I am usually all for players being honest and voicing their opinions. If the media makes its living by depending on these people for quotes only to bash them when they open their mouths, then why should an athlete ever speak? Of course, when the speech sounds a little like sour grapes, I tend a raise an eyebrow. Just one, though - I could never do that with my right eye. Albert Pujols is the latest to sound sour, spouting off about Ryan Howard being undeserving of the MVP award. Ridiculous.
After watching the mediocre Cardinals win the World Series this year, National League teams are pursuing any avenue possible to make slight improvements, hoping it will be just enough to earn a playoff spot. Over the weekend, even the Brewers made some changes, adding Johnny Estrada and Claudio Vargas at the expense of losing Doug Davis. Three others were involved in the deal, the details of which can be found on MLB.com.
Carlos Lee, aka "El Caballo", has many things to be thankful for this holiday weekend - 100 million things, to be specific. Lee signed a 6-year deal worth $100 million with the Houston Astros today, according to FoxSports.com. The NL Central, with Pujols, Soriano, Lees (Carlos and Derrek), Berkman, etc., is slowing becoming a division of sluggers. Pittsburgh better start spending some money if they want to compete in '07.
It's one thing when a proven superstar with years of stats to back him up (read: Soriano) rakes in the big dough. It's another when an outfielder has ONE decent (not superstar, just decent) year in a hitter's park and rakes in a long-term deal for $10 million per year.
Gary Matthews Jr., 32 year-old outfielder with 78 CAREER HRs, a career BA of .263, a career OBP of just .336, and never having stolen more than 15 bases in a single year, stole a huge sack of cash from the LA Angels, signing today for 5 years and $50 million. Wow. It's not that Matthews isn't serviceable - his defense is very good, he hits... average. BUT, couldn't you save about $45 million and find a decent OF prospect who can post .265-17-70 type numbers with solid defense?
Matthews might have another good year or two in him, but in 2009, I guarantee you will hear Angels fans crying that no one wants to take Gary and the $30 million off their hands. Consider yourself warned, Anaheim (or LA, or whatever).
The last of the 2006 awards have been handed out, and contrary to many predictions, Derek Jeter is NOT the AL MVP. For the results to the MVP voting and the rest of the awards, check out MLB.com.
The Chicago Cubs signed Alfonso Soriano to an 8-year, $136 million contract today. Regardless of whether Soriano is "worth" that kind of money, the real debate is how stupid the Cubs would be if they elect to use Soriano as a leadoff hitter as numerous stories suggest.
Offensively, Soriano does just about everything above average to excellent... except making contact. Besides running Corey Patterson out of town for the same ability to swing and miss 3 times at the top of the order, Cubs fans will not appreciate Soriano's power and production numbers being drained from following the pitcher in the lineup 8 innings a game.
With Soriano, Derrek Lee, and Aramis Ramirez on the team, it's no secret that those 3 players should be grouped together in the lineup for maximum productivity. You don't want Murtons and Izturises sandwiched between the sluggers unless you want to repeat a last place finish.
I already am questioning the Cubs' hiring of Piniella over Joe Girardi (the more I hear both of them talk, the more I think Girardi already has more baseball knowledge), and now that the Tribune Company is spending money like water in an effort to make the Cubs competitive, fans are hoping the execution lives up to the spending.
So Boston won the bidding war over a pitcher we all know nothing about, Japanese hurler Daisuke Matsuzaka. Of course, the $51.1 million the Red Sox are willing to fork over to his current team (Seibu Lions) is just for the RIGHT to negotiate a deal. While having a star Japanese player on an MLB team may bring in a LOT more money than the $50+ million spent to get him (just ask the Mariners about Ichiro), I can't imagine that Bill James is too happy about this possible acquisition. Speaking of Bill James, the 2007 Bill James Handbook is now available for all you stat geeks (myself included). I highly recommend forking over the extra fin for the spiral bound book. It will save you from many future vulgar rants from a book closing on itself.
Rookie of the Year awards were recently announced. Check out MLB.com for the results!
In an effort to keep their last place 96-loss team intact, the Chicago Cubs gave serious cash to Aramis Ramirez to keep him around for 5 years and even offered a small contract (loaded with incentives) for the injured arm connected to the body of Kerry Wood.
Never one to enjoy his current situation, constantly cranky Gary Sheffield has been traded to the Detroit Tigers. For the complete story, read it here.
With the N.L. Gold Gloves announced yesterday, it got me thinking about how little we really know about defensive ability. By "we," I'm talking about casual fans, diehard fans, even beat reporters and other media. If ever there was an award based on reputation, it would have to be a Gold Glove.
Fans and beat reporters watch one single team all season long for the most part. They get to see the opposition when it comes to town, but trying to compare Joe Crede after watching 100+ games versus Eric Chavez after catching maybe 4 or 5 of his games is nearly impossible. The fan will remember more errors and more spectacular plays by Crede, but Chavez will hardly register unless something significant happened in that handful of games.
Web Gems on Baseball Tonight hurts as much as it helps because the focus is on the outstanding play; left out are nondescript errors and, worse yet, the routine play made day in and day out by someone deserving yet unspectacular.
Not to say that the winners were undeserving, my point is rather that fans, players, coaches, and the media really has difficultly properly judging defensive achievement. Sabermetrics geeks have made great strides in attempting to measure defensive ability, but few view those stats and even fewer understand them.
On offense, we have plenty of stats to gauge one player against another. Combining the stats with what we see in person, solid arguments can be made when ranking players offensively. Until the rest of America subscribes to the Extra Innings package every April, ranking the defense will remain a mystery to most.
Why is it that the American baseball media made such a huge stink about the World Baseball Classic and its possible effect on MLB players heading into the season, but NOBODY is talking about the MLB Japan All-Star Series occurring right now. Isn't there at least equal potential for injury for pitchers to participate in a series AFTER the season has ended (thereby stretching the limits of innings pitched in a year) than before?
The same can be said for the hitters. At a time when they are accustomed to winding down and rehabbing their bodies, they have to keep the engine running and try to give a full effort in what is essentially an exhibition.
Personally, I am not against either, but if you were adamant against the WBC, you should probably be complaining right about now as well.