It's been a slow week for baseball news. Chad Billingsley broke his leg on some ice outside his home, and no one seems to want to trade for Jake Peavy anymore. It's so slow that even Roger Clemens is popping up in the news again.
Reports are that Chase Utley is going to have hip surgery soon, similar to what Mike Lowell had done, and will be out until late May or early June. This is a major blow to the Phillies but gives the NL East a chance to gain some traction early in the season in '09. If Howard struggles early like he did in '08, the Mets or even the Marlins have a chance to put themselves in a good spot by the All-Star Break. Of course, New York's problems the past two years have been about finishing, not starting, so '09 could be the sequel to the sequel for that adventure if Utley comes back strong in the second half.
Dustin Pedroia was named the AL MVP earlier today, beating out heftier sluggers such as Justin Morneau and teammate Kevin Youkilis for the award. It's always harder to measure a middle infielder's value because he usually won't post the same numbers as the best hitters in the league. Meanwhile, the good ones do more intangible, less statistical, things on the field which contribute to their value.
Pedroia was able to perform at a high level all season long, whether the Red Sox needed him batting leadoff, cleanup, or somewhere in between. Keeping up a Gold Glove caliber defense, Pedroia also stole 20 bases, keeping opposing pitchers and catchers on their toes. As much as I would have wanted to vote for someone else, it's hard to deny Pedroia his due since he excelled at all facets of the game this year. What's odd is that the writer's recognized Pedroia's value but failed to give the more talented Hanley Ramirez any credit in the NL voting (Ramirez was 11th in the MVP voting). Hanley finished with an OBP of .400 (better than Pedroia), SLG of .540 (better than Pedroia), 33 HR (better than Pedroia), and 125 runs (better than Pedroia). Pedroia is more valuable defensively but Ramirez is a legitimate threat and deserves the kind of recognition Pedroia is currently getting. Maybe next year...
Albert Pujols won his second NL MVP award today, narrowly beating out Ryan Howard. Despite both being first basemen with large builds, Pujols and Howard have very different games. Pujols gets on with great consistency, boasting astronomical career BA and OBP numbers. Howard swings and misses a lot, but boy can he knock in the runs when he's hot. Despite posting 146 RBI for a first place ballclub, Howard deserved second place because Pujols did everything well all year long. His 116 RBI are less than Howard's because Pujols didn't have the luxury of having Rollins and Utley on base for him.
I have always viewed the MVP award as most valuable in a general sense - choose the player which is most valuable to A team, not necessarily HIS team. In a game that is very difficult to make your teammates better with your presence, you shouldn't be judged for an individual award based on your teammates' performances. Therefore, if you happen to light the world on fire with 60 HR and 150 RBI but happen to play for a last place team, so be it. Put Pujols on the Phillies and they would have won the division by a few extra games, so Prince Albert is my MVP.
I had the pleasure of being with my kids for almost four straight days a few weeks ago as my wife was enjoying a short break from the craziness. Not to my surprise, the female population in town didn't look kindly on a male infringing on their territory. Read about the craziness in the latest Foul Territory.
So far, it appears that the A's acquisition of Matt Holliday is legit. They will essentially rent him for a year, or possibly less if they can deal him later in the year for better prospects than what they gave up to get him. Elsewhere, Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee deservedly won the Cy Young Awards this year. Lee was a no brainer, but there was a little doubt that Lincecum's team's performance might hurt him.
I always thought of it in reverse - if you can put up numbers like he did with very little help from the lineup and still earn a large percentage of a team's wins, I feel you are doing more than the guy putting up the same stats surrounded by a team of stars. I never put much stock in a guy's stats being "inflated" because his team stinks so he "hasn't had any pressure." Again, the opposite applies - surround a mediocre hitter with guys like David Ortiz and see how inflated the numbers get compared to having to put up numbers with no support in the lineup.
Jason Bay comes to mind as a guy who could really have a huge statistical year in 2009 thanks to his change of scenery. When he puts up big numbers, it will help prove my theory that big numbers on bad teams are more impressive. That only applies to baseball, however. In basketball, the opposite is true - someone needs to be the leading scorer on a bad team, but put that guy on a championship team and he's likely doing a little more role playing and a lot less scoring. I call it the "Jamal Crawford rule."
There are reports circulating that Matt Holliday has been traded to the Oakland A's for Huston Street, Carlos Gonzalez, and Greg Smith. Knowing Billy Beane, this smells a little like the Mike Piazza stopover with the Florida Marlins a decade ago. Stay tuned...
Buster Olney of ESPN.com recently blogged about the sorry state of the San Diego Padres. It's a good read with plenty of history about owner John Moores, but what is really sad about the Padres is how close they are to success yet are choosing to start all over again. Just one year removed from being one strike away from the playoffs, San Diego still possesses much of the talent that put the franchise in position to succeed. Petco Park is undoubtedly a pitcher's park, and attempting to deal Jake Peavy is not the answer. Right now, the Padres possess a solid core of Peavy and Chris Young on the mound and the outstanding Adrian Gonzalez at first base. Throw in the solid but unspectacular Khalil Greene, the on base machine in Brian Giles, and the upside in Chase Headley, and the Padres aren't far away from the other mediocre NL teams who have snuck their way into the playoffs the past few years.
As always, money is the issue, but politely saying goodbye to Trevor Hoffman and finding a closer on the cheap (the Rays have proven that you don't need Mariano Rivera to win ballgames) saves millions right off the top. Next, build the team according to the ballpark by using speedy, young (read: cheap) outfielders and sign a couple flyball pitchers that scare most teams. In Petco, the risk will be lower and the reward will be not alienating the entire fan base. The Padres are a solid franchise in a great city that deserve more than another rebuilding session. Now that I've laid the groundwork, all they have to do is follow it.
It seems that the Cubs and Braves are the front runners for the Jake Peavy sweepstakes. As a Braves fan, I would love to see Peavy in an Atlanta uniform to remove some of the pressure on all the starting pitchers over 40 years old, but now that the Atlanta owners have a tighter budget, they will need to tread lightly before they decide to trade for and pay a guy who throws like he's destined for a permanent spot on the DL.
In LA, the Dodgers (who are rumored to be in on the Peavy talks as well) reportedly have offered Manny Ramirez a short but hefty deal. Even though they didn't get the return on a similar Andruw Jones deal, I think it's a good move because a few extra dollars upfront with less years won't hurt as much in the long run. In the case of Jones' contract, as poorly as he played (when healthy) in 2008, the deal ends at the end of next season, so his presence won't be weighing down the ballclub for years on end like Barry Zito with the Giants. Manny Ramirez is the perfect candidate for a short expensive contract because of his age and his unwillingness to put forward an effort when he's unhappy. His ability to dominate when motivated is enough to justify the "expensive" part.