Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

teixeiraThe last thing I’d ever do is begrudge a player, any player, for going for as much money as the market will give him. 8 years for more than $170 million is a good haul for Mark Teixeira, and it sets him up for the rest of his career, which, if he plays up to the form he currently has, will be as a New York Yankee. So don’t even try to bring outrage about oversized player salaries in a bad economy or saying the league needs a salary cap because the rest of the owners can’t compete. This is invalid because:

a) The Steinbrenner family has clearly managed the franchise well enough in order to have the reserves to spend $400 million in one off-season

b) Just because the cheap-shit owner in your city is sitting on his piece of the revenue-sharing while raising your ticket prices doesn’t make that the Yankees’ fault.

Teixeira in the Bronx is an obvious move. Jason Giambi was off the books, they’ve had a gaping defensive hole at first base for years, they need another power bat. Here’s the problem: now the Yankees are the most talented team on paper. Wonder how that might work out once the season starts? Let them play the games before declaring the Yankees the masters of all once again. There’s still an aging Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui in the outfield, and a defensively suspect Derek Jeter manning short — and don’t think the Red Sox or the Rays will simply fold in fear. The Phillies won last season and the Red Sox a year before that with a core group of players either from the farm system or who made their names with the team. Where is that with the Yankees right now?

(Also, if you’re a NYC taxpayer, how do you feel about billions of your tax dollars funding the new Yankee Stadium while they blow $400 million on free agents? Since when did the Steinbrenners need a bailout?)

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The Odds Of Not Being Rent-A-Players Are Pretty Good

Much of the discussion surrounding Manny Ramirez and Mark Teixeira on their new teams here on the Left Coast revolves around their impending free agency and what they would command on the open market. The stakes are a bit higher for the Halos, as they dealt away a very good first baseman in Casey Kotchman for a great one in Teixeira, with no guarantee that he will stick around after the playoffs. (Let’s admit it: barring an incredible collapse that would make last year’s Mets swoon look like amateur hour, the Angels will be the AL West winners. That division needs a fifth team badly.)

By contrast, the Ramirez trade only makes the logjam in the outfield worse, as Joe Torre continues to believe that Juan Pierre is his sole option to lead off, thus putting his lousy arm in center field and relegating either Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier to the bench. (Our obvious, objective solution: Kemp wasn’t too bad as a leadoff guy a while there. Run him out there again.)

However, I’m pretty convinced that both teams will make plays to hold on to both of their new acquisitions, and will likely be successful.  Scott Boras represents them both, and is looking for a deal reaching the $200 million range for Teixeira and a four-year deal for Ramirez at about the $20 million he gets now (which probably won’t happen at that length.)  We are dealing with two owners — Arte Moreno and Frank McCourt — with deep pockets and few reservations about spending the cash on their teams (although, in McCourt’s case, he could get a better GM than Ned Colletti to do his spending for him.)

Moreno will cut a deal with Boras and Teixeira will stay an Angel not only because the team will have to come up with another first baseman on short notice, but also because it looks like Francisco Rodriguez is going to walk. He’s going to break Bobby Thigpen’s single-season save record of 57, but I’m not convinced that the Angels have to pay $15 million a year when they can put Scot Shields in the closer’s slot. (Remember, K-Rod’s ascendancy allowed the Angels to let Troy Percival go.) Locking up Teixeira and getting Vlad Guerrero to stay are vital to the strategy, particularly if they go as deep into October as expected.

Ramirez has told an ESPN Deportes reporter that he wants to stay in L.A. to finish out his career. Now, I usually file stuff like this under the “bullshit athletes say when they make their debut for a new team,” but I buy it — for now, until Manny changes his mind.  Sadly, as a Dodger hater, McCourt has deep enough pockets to spend the money to keep Ramirez in left field — which could make the team good again, if the decline isn’t that steep in his offense, and as long as McCourt can elicit a promise out of Colletti and Torre to make Andruw Jones a very expensive pinch hitter and Pierre a defensive replacement type. Essentially, McCourt has to ink Ramirez if he gets the Dodgers to the playoffs; it would be a way to start rectifying the many errors of the Ned Colletti era.

These are owners who can and will deal with Boras — and may get the players for less than the bluster than he is talking for either one of their services.

Photo: AP/Chris Carlson

An “Exceptional Play” Stat Is Exceptionally Idiotic.

First it was the truly bad idea of holding a nine-game World Series, complete with a “World Series Weekend” at a neutral field in order to create a Gross Baseball Spectacle akin to the Super Bowl (which completely ignored the reasons why the Super Bowl works the way it does). Now, agent Scott Boras is interested in inventing new statistical categories, probably out of a desire to have another quantitative stat to jack the asking price for his stable of baseball studs every off-season. It’s not that I have a problem with Boras as an agent — yes, he may be the most recognizable face of the group that drives up salaries to absolutely ridiculous heights, but it’s not on him that owners are willing to pay them. The devil, he is not.

However, if he thinks adding a stat called an EP, or exceptional play, is actually a good idea, questioning his actual intelligence regarding the game of baseball is at least acceptable.

The official scorer would be asked to distinguish between an exceptional play and a routine one in the same way he is asked to distinguish between a hit and error.

In that way, Boras said, fans can debate whether a play should merit an “EP” and compare a player with 20 EPs to another with 10 EPs, whether an EP saved a game just as a big hit might have won it. The only common defensive statistic is an error, he says, and zone ratings and other such new defensive metrics are neither instantly identifiable or widely understood.

Fans can look to blocked shots in basketball, he said, or interceptions or sacks in football.

“One thing we do not do well in this game: We do not recognize defense,” Boras said. “We need to bring defense to the fans. Give them a statistic, and they’ll recognize the player for it. The fans get something else to enjoy the game with.”

Actually, we do recognize defense and we do have a stat for it, Scott — it’s called fielding percentage, and when you don’t make errors, that fielding percentage stays high. Granted, it is not glamorous like batting average, home runs, RBIs, etc., but when those fielding percentages stay high, people win Gold Gloves, and those equal defensive recognition. We talk about them pretty frequently. The EP would actually be harder to qualify than an error currently is; when you see Derek Jeter make another throw across his body to nail a speedy runner at first, or Torii Hunter robs another home run, when it does it stop being exceptional and just expected of the player? We don’t know. We can look at whether someone bobbled the ball and cost their team an out. That’s fairly simple.

So, with that rationale out the window, is there another explanation that would actually make sense in explaining this particular proposal?

The EP, Boras said, should be an easy sell.

“ESPN has told us we need to do this,” he said. “They have web gems.”

Say no more. Where’s the rule book?

Stupidity Deserves To Be Mocked Openly And Often.

SlickBomb has already noted the possible hallucinogenic/narcotic possibilities that would cause agent Scott Boras to even suggest something as stupid as a nine-game World Series, with the first two games being at a neutral site as some form of “World Series Weekend”, but it deserves a bit more attention and derision so it can hopefully die a very painful death upon arrival at the MLB offices. However, given the fact that Bud Selig is still in charge of MLB, this idea will be entertained, and thus, requires even more derision and scorn due to Boras’ fundamental misunderstanding of what makes the Super Bowl not only popular, but tolerable.

  1. It’s two weeks of hype post-conference championships and ONE GAME only. Even then, the NFL’s self-congratulatory masturbation is hard to deal with at times, and let’s not even get to the periphery that is the halftime show and the hours upon hours of pre-game.
  2. It’s bad enough that baseball extends into November as is. All neutral sites will eventually have to be warm-weather for the WSW to reduce the risk of snow-outs.
  3. The whole reason the Super Bowl and All-Star Games for basketball and baseball work as marketing spectacles is because they are one-offs per season, with novelty involved.

Boras’ interest is purely in increasing the baseball coffers at the actual expense of the game, which isn’t really surprising in the least. Frankly, with regard to the playoffs, if you really want to be innovative and do this neutral-site thing, borrow from the NCAA’s approach to the College World Series — throw the four teams in each league into a round-robin, two games a day, four losses and you’re out. Keep the best of seven for the final World Series. Now there’s something that might actually be exciting to watch.