the Cubs understandably balking at an exorbitant price -- they are trying to do their job, after all -- is that MLB is watching these discussions with a close eye, realizing that what occurs could set a precedent down the line for other similar GM defections. It appears as if baseball is trying to prevent GMs from being "traded" for anything close to free market value. Even managers have a difficult time of it, but at least there is precedent there, what with Ozzie Guillen shipped to the Marlins for three minor-league players and Lou Piniella going from Seattle to Tampa Bay for Randy Winn.

What is the problem here?

Why is baseball trying to prevent adequate compensation for Epstein? Moreover, why is it so bad for managers and GMs to be traded for equal value in return?

General managers have an incredible amount of responsibility on their shoulders and are forced to wear many hats. Not only do they have to juggle putting together a major-league team worthy of satisfying the fans and owners, they have to keep the farm system healthy, draft a new crop of players each season, negotiate contracts with players, coaches and scouts, maintain a budget and retain enough flexibility for future moves, and on and on. There's no question that a GM, these days, essentially shapes a franchise's present and future like no other person can, with lasting ramifications that can span years, if not decades.

And you're telling me that a GM can't be traded for an exorbitant price? Baseball may want to hold down GM compensation because it would add yet another layer of complexity to the proceedings, but is there any reason the Red Sox shouldn't be getting someone of commensurate value? Epstein not only completely and wholly changed the culture of the history of the Red Sox, he changed their status, market and player development. The boy wonder's accomplishments in Boston will bear fruit years after he's gone, and years after his successor, Ben Cherington, will be gone.

And somehow, accepting a reported $3.5 million or a couple tepid minor-league prospects is adequate compensation?

Cubs/Red Sox drama
Imagine, for a moment, if you transformed Epstein into a player on the Red Sox Who would he be? Would he be backup outfielder Darnell McDonald? Or would he be first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who will pull down an average annual salary north of $20 million?

Epstein's value is certainly far closer to Gonzalez than that of McDonald, and Sox president Larry Lucchino appears to understand that. He's submitted a list of players to the Cubs that he feels would be adequate compensation for Epstein's departure, and the latest reports have the Cubs blanching at the price.

But that's as it should be, and MLB shouldn't interfere and meddle with the affairs. By baseball trying to restrict compensation from Epstein, it's restricting a free trade market and is severely hampering Boston's ability to contend. And this is an issue that should be of concern not just in Boston, but in all 30 MLB cities. Paul DePodesta had the right idea back in 2003 when he asked for Red Sox prospect Kevin Youkilis in exchange for allowing GM Billy Beane to defect to the Red Sox before Beane changed his mind at the 11th hour.

Whether baseball likes it or not, the culture is slowly but surely marching toward a day where a GM's departure to another club will result in fair compensation, not a depressed price. Unfortunately for Boston, that day may not arrive in time to compensate for the man who changed baseball in Boston.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 14, 2011 10:42 am
Edited on: October 14, 2011 4:14 pm
 

Reports: Red Sox, Cubs far away on compensation

By Matt Snyder

The big non-playoff story right now is easily the poaching of Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein by Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts. Pretty much every reporter with sources around the Cubs and Red Sox has gotten word that Epstein has accepted a five-year deal to take over the Cubs. The title has yet to be revealed because the deal isn't yet official. The delay is that Epstein still has a year left on his contract and the Red Sox are seeking compensation from the Cubs for letting him walk.

Cubs/Red Sox drama
The assistant general managers -- Randy Bush for the Cubs and Ben Cherington for the Red Sox -- are doing the negotiating and then reporting to ownership before anything would be made official.

And after one day of negotiating, reports from both Boston and Chicago indicate the two sides are pretty far apart.

The Cubs only want to send money to the Red Sox, while the Red Sox are insistent on receiving back a package of players. The two sides reportedly didn't give much ground Thursday, so it's at a stand-still right now (Chicago Tribune).

The Boston Globe notes the Red Sox have interest in some of the few attractive prospects from the Cubs system, like Brett Jackson, Matt Szczur, Alberto Cabrera, Jay Jackson and Trey McNutt. The Globe has also reported the Red Sox like major-league utility player Jeff Baker, but he alone wouldn't be enough. In that same entry, it is noted that the Red Sox would love the Cubs to take John Lackey and his gaudy contract, but that is very unlikely.

The Boston Herald says the Red Sox are looking for "something real" in return for Epstein.

So this might drag out for a little bit, but there was one tie that bound every report: There is no indication the deal has a chance to fall through. Eventually, Epstein is going to be headed to Chicago, with something going back to Boston in return. At least that's how things stand Friday, October 14. We'll see how it progresses.

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Posted on: October 13, 2011 10:08 am
Edited on: October 13, 2011 10:14 am
 

Cubs' job attractive, future options plenty



By Matt Snyder


Congratulations, Theo Epstein, on likely landing the new gig of Cubs president, CEO, general manager, czar, savior, curse-breaker and deity. In addition to all those millions of dollars, you now inherit a mess of a franchise. The good news is that statement only exists in the present and very near future. Things can be cleaned up rather quickly. Here's why:

• It's funny to read all over the place about how the Cubs have so many awful contracts and are so much more handcuffed on payroll than Epstein is used to. The fact of the matter is that only Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Marmol are signed past 2012, along with the young players who will still be under team control and don't make much. And then Marmol's contract expires after 2013. Depending on arbitration raises and possible extensions (Matt Garza, maybe?) the Cubs are shedding somewhere in the ballpark of $50 million from their 2011 payroll. Come 2013, as things currently stand, only $28.8 million is committed (to Soriano and Marmol). In 2014, only Soriano's absurd $19 million salary is still on the books, but by 2015, there's nothing left.

• My guess is it's true, for now, that Epstein is likely going to be told to not exceed a figure like $135 million with his payroll and that is a good amount less than the Red Sox's current figure. But here's the mitigating factor: The Cubs are in the NL Central, where they easily have the largest market and revenue stream in the division. In Boston, Epstein was trying to keep up financially with the mighty Yankees. In the Chicago, his biggest competitor in terms of market size is Houston -- which is departing for the AL soon -- and in terms of revenue stream it's St. Louis. The Cubs have the resources to be the "big boy" in the division, which wasn't possible for Epstein in Boston.

• Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has already shown a significant commitment to player development. The Cubs spent a huge amount of money on the 2011 draft and they are building a state of the art academy in the Dominican Republic. They are looking to make major upgrades to Arizona's spring training facility, which would serve as a type of home base for player development. The Cubs also have a great reputation for international scouting. Put simply, Ricketts has noticed the biggest problem for the Cubs has been a system that doesn't regularly churn out its own prospects and he has done everything he can to rectify that issue in the short term.

So, that's why the job was attractive, but there's no doubt there's a lot to be done. This is a team that went 71-91 and has a pretty lackluster level of talent in the upper levels of the minors -- not to mention the aging major-league roster.

As every franchise faces when trying to make a losing team into a winning team, there are three distinct routes that can be taken. Let's take a look at each and get specific.

Cubs/Red Sox drama
Route 1: The Complete Rebuild
Don't pick up the options for Ryan Dempster or Aramis Ramirez. Trade younger veterans of value like Geovany Soto, Sean Marshall and Matt Garza. Do whatever it takes to off-load Alfonso Soriano's contract. Do the same with Carlos Zambrano. Carlos Marmol and Marlon Byrd might land decent returns, so they would also be traded. Don't re-up with any veterans like Kerry Wood. Just completely revamp the entire farm system and build around Starlin Castro and Andrew Cashner. Then tell everyone they need to be patient, as the goal is to grow the system from the foundation and start competing in 2014.

Chances this happens:
Decent to good, for at least part of this. Epstein very well may start completely slow and see how things pan out with several different young players. I do think he would keep Garza with Castro and Cashner and then start to pounce on free agents starting next offseason.

Route 2: The Chips to the Center of the Table
Re-up with Dempster and Ramirez. Do what it takes to sign Prince Fielder and C.J. Wilson, including backloading deals to make the budget work. Move Starlin Castro to second base and sign Jose Reyes (again, backloading). Grab someone like Javier Vazquez, Chris Young or Joel Pineiro to fill out the rotation. That means the starting nine would be: Soto, Fielder, Castro, Reyes, Ramirez, Soriano, Byrd and probably Bryan LaHair. The starting rotation could be: Wilson, Garza, Dempster, Vazquez and Randy Wells. That leaves Andrew Cashner -- who is hitting triple digits on the radar gun in the Arizona Fall League -- to be the closer. Marmol can stay in the bullpen and hope to work on his control. Wood, Marshall and Jeff Samardzija would be the setup men.

Chances this happens:
Ridiculously slim. Actually, zero. Epstein isn't a moron and this would be absurd for the long-term health of the franchise, especially considering the team probably still wouldn't be good enough to win even an NLDS, if it made it. There's no depth, either, since the high levels of the minors don't have a lot of help coming. And could Epstein even get all those guys if he tried? Finally, the band-aid-on-a-broken-leg approach got Jim Hendry fired, so there's no way Tom Ricketts would hire Epstein to do the same thing.

Route 3: The Combination
I often chuckle when people think you absolutely have to choose either Route 1 or Route 2. In a small market, yes, you have to completely rebuild and hope all the young players get good at the same time, like the Royals appear to have happening in 2013 or 2014. In a large market, the resources are there to do both. Epstein developed the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon and Dustin Pedroia while also making trades for veterans and signing big-name free agents in Boston. It's a much bigger project this time around, but the goal can be to do something similar in Wrigley. While the farm system is being revamped for the Cubs, an effort can be made to start allowing the aging veterans to leave via free agency while players like Soto, Marshall, Marmol, and Dempster (with him, it's a one-year option and there will be enough money to retain him) can be kept around. Wood can be re-signed for another one-year, $1.5 million contract. And then you can fill holes with younger free agents. C.J. Wilson? Pass on him and keep your eyes on that 2013 pitching free agent class that could contain Matt Cain, John Danks, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, Shaun Marcum, Brandon McCarthy, Anibal Sanchez, James Shields and more. A 27-year-old Prince Fielder? Yes, please. The Reyes signing mentioned above, with moving Castro to second? Nope. Not now. Try Andrew Cashner and Jeff Samardzija in the rotation? Yes and maybe. Give LaHair a shot in right field, absolutely. He had a huge 2011 season in both Triple-A and then hit the ball well in his short time in the majors. Do you think about promoting center-field prospect Brett Jackson and trading Byrd midseason? Sure, if the Cubs aren't in the race. The whole point is that, ideally, with this plan, you'd put a team together for 2012 that appears to be average, giving it the chance to overachieve and sneak into the playoffs -- but the eyes are certainly on 2013 being the turnaround year. From there, you strive to compete for the World Series title every ensuing season.

Chances this happens:
I feel like this is the most likely route. The main benefit is you don't completely punt 2012 after getting the fan base excited with the big-name hire. In the complete rebuild model, you're liable to lose 100 games and kill fan morale instead of capitalizing on all the excitement. And in the win now model, there just isn't enough there to bring it all together in one offseason. So here we are. Here, you can have a mildly successful 2012 season while getting the fans excited for a bright future. All the moves above are just examples of what can be done, as the plan can be the same but be done with totally different moves.

But this is all purely speculation -- and fun, as is all hypothetical talk -- as the only person who really knows what is going in on Epstein's head right now is Epstein himself.

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Posted on: September 27, 2011 6:50 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Chicago Cubs

By Matt Snyder

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Chicago Cubs
Record: 70-90, 24 games back in NL Central
Manager: Mike Quade
Best hitter: Aramis Ramirez -- .306/.360/.506, 25 HR, 92 RBI, 79 R, 35 2B
Best pitcher: Matt Garza -- 9-10, 3.35 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 189 K, 191 IP

After the 2008 season, the Cubs were in the middle of a bit of a golden era in the franchise. They had been division champions three times in a six-year span. That isn't saying much for a lot of teams, but this franchise hadn't had that kind of success since playing in the World Series four out of five seasons from 1906-1910. Alas, they were swept in the NLDS in 2008, despite having the best regular-season record in the National League, so general manager Jim Hendry decided to do some tinkering. The Cubs finished just five games over .500 in 2009 before coming in fifth place in 2010 and are currently in fifth again. And Hendry's out of a job, likely to be followed by Quade and some other coaches.

2011 SEASON RECAP

They were 9-8 and tied for first place after the first game of a doubleheader on April 20, but that was the high point in the standings. The Cubs would go on to lose six of seven games and never be a serious threat the rest of the way. They fell to 10 games back on June 4 and never got closer than nine back in the Central from that point forward. They actually moved up to fourth place September 19 for the first time since May 26, but the overwhelming majority of the season has been spent in fifth place, thanks to the lowly Astros. The biggest positives: Starlin Castro is well on his way to being a major-league star, Darwin Barney appears an adequate option at second base, Matt Garza had a good season, Sean Marshall is still great in middle-to-late inning relief and Jeff Samardzija finally doesn't look like a huge bust. The biggest negative is that this appears to be a badly flawed roster with not near enough help on the way from the minors.

2012 AUDIT

This is the toughest assignment of the R.I.P. series, because there's no way to know the direction of the ballclub until a new general manager is hired. The club is not immediately set up to compete, but there's a stipulation: With more than $50 million in payroll falling off before 2012 and even more off the books before '13, the Cubs could decide to be a major player in free agency. The franchise has enough money to grab, for example, Prince Fielder, C.J. Wilson and still have money left over to bolster the bullpen and find a fill-in at third base. On the other hand, many would argue that still isn't enough to make the Cubs immediate contenders in the National League. If the new GM agrees, he might be more in favor of leaving the payroll low for a season or two while building the system with a youthful foundation before pouncing on big-name free agents to fill holes in 2013 or 2014. One thing that should scare fellow franchises in the NL Central if the Cubs choose to spend big in the near future, is that the Cubs are clear of all big contracts except Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Marmol (and Matt Garza likely has a deal by then, too, I'd guess) prior to 2013 and Marmol's off after '13. They have the resources to be the Red Sox of the NL. It's just a matter of if the Cubs can put the correct plan in place, and that all comes down to who chairman Tom Ricketts hires as his next GM.

FREE AGENTS

Aramis Ramirez, 3B (mutual option)
Carlos Pena, 1B
Reed Johnson, OF
Ryan Dempster, SP (player option for '12)
John Grabow, RP
Jeff Samardzija, RP (club option for '12 and '13)

OFFSEASON FOCUS

Where to even begin? This roster is a mess. First of all, I'd listen to offers for everyone except Starlin Castro. That doesn't mean you have to trade guys like Barney, Marshall or Soto, but you never know if the return might work with the game plan of the new GM. Let's sort through some of this and see what can be done short-term with the eyes on the future. My goal would be to contend in 2013. If it happens in 2012, that's just gravy.
  • Get Prince Fielder. He's 27 and incredibly durable (has never played less than 157 games in a full season). He'd then be the anchor for the Cubs for the foreseeable future, even if it takes a few years to build around him and Castro. Also of importance, if you bat Castro second and Fielder third, Castro's strike zone woes become less an issue (though he has walked more times than he's struck out in September, so it's getting better already).
  • Give Andrew Cashner one last shot to stay healthy in the rotation and also see if Samardzija can be successful as a starter. Having a rotation of Garza, Dempster, Randy Wells, Cashner and Samardzija won't be winning any championships, but Dempster is gone after 2012 and there'd be plenty of money to go after free agents. By then, they Cubs will know if they need just one guy or up to four with Garza. And the list of free agent starters after next season could have some big names -- assuming they aren't granted contract extensions -- like Matt Cain, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, Shaun Marcum and James Shields.
  • Read the riot act to Carlos Marmol. Considering the Cubs likely can't contend in 2012 and Marmol is signed through 2013, he has one year to fix himself. Marmol has blown an MLB-high 10 saves (he's tied with Jordan Walden). You can't count on closers to be perfect, but let's say Marmol only blew four saves, which is a very reasonable percentage. The Cubs would be 76-84, which isn't awful at all considering some of the injury issues and poor roster construction.
  • Give Bryan LaHair a shot in right field. LaHair is 28, so he's hardly a prospect, but it's possible he's a late bloomer like Ryan Ludwick or Jayson Werth. LaHair had 38 home runs, 109 RBI and a 1.070 OPS in 129 Triple-A games. He's hitting .309/.391/.545 in 19 games for the Cubs this season. Again, the eyes are on 2013 here, so if he flames out as many expect, you can address the position next offseason. But he's at least earned the chance to get an extended look in the bigs.
  • If the Cubs do fall out of contention in 2012, Marlon Byrd needs to be traded at the deadline and prospect Brett Jackson can then take over in center field. If Jackson is deemed ready earlier in the season and LaHair doesn't pan out, Byrd could be moved to right. 
  • I'd personally bring back Aramis Ramirez for two or three years, assuming the Cubs don't have to break the bank. The last thing they need is another albatross contract, so if he's demanding something like four years and $50 million, it's time to move on. But if it's reasonable, it makes sense to keep him. He's only 33 and has shown has can still swing the bat. He's got to have two to three years left of above-average production at third base. Prospect Josh Vitters had completely fallen off all prospect rankings prior to this season, but rebounded with a decent showing in Double-A this season (.283/.322/.448 with 14 homers, 81 RBI and 28 doubles) and he's still only 21. In two years, the Cubs will have an idea if he is going to be the next third baseman or not. If not, they can look outside the organziation or perhaps someone in the farm system will have emerged. Keeping Ramirez is a natural bridge to when it comes to that.
And there's a lot more, too, but those are the big ones.

The main thing here is the hire a new GM that puts the main focus on building the minor-league system. That way in a few years free agency won't be the only avenue to fill out a winning ballclub. Remember, people complain about the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies in free agency, but lots of players -- Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis, Jon Lester, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels and several others were developed from within the respective systems. The Cubs have been terrible at developing their own in recent years and leaned on trades and free agency to bail them out. It needs to be a combination or everything will eventually fall apart like it did this season. From there, they can start to think about breaking a faux-curse and easing the pain of the legions of true fans.

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Posted on: September 15, 2011 10:17 am
 

Pepper: Finally a worthwhile 'Moneyball myth'



By Matt Snyder


In the past few days, "Moneyball" reviews have been all over the Internet, as advanced screenings are currently taking place. It's a veritable mixed bag. Some reviews have the movie an Oscar contender, others tearing it to shreds, while most are in between. I haven't seen the movie yet, but one area where people aggravate me already is bemoaning how, basically, it's not a documentary. Simply put: It's a movie. Of course it's going to take liberties and be just as much fiction as fact. It says "based on a true story," not "true story." I'm sorry is Jonah Hill doesn't even come close to physically resembling Paul DePodesta, for example. Hollywood doesn't have to cast clones.

Anyway, there have been critics for years of the book. You'll often hear someone say something like "Moneyball doesn't work" or try to explain the "myth of Moneyball." Sometimes it almost seems like the person is taking great pride is taking down some huge establishment.

One of the loudest complaints is that the A's had a trio of aces in the pitching staff, so it wasn't that hard to make the team around them good. It's fair, but it discounts the shift in offensive philosophy. But it's understandable. And it's not like Miguel Tejada and Eric Chavez -- the anchors of the 2002 offense -- weren't stars. They were.

But this all still ignores the massive disadvantage in payroll the A's had against the likes of the Yankees -- and the 2002 A's won 103 games.

On that front, I finally saw a "myth" about Beane's 2002 ballclub that was worthwhile and made sense -- thanks to Jeff Fletcher at BayBridgeBaseball.com. Yes, that payroll was really low. But a lot of it had to do with how baseball's system is set up. Namely, because of young players being under club control for years and then arbitration-eligible for a few more years, there was some pretty damn good talent making relatively low salaries in '02.

Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito combined to go 57-21 with a 3.05 ERA. Zito won the Cy Young. The three aces made $1.97 million combined. For comparison's sake, Pedro Martinez of the Red Sox finished second in Cy Young voting that year and he made $14 million.

There were several other young players that made far less money than players they were outperforming and that happens every year. The A's just happened to have a handful of them. So I guess I've finally found a "Moneyball myth" I support.

Mo in center? Mariano Rivera has a simple request of manager Joe Girardi. Before he retires, Rivera would like to get a shot in center field. Rivera reportedly claims he's a "viable" center fielder and wants to play a game there (a whole game?). Yeah, that ain't happening. But Girardi has said he'd consider putting him out there for one batter in a meaningless game. Oh, and one more stipulation: “[It would be against] a guy who hits ground balls or strikes out a lot,” Girardi said (NYTimes.com).

GM already in place? It would seem that Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts is doing his hiring backwards. About a week and a half ago I bemoaned Ricketts' giving a contract extension to his player personnel director before hiring a general manager. Well, now Ricketts is set to give a similar extension to scouting director Tim Wilkin (SunTimes.com). Yes, outgoing GM Jim Hendry loved both of these members of his staff, but he's gone now. Is it possible Ricketts already has an agreement behind closed doors with his next GM, which makes these extensions OK? If not, it seems like he's severely limiting himself in his GM search. Think about it this way. If you started a business, would you hire all the mid-level employees before your CEO? Or would you hire your dream CEO and then work with him on hiring the underlings?

Great family story: The Marlins recently promoted prospect Matt Dominguez for his major-league debut. His father is a copy editor for the Los Angeles Times, and he wrote a story about the experience of seeing his son play in the bigs. (LATimes.com)

Jocketty staying put: Just as I noted in Wednesday's Pepper, the rumor that the Cubs were going to grab GM Walt Jocketty, manager Tony La Russa and first baseman Albert Pujols doesn't have much merit. Jocketty isn't going anywhere (Cincinnati.com).

Poor Dunn: This is interesting. Baseball-Reference's blog ran two posts that kind of sum up how futile White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn's season has been. He's hitting .162 with 160 strikeouts. If he gathers a few more at-bats, there's a chance he ends up with more strikeouts than his batting average points. That has only happened one time in history when a hitter got more than 35 at-bats. And it was last season: Mark Reynolds. The same blog also compiled a list of the worst full-time players of the last 50 years, and Dunn checks in at 20th.

Still chugging: Rockies starting pitcher Kevin Millwood, 36, is 3-2 with a 3.68 ERA and 1.18 WHIP since being picked up by the Rockies this season, and he wants to come back for them in 2012 (DenverPost.com). Remember, he was on the verge of retiring before the Rockies grabbed him.

Hanson improving: Injured Braves starting pitcher Tommy Hanson threw a 44-pitch side session Wednesday and felt fine. Another big step comes Thursday, as he'll see how his hampered throwing shoulder reacts (MLB.com). If anything big happens, we'll certainly be updating with a stand-alone post on Eye On Baseball. Hanson could be the difference between a first-round exit or going deep in the playoffs for the Braves.

Gracious Votto: Reigning NL MVP Joey Votto has emerged as an elite baseball player and he says that he owes "90 percent" of his success to his old coach back in Canada (Fox Sports Ohio). This isn't surprising. Votto is one of the most humble and classy players in baseball.

Happy Anniversary: Since 1980, the following All-Stars made their respective major-league debuts on September 15: Fernando Valenzuela (1980), Randy Johnson (1989), Cliff Lee (2002) and Rickie Weeks (2003). (Hardball Times)

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Posted on: September 12, 2011 10:12 am
 

Pepper: Ortiz says it's time to panic



By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Wild Cards were all sewn up -- or so we thought.

While it appeared the Braves and Red Sox would cruise to the Wild Card (or the AL East title for Boston), but in the last week, things have gotten interesting. St. Louis swept Atlanta to move just 4.5 games behind Atlanta and Tampa Bay is now just 3.5 games behind the Red Sox as Boston finished a 1-6 road trip, including being swept by the Rays.

Still, there's not a whole lot of baseball left, the two favorites are still favored by mathematicians to hold onto their leads. So it's not time to panic, right?

"Hell yeah, you've got to panic at this point, but you're not going to do anything panicking but playing better," Boston's David Ortiz told reporters (Boston Herald). "Of course you're freaked out, you go on this road trip, 1-6, it's not good. We've got these guys breathing down our next and we're not in first place, either."

Give him credit, Ortiz is always entertaining and this time he's right. The team should worry about the Rays and can't get too worked up about it because panic doesn't help a team play any better. It's an interesting balancing act, playing with urgency, but not panic. Baseball's a tough game that's even tougher when you press.

Cuddyer's homer helped save teammate: Twins outfielder Michael Cuddyer hit two game-winning homers in a minor-league playoff series in 2001 to lead his team to a victory in the best-of-five series. If his team had lost the series, teammate Brad Thomas and his wife, Kylie, had already booked a flight home to Australia. The couple would have started its journey on American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles on Sept. 11, 2001. With the win, Thomas and his wife had to stay for the next series.

"He credits me for saving his life," Cuddyer told MLB.com. "I mean, I don't know about that. It was just a twist of fate."

Thomas is currently on the Tigers' 60-day disabled list.

Cuddyer also wrote about the incident on FoxSports North.

Wainwright remembers: We all have our own personal stories about where we were on Sept. 11, 2001 -- I drove from Athens, Ga., to Washington, D.C., the day before to go to see PJ Harvey at the 9:30 Club on Sept. 10, 2001. I still have the ticket stub and a September 12, 2001, Washington Post to share with my kids some day. Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright was in New York for the Red Sox-Yankees game on Sept. 10, 2001, and then cancelled a morning meeting near the World Trade Center the next day in order to get on the road to Cooperstown with his brother. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

Waiting on Theo: Matt touched on this yesterday, but word is Tom Ricketts is willing to wait for his dream GM, Boston's Theo Epstein. While MLB looks down on major offseason announcements before the end of the World Series, those decisions happen all the time and are usually uncovered before the official announcement. However, there is a real wait if one of those interviewed and hired is still working. That could be the case with Boston's Epstein, reportedly Ricketts' top pick. If Epstein is in the least bit interested, Ricketts will wait. [Chicago Tribune]

Beckett to throw: Red Sox right-hander Josh Beckett will test his injured right ankle in a bullpen session Monday and could return to the rotation by the end of the week -- welcome news to the Red Sox. [Boston Herald]

Weeks to go slow: Rickie Weeks returned to the Brewers' lineup on Sunday, walking and being hit by a pitch in his only plate appearances and was taken out of the game after four innings. The team plans on taking it slow with him. The Brewers are off on Monday and manager Ron Roenicke said he would try to get Weeks back into the game on Tuesday and maybe increase his innings. Weeks missed six weeks after suffering a severe left ankle sprain. [Appleton Post-Crescent]

Cruz ready to return: The Rangers are in the closest playoff race in baseball, leading the Angels by 2.5 games and they get some good news on Tuesday when Nelson Cruz says he'll be ready to return from the disabled list. Cruz went on the DL on Aug. 30 with a strained left hamstring and ran in the outfield on Saturday. The Rangers don't have any minor-league affiliates still playing, so the team will activate Cruz without a rehab assignment. [MLB.com]

Zimmermann bored sitting out: Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann hasn't pitched in two weeks and won't pitch in the final two weeks of the season. The good news is that next season he won't have an innings limit. With Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals have the building blocks for a very good rotation. [Washington Post]

Prado struggling: An All-Star in 2010, Atlanta's Martin Prado his having a disappointing 2011. The 27-year-old super utility player is hitting .261/.307/.385 this season, well below the .307/.356/.454 line he put up in his first five seasons in the big leagues. The prolonged slump is costing him sleep, Prado told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Romine relishes chance: While Jesus Montero garnered headlines when he was called up, the Yankees have a better catching prospect, Austin Romine. With injuries to Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli, Romine made his big-league debut on Sunday. Romine had thought his season was over after Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre finished its season, but Joe Girardi needed a replacement and got in touch with Romine on Saturday. Girardi hadn't been able to get in touch with the catcher, so he had to go to the Angels' clubhouse to talk to Romine's brother, Andrew, an infielder with the Angles, to get a better number. Austin Romine replaced Montero in the ninth inning, catching Mariano Rivera, who recorded his 599th career save. [MLB.com]

ThunderBolts to White Sox: Just two years ago Dylan Axelrod was pitching for the Windy City ThunderBolts of the independent Frontier League. On Wednesday, he'll be throwing in the Windy City again, but for the White Sox in place of former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy. [Chicago Tribune]

Mo Coco: Reds closer Francisco Cordero is willing to re-negotiate his $12 million option for 2012 and general manager Walt Jocketty told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that an extension is a "possibility." Cordero, a whipping boy in Cincinnati, has had an outstanding year, recording 32 saves with a 2.30 ERA with five blown saves. Since coming to the Reds in 2008, Cordero has 145 saves and 23 blown saves, converting 86 percent of his chances with a 2.94 ERA. The Reds don't have an obvious candidate to take over in the ninth inning if they decline his $12 million option. He was the team's highest-paid player in 2011 and his $12 million in 2012 would be the tied for the team's highest-paid player along with second baseman Brandon Phillips, who also has a $12 million option for 2012 that the team is expected to pick up.

Eat before you go: We see a report like this just about every year, but it's always a good reminder -- if you want your food handled properly before you eat it, you've got to make sure to do it yourself. [CBS Chicago]

Bourjos takes blame: We all have those people we know or work with that will never admit fault -- there's always some crazy excuse or reason something went wrong, and it's never their fault, it's some extenuating circumstance. The Angels' Peter Bourjos is not that guy. His error doomed the Angels on Sunday, and instead of complaining about the sun or anything, taking full responsibility for the play that killed his team. [Los Angeles Times]

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com