Here’s a look inside the great game of Baseball, what we see and what you don’t, the second-guessing manager in the stand you love to hate. Let’s get this going before somebody gets hurt; these are my Baseball Notes.
Baseball Notes – May 17, 2015
*In Cleveland, Michael Bourn is now benched against left-handed pitchers with Ryan Raburn swinging a hot bat (.353/.382/.588). Carlos Santana, meanwhile, has been handling the 2nd spot in the lineup, just another way for the manager Terry Francona to profit from the on-base abilities of the first baseman, although since the move, his OBP has dropped 60 points from a high of .404 when he was hitting clean-up.
*Here’s a good little quip by CJ Nitkowzki (analyst, Fox Sports) in April: “Bartolo Colon signed in 1993. Marinate on that for a minute. One year before Addison Russell was born.” On May 5th, he became the first pitcher in MLB history to beat one club, the Baltimore Orioles, with seven different teams!
*If you are not by now aware of it, I present to you Pitch Talk, a series of events for baseball fans that I really want to attend in the near future. Here’s how it presents itself, simple and awesome: “PITCH connects diehard baseball fans with sports insiders by hosting informed and entertaining discussions on all aspects of the game. Attendees can expect a night of storytelling, presentations, debate, panels and lectures by some of the biggest experts in baseball”. The next edition will be a “Mets Special Edition” on May 28 in New York at the weirdly-coincidental-since-he-just-died B.B. King Blues Club and Grill. The one I’m shooting for? In Canada (I’m from Quebec City. Yep, a damn french-canadian…) on June 4, at the Starlight in Kitchener, Waterloo.
*Maikel Franco has his first 2015 at-bats in in the majors after being called up from AAA where he batted .355/.384/.539 and I wanted to take a minute to shed light on two aspects of this promotion.
- To make room for Franco at third base, a player the Phillies see as their main man for years to come at the hot corner, they sent down Cody Asche who was manning the position and is expected to make a move to left field in the minors. What I find troubling (along with many other baseball decisions from the Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr.) is that this 25 years old left-handed batter was an important part of their offense for the first part of the team’s season until he hit a rough stretch at the end of April/beginning of May and could just as easily have learned the intricacies of the new place on the field while in the big show. Let’s be honest, it’s not as if he was taking the place of another great run producer in the outfield anyway (the other choices are Jeff Francoeur, Grady Sizemore and Odubel Herrera. Except for the latter, Asche was having a much better season than them while adding a bat from the left side of the dish). Moreover, why didn’t the top brass of the team give him time to adjust to this position in Spring Training, knowing full well Maikel Franco was the man they wanted at third base all along?
- While the Cubs’ handling of Kris Bryant’s service time at the beginning of the season infuriated a lot of people, including the MLBPA and the agent Scott Boras, we really don’t hear anything about Franco’s case, when in reality the details are as clear as day that they were manipulated, a right the team certainly has. Consider this: the 22-year old Franco had accrued 27 days of service time at the end of 2014, meaning he needed only 145 in the big leagues this season to qualify for a year of service. When was he promoted? When 144 (!!) were left in the 2015 season. Coincidence? Of course not, but then again, if a team doesn’t have the right to promote a player when it pleases, we are truly embarking on a weird course of action for professional baseball. If the FANS think a team is money-hungry and making these moves to save dough in the long run at the detriment of a productive baseball year, the FANS will be the one doing the right thing and making the team pay at the gate and through the power of their wallet.
*While Carlos Delgado has not gathered the required 5% of vote to stay on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot this year, he will still be the newly added former Toronto Blue Jays player in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame this summer. He spent 17 seasons in the big leagues with this line of numbers to support a possible reconsideration of his status by the veterans committee in ten years for a chance to find a way through to the Baseball HoF: .280/.383/.546, 139 OPS+, 2038 hits, 473 HRs and six times a top 15 choice in the MVP voting.
*Truly a GREAT piece written last year on the Houston Astros and how Jim Crane and Jeff Luhnow are building something special over in the heart of Texas. This part was particularly interesting:
“To uncover starting pitching talent, baseball’s costliest commodity, the Astros’ minor league teams instituted a tandem rotation. In a traditional five-man rotation, a starter goes as deep into the game as he can. In a tandem system, every game features two “starters” who throw four or five innings in succession. This increases the number of pitchers given an opportunity to prove they can start and reduces the chance that human subjectivity will cause the team to miss hidden talent. (It’s also thought to prevent injury.) Luhnow cites a soft-tossing lefty named Tommy Shirley as a diamond this system unearthed. “He would have been pegged as a lefty specialist [relief pitcher],” he says. Instead, Shirley emerged as an All-Star starter in Double-A and was promoted to the club’s Triple-A team in July.
*For the Daily Fantasy baseball players out there, an aspect that is somehow overlooked most of the times is the points per batting order and the importance of choosing a player who is in the top 6 spot in the lineup. Todd Zola of Fantasy Alarm has some cool charts for you to see what I’m talking about.
*After seeing a rare steal of home plate to finish a minor league game a few weeks back, I was wondering who was the leader in that category in MLB history: Ty Cobb, with 54 steals!
*It was revealed on Saturday, May 16, by Anthony Andro from Fox Sports, that embattled outfielder Josh Hamilton tried in vain to contact Art Moreno, the owner of the Anaheim Angels, who went public with his frustration with the star player following poor performance since he signed his costly contract and offseason relapse into alcohol and cocaine. However, his efforts were in the end thwarted by people around the Moreno and the two haven’t had a chance to talk since last season.
I have to say that I am on the owner’s side in this saga, mainly for the accountability factor involved in the debate. A baseball player is a human and temptation must be all around him, a difficult environment for a man with his past. That said, when a player signs a large free agent contract, he has a responsibility to the team to make himself productive on and off the field, or at least show strong efforts toward that end, be it in the training room or refrain from visiting places where his penchant for the kind of excitement he used to crave will be hard to refuse.
With his .255/.316./.426 line in two seasons with the Angels and an OPS+ of 110, meaning he was only better than 10% of batters during that period, the last thing the guy signing his paycheck wants to see is a nonchalant way of going about things. At least show you care, goddamn it! I’ve always been amazed at the way the power has shifted in the owner/player relation in the last 50 years, where for a major part of MLB history, players were wrongfully treated like cattle the owners could use or dispense as they saw fit, but now that the amount of money thrown at players has never been larger, I don’t sense this urgency by a certain group of players to live up to this commitment. For the most part, they are being paid for past performances, with almost no guarantee they will produce as well in the future. In fact, tell me one thing, why aren’t the players’ contracts built with a decreasing amount of money when they get to free agency?
Example, Hamilton was paid 17M$ in 2013-2014, 25,4M$ this year and 28,41M$ the next two, when he’ll playing at age 35 and 36, usually a declining portion of a baseball player’s productivity, especially with a guy like Hamilton where the past excesses could do untold damage on his body. Contract should be built the other way, so that the greater amount are handed out in the first few years of a free agent contract and then slowly decrease to go along with the reduced production on the field.
Of course, the MLBPA would never go for something like that, since it would spell the end of a lucrative second free agent contract for the player and the disappearing leverage in negotiation. However, it goes to show you that even though both the players and owners have made great strides in their relationship over the years, which I welcome and encourage, the pendulum swings both ways and being an owner is not always being on the wrong side of the argument.