And Now It’s Time for the Happy Recap

by Jason Epstein

Following every Mets victory, the franchise’s late, great radio voice, Bob Murphy, would exclaim, “And now it’s time for the happy recap.”

After just about four years of contributing to Right Field, this post is my happy recap. Frankly, there’s a pretty good chance it will be the final post for the blog, too. I may be the last man standing here, and heck, there’s no shortage of sports-related banter over at The Corner. After discussing the future with Rich, I anticipate contributing longer pieces in the weeks and months to come and hope that you’ll continue to read my prose.

It’s been a blast. Doing public-policy work is frequently mind-numbing, and writing about sports has proven to be a needed elixir, even as it has enhanced my writing skills. (I suspect that a fair number of NRO readers feel the same. There’s only so much Obama, Boehner, and Mitt one can endure over the course of a week.)

I’ve submitted posts whenever the urge has arisen, drafting entries from Nationals Park, Zucker’s bagel shop on Chambers Street, the Pilot gas station in South Jersey (often boasting the best prices on 93-octane in the region), an aisle seat on JetBlue headed to sunny Long Beach, an inter-city bus in the Baltics, the Caffé Nero in Istanbul’s Beşiktaş neighborhood, and just last week, my hotel room in Cairo.

In Right Field’s first month alone — Opening Day 2011 was the date of the maiden post — I was opining (and frequently kvetching) about, among other things, the pricing of beer at the ballpark, those who read too much into small sample sizes, fans cheering forceouts, naysayers who blindly assumed the Pirates front office had no interest in winning, and the value of the Triple Crown.

Since then, I’ve been accused of:

  • Focusing way too much on MLB at the expense of the NFL or NBA (“Guiltyyyyyyyyyy!”);
  • Being a Mets fan (yup, since 1974);
  • Being a Yankee fan (How dare you!);
  • Bad-mouthing Derek Jeter (breaking: “way overrated” and “no-doubt Hall of Famer” are not mutually exclusive);
  • Bad-mouthing Jeff Francoeur (a super-nice guy, to be sure, but also way overrated);
  • Inundating readers with evil stats that take away all enjoyment of the game (“Who’s Fabio?”);
  • Being a loony left-winger (preferring a player’s union to an owner-run cartel is hardly evidence of socialism coursing through one’s veins), and, of course;
  • Doggedly defending A-Rod and other PED cheats (eh, not really, but I do find some of the outrage to be beyond the pale and occasionally wonder why amphetamine use in the decades before steroids attracts comparatively little hand-wringing).

Nonetheless, I always enjoyed the back-and-forth.

So thanks to Rich, a degenerate Yankee fan but heckuva friend, for inviting me to contribute.

Thanks too to Nick Frankovich, the tireless editor of 98 percent of my submissions. (Let’s Go Tribe!)

But most of all, thanks to you for reading and sharing your thoughts with me.


(That’s Turkish for “See you on Opening Day.” Well, sort of.)

Reveille 2/3/15

by Jason Epstein

Good morning.

Here are several links from the past week that will make your Monday Tuesday at the office a bit more bearable:

1986, Game 6: Buckner stays in the game 

Speaking of the Red Sox and Mets, John McNamara left in Bill Buckner in that fateful 10th inning even though he had used Dave Stapleton as a defensive substitute in all seven of Boston’s previous postseason wins. Mookie Wilson’s grounder went through Buckner’s legs and the Mets won the game — although keep in mind the Mets had already tied it before Buckner’s error . . . and the Red Sox still had a chance to win the series in Game 7. 

1986, Game 7: Too much Schiraldi 

Less remembered but worthy of its own criticism is McNamara’s decision to bring in [Calvin] Schiraldi in the seventh inning of Game 7 with the score tied 3-3. Ray Knight, the first batter he faced, hit a go-ahead home run, and the next two batters singled and eventually scored. The Red Sox did have a thin bullpen that year, but Schiraldi was a rookie coming off a horrific loss in Game 6 who had also faced 16 batters in that game. Although there was a rainout between Games 6 and 7, he had probably thrown 60 to 70 pitches in Game 6. On the other hand, McNamara didn’t have a lot of good choices after starter Bruce Hurst. Roger Clemens had started Game 6, and “Oil Can” Boyd, his No. 3 starter, wasn’t exactly available since he was drunk and strung out on crack.

  • Here’s another NFL-related question, posed by Craig Edwards of Viva el Birdos. If the Rams leave St. Louis, will the departure of Sam Bradford and his mates have a detrimental impact on the Cardinals in the years to come?  
  • Camden Depot’s Matt Perez makes the case for the Orioles to focus on run prevention, considering that the club’s rotation isn’t good enough to have subpar fielders playing behind them.   
  • Why has Joba Chamberlain not yet found a home for 2015? According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports Just a Bit Outside, it isn’t that no one is interested in his services:

Chamberlain remains available by his own choice — he has rejected multiple offers from teams he did not want to join, according to a source with knowledge of his thinking.

At this point, Chamberlain knows that he is unlikely to meet his goal of a two-year deal and is considering a one-year offer with a relatively low base salary and incentives, the source said. Chamberlain made $2.5 million with the Tigers last season, and finished with a 3.57 ERA in 63 innings. His adjusted ERA, however, indicated that his overall mark should have been lower.

  • Writing in the Hardball Times, Steve Treder looks at the history of the strikeout and suggests what MLB may wish to consider to ensure that the increase in K rates – a “batter was more likely to strike out this year than in any other season in the long history of the sport” – doesn’t get out of hand.   
  • Why might saber-friendly front offices be in favor of or agnostic about the possibility that defensive shifts may be banned or limited down the road? Russell Carleton suspects he knows the reasons.   

That’s it. Have a walk-off week!

About That Play Call

by Jason Epstein

I had planned to postpone Reveille until Tuesday in recognition of Super Bowl XLIX but, in thinking up a post on the Big Game, expected to scribble something on this year’s best and worst commercials, Katy Perry’s performance during the halftime show, or the air pressure in Tom Brady’s balls.

Instead, what I ultimately found myself doing was rummaging through my Twitter feed to collect an array of off-the-cuff comments in response to the decision of Seattle head coach Pete Carroll (or was it offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell?), with the Seahawks down four to the Patriots, to throw the ball on second-and-goal from the one with nearly half a minute remaining on the clock.

Here’s the best of what I found:

And this one takes the “Winner, winner, chicken dinner” prize:

#smh, Pete. #smh.

R.I.P., Mr. Cub

by Jason Epstein

Hall of Famer and almost certainly the most beloved Cub of all time, Ernie Banks, has died. He was 83.

When Banks left the Negro American League to join the Cubs in mid September 1953, the 22-year-old became the franchise’s first African-American player. The transition was seamless, however. Banks was the club’s starting shortstop for its final ten games of the ‘53 season and never looked back. Eventually, he would move to first base but never wore another team’s uniform.

Over a 19-year career, he clobbered 512 home runs and posted a .274/.330/.500 slash line. Arguably his most prolific season at bat came in 1958, when he hit 47 long balls and posted a whopping .413 wOBA, which helped him accumulate 8.7 fWAR.

Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reminds us what we will remember the most about Mr. Cub:

Line up the greatest all-time marriages between a city and an athlete and if you look closely enough you will find many of them strained beneath the surface, even just a bit, by the star’s ego, distance, moodiness, entitlement, or some such flaw of personality that exists on the slip side to physical genius. None of the great such love affairs were purer than the one between Chicago and Banks. You need not have qualified your devotion to him. He was a man of and for the people, not some baseball god visiting from Olympus. How fitting that Banks played his entire home career in daylight and endorsed cookies made by a company called Sunshine. The guy was a walking dose of vitamin D.

“Welcome to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field,” Banks would gush during batting practice. “Oh, oh, it’s great to be alive and a Cub on this beautiful sun-kissed afternoon.”

And then he might add, in his signature pronouncement, “Let’s play two!” The phrase became and remains embedded not just in baseball culture but also in Americana. It’s how an American defines the boundless optimism, the joy of the moment at hand.

The full, amazing wattage of Banks’ spirit is not that he said it all . . . the . . . time, but that he meant it all the time.

And yet, Banks never played a single postseason game, thanks to being stuck on some mediocre or lousy teams. Verducci’s colleague, Rich Cohen, interviewed Banks last July and asked about the year when Ernie and his teammates finally seemed to be headed to the playoffs, until that moment when the gods changed their minds:

[H]ere I sing the ballad of ’69, that terrible summer of the Manson murders, as well as the Cubs and their stunning collapse before the surging Mets. At this point it had been 24 years since the Cubs had played in a World Series. A drought, but not epic. In other words, here was a chance for the Cubs to win and for their fans to live normal lives. It’s as if, in ’69, two roads diverged, and the Cubs took the one less traveled by: the losing road, where misery begets misery and wearing a Cubs hat is a way of letting people know you are holier, for your kingdom is not of this world.

Many theories have been proposed to explain the disaster of ’69. Some say it was all those Wrigley Field day games, which left players too much time for late-night carousing. Others say the Mets were simply better. When I asked Banks, he mentioned a single game, a single moment, that infected everything. I highlight this because, after years of reading about the Cubs, it came as genuine news. “They say one apple can spoil the whole barrel, and I saw that,” Banks said. “Before going to New York to play the big series against the Mets, I went to different players on our team and told them, ‘We’re going to New York, and when the game is over, there’s going to be more media than you’ve ever seen in the clubhouse, so watch what you say.’ So we got to New York, and lose the first game. Don Young dropped a fly ball, and that was it. We came into the locker room. I was next to [Ron] Santo, and he just went crazy [blaming Young]. Young was so upset, he ran out. Pete [Reiser] had to bring him back. I had never seen something so hurtful.” It ended up in the papers, and, according to Banks, the team fell apart. It was factions in the locker room, players at cross-purposes­ after that.

Every Cubs fan knows the rest: “We lose the games; they send out the black cat.”

It’s a famous picture: Santo on deck at Shea, bat on his shoulder, the cat slinking across his path. I’ve seen it but never knew the cat was sent out intentionally. I assumed it just emerged from the depths. “Some of our guys did feel it was done intentionally,” said Banks. “Especially [manager Leo] Durocher, who was a superstitious man.”

More here and here.

John Sterling’s Home: It Is Gone!

by Jason Epstein

Via the New York Post:

A massive fire tore through a New Jersey apartment complex Wednesday night, leaving hundreds homeless — including Yankees radio broadcaster John Sterling.

“I think my apartment is gone,” Sterling told The Post. “I won’t have anything left . . . I’ll have to start over, as they say.”

Sterling had been out Wednesday afternoon and, when he returned, smelled smoke at the 408-unit Avalon complex in Edgewater, along the Hudson River.

“I was walking down one of the long hallways and I opened a door,” he said. “The smoke was so bad, I couldn’t even see. So I said, ‘I’ve got to get out of here.’ I’m just glad I’m safe and everyone else is safe.” …

Sterling said he spent Wednesday night at a hotel, where he watched his home burn on the television news while talking to The Post.

“Oh, my God,” he said over and over. “Oh, my God.”

Sterling, the radio voice of the Yankees for the past 25 years, then grew silent, before saying, “I’m watching . . . I haven’t seen this before. I haven’t seen this  . . . Oh, my God. What a fire. Look at that fire. Holy mackerel.”

Although hundreds were left homeless as a result of the blaze, no injuries were reported.

More here.

Golden Years for Golden Bear

by Quin Hillyer

At my own web site, I wish a happy 75th birthday to perhaps the greatest sportsman (in all facets/meanings of that word) of our lifetimes, Jack Nicklaus.

Please take a look.

Herewith, a few other notes. First, to get a great sense of Nicklaus at what most people think of as his defining performance, his win at Augusta in 1986, this video is well worth watching. And this is a fine tribute to his off-the-course virtues.  

One great thing about Nicklaus as a golfer was his approachability. I got to see it several times. Once, at Congressional (I can’t remember whether it was the 1995 U.S. Open or the 1997 U.S. Senior Open), there was a big rain delay right after Nicklaus drove a bit into the right rough off the sixth fairway. With the rain having stopped, organizers sent the players back to the course after a while, but then — apparently looking at radar and not quite feeling confident giving the “all clear” — took at least another half hour before sounding the horn to resume play. So there Nicklaus stood, waiting to play, with just about six or seven of us who had waited out the weather. He had a notoriously balky back, so he had us take turns holding a gallery stake that was in the ground, us pulling it one way while he used it to hold onto for purposes of his back exercises. And the whole time he kept up a constant chatter, telling us stories, cracking subtle one-liners, engaging us entirely rather than ignoring us. He didn’t actually say “thank you” to us, but it seemed as if he was making an extra effort to reward us for braving the intense thunder storm and remaining on the course. 

I also was there when he officially opened the English Turn golf course that he designed just outside of New Orleans, in about 1988. He was miked up, and as he played an entire round, he would describe what he was thinking when he designed each hole and, as he looked at each shot, what he was thinking when choosing his club and deciding what sort of shot to hit. It was fascinating. But what really astonished me was his patience with some of the members of the gallery. Probably seven or eight times as he walked from shot to shot, right among the crowd walking down the fairway with him, somebody would fall in step beside him and say something like: “You know, I hit my five-irons great, but I just can’t hit my seven-irons. Why would that be?” Rather than find some polite way to brush the person off (after all, how the hell could Nicklaus have any clue, without seeing somebody hit, what the swing problem was with the seven-irons?), Nicklaus would patiently come up with some answer that might at least have a chance of being helpful. (“Well,” he’d say, “sometimes even though the club is shorter, some people don’t inch up a tiny bit closer to the ball, so with a shorter club it means they have to hunch over to get the club down to the ground, and that messes up their swing planes. Try moving closer to the ball, even if by just a half inch.” . . . Or something like that.) 

Nicklaus’s graciousness on course and off was exceeded only by his still-unsurpassed excellence in competition. There was nothing like a Nicklaus charge. It had a different quality than the lightning bolts Tiger Woods would throw. With Nicklaus, it was more of a slowly gathering force, building up tension rather than unleashing fury. Watch not just the 1986 Masters, but a replay of the 1975 Masters as well, to see what I mean.

So, again, Happy Birthday to Jack Nicklaus, still young at 75.

Reveille 1/20/15

by Jason Epstein

Good morning.

Here are several links from the past week that will make your Monday Tuesday at the office a bit more bearable:

A year ago, Steinbrenner chose to blow past the $189-million luxury tax threshold after cautioning for months that it was a goal and not a mandate. But the Yankees still failed to make the playoffs, despite handing out nearly $500 million in new contracts, and Steinbrenner insisted Wednesday that the Yankees’ efforts to get younger — with a more flexible payroll — are a necessity moving forward.

“You don’t have to have a $200-million payroll to win,” Steinbrenner said. “Particularly in New York, we do have to have marquee players. Players that people really want to come out to see, that they’re excited about. But you got to have a balance of young talent, too.

“We had a couple bad years in our player development system where we just didn’t have anybody coming to help. Now we do. Now they’re starting to come.”

  • When the Cardinals and Cubs meet at Wrigley Field on the evening of April 5, no fans of either team will sit above the outfield walls. According to Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago, the bleacher renovations won’t be ready by Opening Night, as Cubs management had hoped. The new target date is May 11, when the Mets arrive for a series on the North Side.
  • Jeff Zimmerman of Hardball Times urges new commish Rob Manfred to consider expansion. Among the reasons is the need to boost the currently anemic run-scoring environment:

Run production has dropped from from a steroid-era high of 5.1 runs per game per team in 2000 to 4.1 last season. Pitching is now the dominant force in the game. The last four times the majors expanded, runs increased as the pitching talent was spread thinner. Looking at the two seasons before an expansion of teams and the two seasons after, the average increase in runs scored per game was a third of a run. Without expansion and if things remain static, scoring will likely go even lower as pitching talent becomes more and more concentrated.

The current run environment is not horrible, but what if it gets even lower? Strikeouts are boring. They help to win games, but they make for a horrible viewing experience. Everyone digs the long ball. Maybe MLB will do something like lower the mound again or allow aluminum bats or shrink the out of control strike zone, but the concentration of talent will still exist. It is time to spread baseball out some more.

That’s it. Have a walk-off week.

Initial Impressions of the Scherzer Signing

by Jason Epstein

The Nationals have won the Max Scherzer sweepstakes.

The 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner will receive $210 million over seven years for his services.

Scherzer, who will turn 31 in July, was downright studly for the Tigers, posting both excellent traditional (W–L records of 16–7, 21–3, and 18–5) and advanced (K/BB ratios of 3.85, 4.29, and 4.00) statistics over the past three seasons. Just as noteworthy, he’s been injury-free since reaching the bigs in 2008.

Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs opines on why the Nats invested heavily in Scherzer at the expense of the club’s current ace, Jordan Zimmermann, who is entering his walk year:

[Scherzer has] done all this in the American League, and in the AL Central. In 2013, Scherzer’s average opponent had a 96 wRC+. Last year, his average opponent had a 100 wRC+. Two years ago, Jordan Zimmermann’s average opponent had an 89 wRC+. Last year, 91. Zimmermann works as a stand-in for most Nationals pitchers, here. Scherzer’s put up big numbers against higher-quality competition. Zimmermann’s been real good, and Strasburg has also been real good, but their numbers have largely come against relatively inferior competition, so that could be one more reason why the Nationals were willing to commit to Scherzer long-term. With Washington, he could reach another level. Alternatively, he could just have a more gradual decline.

As far as the immediate is concerned, the Nationals have another No. 1. It’s looked, at times, like they might try to subtract from the present to add to the future. This would be the opposite of that, an example of a team loading up to win right away. And there’s another reason why the Nationals would’ve been willing to do this — the team still has never won a playoff series since moving from Montreal. The Nationals were already in position to win the NL East rather comfortably, but this improves both their division odds and their World Series odds, as Scherzer joins a top-heavy roster one could see steamrolling through a few weeks.

In contrast, Fox Sports Just a Bit Outside’s Rob Neyer has a considerably less positive view on the acquisition:

[I]t seems to me if the Nationals are going to get better, it’€™s got less to do with Max Scherzer than who’€™s playing second base this spring. Because however good Scherzer is, he’€™ll be little better than whomever’€™s spot he gets. Which is why any talk of the Nationals suddenly becoming some sort of SUPERTEAM is at least mildly overblown.

Now, we might grant that while the Nationals won’€™t improve much (and probably not at all) in 2015, we might also agree that having Scherzer under contract for the long term is one hell of a start toward having the best team in the National League East for a few more years. But Scherzer instead of Zimmermann? This seems like a scheme cooked up by a certain SUPERAGENT. Since there’€™s little reason to think Scherzer will actually be any better than Zimmermann over the next (say) seven years. Sometimes we covet what we don’€™t have, and take for granted what we do have.

While I agree with Sullivan that, going forward, Scherzer is more likely to perform better than Zimmermann, Neyer is correct that the Nats mustn’t neglect an up-the-middle position on the diamond. The recently acquired Yuniel Escobar, who hasn’t played an inning at shortstop since 2007, looks way more like a stopgap measure than an ideal solution. If Washington general manager Mike Rizzo tries to deal Zimmermann in the coming days, will he look for a return that addresses that need?

Is Scherzer worth $210 million, though? ESPN Insider Dan Szymborski thinks so:

By Baseball Reference’s measure, Scherzer has been worth 12.7 WAR during the past two seasons, behind only Kershaw and Chris Sale, and neither of those two is remotely available on the market. Scherzer’s résumé of being a top pitcher is even a bit longer than that; the Silver Hammer’s 3.74 ERA in 2012 for the Detroit Tigers hid the fact that his strikeout rate that season jumped by nearly 40 percent, punching out 11.1 batters per nine innings after being at 8.0 the year before. That’s the sign of a pitcher who’s about to master the art of making hitters cry.

The ZiPS projection system agrees with this reasoning, predicting Scherzer will fit at the top of the Nats rotation with a 2.64 ERA in 204 1/3 innings, for a 144 ERA+ and 5.9 WAR.

All told, assuming $6 million per WAR in 2015 and 5 percent growth in the number, ZiPS forecasts Scherzer’s value at $210 million for the next seven years. And in characteristic projection system fashion, it’s not even being particularly exuberant in its assumptions. Scherzer has beaten 5.9 WAR each of the past two seasons, and ZiPS expects a mean projection of 200 innings for the first two years of the new deal. There’s a lot of money in baseball right now, and Scherzer is just that good.

More here, here, and here.

Lucroy Heading to Washington . . . for SOTU

by Jason Epstein

Over at Baseball Think Factory, the headline of this morning’s post read, “ESPN: Lucroy Heads to Washington.”

Naturally, that sent my mind racing, mostly centering around the thought, “No ####### Way!!!” Why on earth would any team not overseen by Billy Beane ship off a bona fide MVP candidate and face of the franchise?

For those of you just emerging from a lengthy stay in your local biosphere: Jonathan Lucroy, who is entering his age-29 season, last year posted a .301/.373/.465 slash line and posted a 6.3 fWAR. He’s one of the best pitch framers in the business. Perhaps most important of all, Lucroy’s dirt cheap, considering what he brings to the team; Milwaukee will pay him $3 million this season, $4 million in 2016, and holds a $5.25 million team option for 2017. In contrast, Yadier Molina will rake in $15 million in 2016 and Buster Posey will take home $16.5 million.

Anyway, the headline had been deliberately tweaked to make our heads spin. In fact, Lucroy won’t be receiving pitches on South Capitol Street, at least not with a curly “W” logo on his cap:

It’s not often that a ballplayer gets to attend a State of the Union address to Congress as the guest of a U.S. senator.

So when the office of Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin called with an invite to sit in on President Barack Obama’s speech next week as recognition for the All-Star’s charitable work, Lucroy accepted the opportunity.

“Huge honor,” Lucroy said in a phone interview from his home in Louisiana. “I’m going to do something not a lot of people get to do. I’m going to do something or see something that a lot of people won’t be able to watch or see.” . . . 

A fan favorite in Milwaukee, the 28-year-old Lucroy makes regular visits to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, and has served as a spokesman for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and Brewers Community Foundation charitable activities.

Lucroy is especially active with organizations associated with the military and veterans, including the Honor Flight Network, which brings World War II veterans to Washington. Lucroy met Johnson’s chief of staff during an Honor Flight visit from Milwaukee in November.

Lucroy said causes related to veterans became especially important after his best friend from college, John Coker, was wounded when he was shot during an ambush while serving in Afghanistan.

“When I heard about that, it became personal to me,” Lucroy said.

“You walk around Arlington National Cemetery, you’d be humbled,” he said. “It’s one of those things that I take it serious. I take it personal. I want them to feel important. I want them to feel good.”

In a statement, Johnson called Lucroy “an even bigger hero off the field: He is using his baseball fame to highlight some great Wisconsin charities.”

(As an aside: I take it everyone noticed that there’s no mention in this feel-good article of Johnson’s party affiliation. Hmmm, I wonder why.)

Okay, Brewer fans, please return your jaw to its upright position.

More here.

Reveille 1/12/15

by Jason Epstein

Good morning.

Here are several links from the past week that will make your Monday at the office a bit more bearable:

The A’s had no capable everyday middle infielders on their roster for 2015, and in one fell swoop, they add two of them — a net gain of five or six wins for the major league team with even a conservative forecast. Zobrist has been one of the best players in baseball for the last six seasons. While he was never a highly ranked prospect because of an awkward swing that couldn’t produce any power, he reworked his hitting mechanics after he was traded to Tampa Bay and averaged 37 doubles and 19 homers per 162 games since becoming a regular during the 2008 season. He’s a patient, high-contact hitter, more likely to hit 40 doubles and 10 to 12 homers in Oakland than to rediscover his 20-homer peak, and he’s an above-average defender at second base who can fill in anywhere else on the diamond except behind the plate and on the mound. He makes $7.5 million in 2015, the last year of what has to be one of the best value contracts for any team in MLB history, and even if he’s worth just 5 WAR — which would be a bad year for him — he’ll be worth several times his salary and is a huge boost over any in-house option the A’s already had. . . . 

Tampa Bay needed to sell Zobrist to the highest bidder anyway, and getting a future regular in Daniel Robertson is about the most they could have hoped for in such a deal — with a very good chance that Robertson becomes an above-average regular or better thanks to his skill set at the plate. Robertson was a sandwich-round pick in 2012 thanks to a promising hit tool and ability to play somewhere in the infield; he took a big step forward in the high-Class A California League, playing in one of the league’s more neutral parks in Stockton, hitting .310/.402/.471 and improving as the season went on. Robertson has a short, direct swing, starting with an open stance and barely transferring his weight. He doesn’t have much rotation in his swing and is likely to be a line-drive hitter with below-average power, making a lot of contact and getting on base at a high clip given his strong walk rates so far in pro ball. He’s a 40 runner, and his footwork isn’t good enough for shortstop, but he has the arm for third base and the hands to play third or second.

That’s it. Have a walk-off week!

More Werth Woes; Ankiel’s Back, Sort Of

by Jason Epstein

I think it’s safe to say that Jayson Werth has had an offseason to forget.

In early December, the Nationals outfielder was convicted of pulling a Sandy Berger, not by stuffing classified documents into his dress socks but for reckless driving — that is, getting clocked by a Virginia state trooper doing more than 105 mph on the Beltway. The presiding judge proceeded to sentence Worth to ten days in jail. (His appeal of the conviction is slated to be heard on February 3.)

Of greater significance for Nats fans, the Washington Post reports that Werth will “undergo surgery on the acromioclavicular joint in his right shoulder [tomorrow] and will require two to three months of rehabilitation, which could put the veteran’s availability for opening day in jeopardy.”

The shoulder first became an issue for Werth in early August after he banged into the right field fence while making a catch

In other Nats news, Mike Oz of Big League Stew informs readers that the club has hired Rick Ankiel to serve as its “life skills coordinator” for its minor-league affiliates, presumably to counsel players on how to keep their heads on straight while attempting to make the climb to the big leagues. Oz cites a Nats senior official’s Tweet saying that Ankiel’s unusual professional baseball career arc played a role in the decision to hire him for the position, and then adds:

Ankiel arrived in the big leagues in 1999, throwing gas for the St. Louis Cardinals while he was just 19. He threw 33 innings that season, striking out 39 batters and proving himself an exciting prospect.

The next season, he was a Rookie of the Year runner-up, but he famously cracked in the postseason and couldn’t throw strikes. He was even worse the next season, getting sent all the way down to rookie ball because of his control problems. In three Triple-A appearances in 2001, he walked 17 batters in 4.1 innings. Ouch.

Ankiel needed Tommy John surgery in 2003, returned to the big leagues briefly in 2004, but things got interesting in 2006, when he decided to reinvent himself as an outfielder. He had a great arm and could hit, so it made sense. He was never an All-Star, but lasted seven seasons as an outfielder for the Cardinals, Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves among others, before retiring in 2013.

According to the Post’s James Wagner, Ankiel, who spent his 2011 and 2012 seasons on South Capitol Street, will “roam the system beginning in spring training.”

Cooperstown Vote: The Right and Wrong

by Jason Epstein

Learning yesterday afternoon that Randy Johnson (97.3 percent), Pedro Martinez (91.1), John Smoltz (82.9), and Craig Biggio (82.7) crossed the 75 percent threshold needed to get voted into the Hall of Fame constitutes very good news for the National Pastime, as these four players were most deserving of entry.

That’s not to say that Smoltz was obviously more deserving than either Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling, as Ben Lindbergh of Grantland pointed out the other day.

Oh, and what on earth were the 49 eligible Baseball Writers Association of America voters who didn’t check the box next to Pedro’s name thinking?

The less cheerful news is that the game’s greatest hitting catcher of all time, Dodger and Met great Mike Piazza, fell short by a tick over five percent.


  • While the game’s most successful base stealer among players with at least 600 attempts, Tim Raines, received considerably more votes than last year, he’s still 20 percent away from Nirvana with two years of eligibility remaining;
  • The first baseman with the 21st-best OPS of all time, Jeff Bagwell, is less than one percentage point ahead of Raines;
  • Two lights-out pitchers, Mussina and Schilling, who respectively sport bWAR over 16 and 14 wins higher than Smoltz (82.7 and 80.7 vs. 66.5), received only 24.6 and 39.2 percent;
  • Arguably the greatest designated hitter ever, Edgar Martinez, who’s mired at 27 percent;
  • A shortstop, Alan Trammell, whose play during an offense-neutral era is still comparable to Cal Ripken, Derek Jeter, and Barry Larkin, is fading with barely a quarter of the votes necessary.
  • Three perfectly cromulent candidates, Jeff Kent, Fred McGriff, and Larry Walker, received 14, 12.9, and 11.8 percent respectively.
  • Two of the best to have played the game, regardless of any PED use, Barry Bonds (36.8) Roger Clemens (37.5), saw little change from last year’s balloting.

As a diehard fan of the Amazins, the snub of Piazza irritates me most of all. Okay, the Hall’s pathetic insistence on a ten-name limit has resulted in an abundance of worthy names for too few spots has hurt some of the borderline candidates, but why isn’t a catcher who posted a .308/.377/.545 slash line over a 16-year career feeling the love?

As the kool kidz on Twitter like to say: #smh.​

Will Leitch of Sports on Earth cuts right to the chase:

Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell are left out simply because . . . well, because they used to stand next to people who confessed to using PEDs, or happen to be people who were unliked.

In essence, one curmudgeonly sportswriter-turned-blogger’s obsession over “backne” and an otherwise forgettable book’s quote from a player who never shared a clubhouse with Piazza have taken their toll. 

Newsday’s David Lennon explains why it’s silly to punish Piazza: 

We’re not saying he wasn’t because we don’t know for sure. After covering the sport for almost 20 years, I can’t tell you with 100 percent certainty who did PEDs unless they actually failed a drug test or copped to it. Even then, would we be able to determine when they began using and for how long?

Short of a player mapping out the timeline for us, and showing us a syringe, the answer is no. But we’re not trying to be Piazza’s defense lawyer — nor should he need one. It’s not like he was ever suspended or disciplined for PEDs, and his name didn’t appear in the Mitchell Report.

Piazza, however, is being punished anyway by a few dozen BBWAA members who don’t think he’s a Hall of Famer — or at least not yet, like he still has a toll to pay for access to Cooperstown. I respect those differing opinions, and again, we’re not proclaiming innocence or guilt here.

But if you’re keeping Piazza out because of the specter of steroids, what’s going to change in the next year or two?

But if you’re still suspicious how a 62nd-round draft choice of the Dodgers, whose selection was supposedly effectuated as a favor to his godfather, Tommy Lasorda, Amazin’ Avenue’s Dan Lewis provides a perfectly lucid explanation:

First, look at [a veteran member of the Major League Scouting Bureau's] physical description [from the spring of 1986]. “Large arms and forearms. Big hands. Broad shoulders. Solid long legs. Very young. Still possible growth left.” He’s 6′3″ tall — and only seventeen years old. He’s going to be big.

Then, pay attention to the abilities — “above [average] power potential.” If you look at the numerical ratings, he’s given a 4-6 in the power department—below average now (he’s 17!) but with potential to be above average in the future. The summary specifically states that Piazza has “potential above average long ball pop” and is “worth [a] selection on bat and power.”

So why wasn’t he selected? Because he was a right-handed hitting first baseman who couldn’t do anything else. . . . 

The idea that Mike Piazza’s power came from nowhere is a farce, one based on spurious claims and amateur dermatology amounting to exactly nothing in the way of actual evidence. If you want to know what changed, it wasn’t his ability to hit homers. Learning to cut down on the strikeouts and take a few more walks certainly helped, but above all else it was his transformation from an inadequate first baseman, where offense is a requirement, to an adequate catcher, where offense is at a premium.

I hope to see you in upstate New York in the summer of 2016, Big Mike.

More here, here, and here.

Reveille 1/5/14

by Jason Epstein

Good morning afternoon.

Here are several links from the past week that will make your first Monday of 2015 at the office a bit more bearable:

  • Three years ago, Joe Guzzardi of Baseball: Past and Present profiled a “promising young outfielder toiling in the low minor leagues” in 1952 whose dreams of becoming a big-league star were dashed after just one professional season, thanks to a concussion. The man in question would later become a political star, serving three teams as the chief executive of the Empire State. Rest in peace, Governor Cuomo.
  • Ben Buchanan of Over the Monster points out that piercing the $189 million luxury cap for 2015 won’t severely hamstring the Red Sox going forward, as the impending free agency of six players after the season is scheduled to free up $55 million.
  • While an intern for MLB International, Ben Weigel of Beyond the Boxscore was assigned to assist the MLB Ambassador’s Tour of Australia, featuring Sydney native Grant Balfour, and explains what transpired over the nine days of activities and the impact the tour may have on the sport Down Under.
  • One saber-friendly writer who is bullish on the Royals for the coming season is Christina Kahrl at ESPN’s SweetSpot:. For example, she approves of Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore’s signing of players with power potential:

Moore’s solutions might put the Royals in better shape than if he’d simply tried to maintain the status quo. Credit him for being like a latter-day Whitey Herzog and using last year’s wins to help purchase multiple big improvements. Rather than get carried away with Lorenzo Cain’s postseason heroics or Jarrod Dyson’s speed, he didn’t leave full-time slots open for both guys in the lineup, with Nori Aoki leaving. Instead, he addressed the Royals’ power outage by signing Alex Rios (.166 career ISO) to man right field and Kendrys Morales (.189 career) to DH. Adding power in traditional power slots might be the oldest formula in the transactions playbook, but who said there’s anything wrong with the classics? Add in Rios’ value on defense, and the Royals didn’t sacrifice much more than Glass cash to help keep a good thing going. 

That’s it. Have a walk-off week!

Don’t Blame Me, I Wanted to Sign Kodos

by Jason Epstein

Via CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman: The Pirates have won the bidding rights for standout infielder Jung-Ho Kang:

The winning bid was reported to be $5,002,015.

The Pirates and Kang will now try to negotiate a deal. Reports have suggested he may be amenable to a three- or four-year deal for around $5 million per year.

Pittsburgh wasn’t seen as a likely contender for Kang since its infield looks pretty solid, especially after picking up Sean Rodriguez to back up shortstop Jordy Mercer and has Neil Walker for second base and Josh Harrison for third base. But Kang has big-time power, and he hit 40 home runs in 117 games for the Nexen Heroes last year, and he is seen as versatile.

So what are the odds that this T-shirt be all the rage at PNC Park next season? 

More here.

Reveille 12/22/14

by Jason Epstein

Good morning.

First, a brief comment:

In many respects, the late George Steinbrenner was a less than honorable human being, as Fay Vincent, Dave Winfield, and numerous team employees will attest to anyone listening. However, one of King George’s pet causes was a most worthy one and, thankfully, survived his passing in 2010: the Yankee Silver Shield Foundation:

For 32 years, Steinbrenner’s Yankee Silver Shield Foundation has provided for the education of the children of New York City police officers, firemen and Port Authority employees who died in the line of duty, and will do so for the family of NYPD officer Rafael Ramos, gunned down by a cold-blooded killer Saturday along with his partner, Wenjian Liu.

The foundation will pay for the education of Ramos’ son, 13-year-old Jaden, and another son who is in college.

Liu, who was recently married, had no children.

Steinbrenner started his foundation in 1982 after seeing a news account of four children flanking their mother and folding an American flag at the funeral of their father, an NYPD officer who had been killed in the line of duty.

It should be noted that Officer Ramos was a diehard Mets fan, but I’m pretty sure he would have appreciated this heartwarming gesture. (Here’s hoping the Wilpon family, who have a controlling interest in the Mets, step up in some way as well.)

Rest in peace.

With that having been noted, here are several links from the past week that will make your Monday at the office a bit more bearable: 

For the third straight offseason — and I didn’t really check the offseasons before that, either — the Orioles made it through the Winter Meetings without a major move. So far, it’s Wesley Wright and only Wesley Wright, and that just happened. Nick Markakis is gone. Delmon Young is gone. Cruz is with the Mariners. As of now, the top first baseman on their depth chart is Christian Walker, who had a .335 on-base percentage in Triple-A last year. The Orioles thought they were going to bring Markakis back on a four-year deal. Instead, they’re looking at Steve Pearce, everyday right fielder, and Alejandro De Aza, leadoff hitter.

Their needs are obvious: At least one more corner player. Could be a left fielder, right fielder, or a first baseman. If the Orioles want to keep Chris Davis in the field, their options are wide open for a DH. If they start the season with this permutation, it will be stunning. There just aren’t as many options as there once were, of course. Michael Morse is gone, Melky Cabrera was never a serious consideration, Billy Butler signed early, the White Sox scooped up Adam LaRoche . . . it’s starting to look like it’s trade or bust for the Orioles.

Bringing Delmon back and waiting for March wouldn’t be much of an offseason plan. That isn’t what the Orioles are going to do, right?


  • Alex Hall of Athletics Nation approves of Oakland general manager Billy Beane’s latest deals, involving starter Jeff Samardzija to the White Sox and catcher Derek Norris to the Padres.
  • Speaking of the Samardzija trade, Beyond the Boxscore’s Scott Lindholm congratulates White Sox GM Rick Hahn for bringing the South Side back to life.
  • Via Matt Lombardo of In a recent radio interview, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. revealed that perhaps it would be best for the organization if struggling 35-year-old first baseman Ryan Howard and what remains of the albatross of his contract left town, presumably in a trade. (To be sure, I know a number of Philly fans who pray every night that Amaro will move on as well.) Here’s the crux of the admission:

“We’ve talked to Ryan,” Amaro said in an interview with 97.5 The Fanatic’s Mike Missanelli on Friday afternoon. “And I told him that in our situation it would probably bode better for the organization not with him but without him. With that said if he’s with us, then we’ll work around him. We’ll hope he puts up the kind of numbers that we hope he can and we’ll see where it goes from there.”

While may have speculated that the organization would be best off to move on from Howard this winter, this is the first public admission from anyone in the front office — and the general manager nonetheless — that the team has designs on making a trade. . . . 

Moving Howard could prove to be a tall order given the remaining $60 million remaining on his contract. If Amaro is in fact serious about a trade, the Phillies would be wise to find a suitor sooner, rather than later, regardless of the potential return. Howard is closing in on full 10 and 5 rights that would kick in this May which would give him veto power on any deal.

Even before Howard reaches that status, he already has the authority by virtue of his limited no-trade clause, to veto a deal to 20 teams.

  • Why must shortstop prospect Trea Turner wait until mid June to play for the Nationals, asks Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports? Turner, the first-round draft choice of San Diego in 2013, was part of the three-way trade between the Nats, Padres, and Rays centered around 2013 Rookie of the Year outfielder Wil Myers. According to Rosenthal, “Major League Baseball rule 3(B)(6) states that a drafted player cannot be assigned to another club for one year after signing his original contract,” meaning that the 21-year-old will be wearing Padres colors for much of 2014 before switching uniforms.

That’s it. Have a walk-off Christmas and New Year’s Eve! The next Reveille will come your way on Monday the 5th.

FIFA Ethics Boss Quits in Disgust

by Jason Epstein

“A new failure for FIFA.”

That was the response from FIFA vice president and UEFA president Michel Platini earlier today after Michael Garcia, the head of FIFA’s ethics committee, had quit in protest over the handling of his findings investigating the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding procedures.

Michael Garcia cited a “lack of leadership” at the top of FIFA in a resignation statement. He also said he has lost confidence in the independence of his ethics committee colleague, German judge Joachim Eckert.

Though Garcia did not identify Sepp Blatter by name, he also revealed that the FIFA executive committee — led by the longtime president — made a failed complaint of unethical conduct against the former U.S. Attorney in September.

Speaking at the Club World Cup in Marrakech, Morocco, Blatter told The Associated Press he was stunned by Garcia’s decision to resign.

“I’m just surprised,” Blatter said. “It’s all what I can say. Just that.”

Garcia quit a day after the FIFA appeals panel rejected his challenge of Eckert’s summary of the confidential 430-page investigation dossier. Last month, Eckert moved to close the case on the World Cup bidding contest because of lack of evidence.

Russia won the right to host the 2018 World Cup and Qatar was awarded the 2022 tournament.

After Eckert’s summary was made public, Garcia claimed that the German judge had misrepresented his work and then launched his failed appeal.

“(My) report identified serious and wide-ranging issues with the bidding and (World Cup host) selection process,” Garcia wrote Wednesday, adding that Eckert’s decision “made me lose confidence in the independence of the Adjudicatory Chamber, (but) it is the lack of leadership on these issues within FIFA that leads me to conclude that my role in this process is at an end.”

In his resignation statement, Garcia also questioned how FIFA can truly change after years of scandals and criticism.

“No independent governance committee, investigator, or arbitration panel can change the culture of an organization,” Garcia wrote.

Garcia also revealed that the executive committee tried to have disciplinary proceedings opened against him for “allegedly violating the Code of Ethics through my public comments.” The attempt was rejected by the chairman of the FIFA disciplinary panel, at a time when Garcia pressed for publication of key details from his report.

FIFA vice president Michel Platini, also the UEFA president, called Wednesday’s events “a new failure for FIFA.”

More here, courtesy of the Associated Press.

The Life and Death of Brad Halsey

by Jason Epstein

Josh Peter of USA Today profiles former Yankee, Diamondbacks, and A’s southpaw Brad Halsey, whose corpse was found at the base of a Texas cliff some six weeks ago. He was 33 years old. Although the local police department has yet not ruled on a cause of death, it appears likely that suicide was the culprit.

It’s hardly an uplifting story but still worth reading all the way through:

Public records and interviews with former coaches, teammates and friends show Halsey was quiet, private, quirky, smart and witty. But his behavior changed as he tried to hang on to a fading baseball career and fell victim to prescription and recreational drug abuse.

Less than four months ago, police found Halsey walking chest-deep in the nearby Comal River and identifying himself as Lucifer. Officers had responded to a call about a man who fit Halsey’s description throwing rocks at people floating by on inner tubes and talking to people no one else could see.

Halsey said he was prepared to fight “Mitch,” but witnesses said they saw no other man. After Halsey exited the river and turned unruly, police put him in shackles and drove him to an area hospital for evaluation. The police report noted Halsey had mental problems due to drug use.

A few months earlier, according to two men who spent time with the former pitcher in the last months of his life, Halsey told them he had schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The men also said Halsey made an outrageous statement, claiming he was on cocaine and other drugs when he gave up Bonds’ historic home run and had spent much of the $1 million he made during his baseball career on drugs.

“He always seemed like he was running from something,” said James Pankey, an instructional coach in the San Antonio area who along with an acquaintance, Tripp Deason, detailed Halsey’s alleged disclosures.

Halsey’s mother said the psychiatric diagnoses were “not accurate” but offered no further comment. Former teammates, including Jason Kendall, the A’s catcher when Bonds hit the home run, said they saw no evidence Halsey used drugs. 

More here

Redskins Fans Really Don’t Like Dan Snyder

by Jason Epstein

Bill Simmons of Grantland​ set the tone last week:

Over the past 10 years, Snyder’s football team transformed into the black sheep of the D.C. sports scene and a general laughingstock. Washington’s football team was fine until Daniel Snyder showed up. House derisively calls them “the Deadskins” these days. And he means it.

If you asked me in 1999 to name the five most important NFL franchises, I would have defined “important” by some admittedly murky formula that included long-term success, a storied history, the recognizability of its uniform/logo/name, the breadth/passion/support of a multi-generation fan base and its weight/power/influence compared to the other local teams in its city. And I would have given the following answer: Green Bay, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Washington and the New York Giants.

Mention that list to a Washington fan 15 years later and you can almost see the blood leaving their body. For the first time in franchise history, they’re thinking entirely in question marks. What do we do? How much longer? How do we stop this? When will this end? In general, fans are loyal as hell. We root for laundry and we know it — we don’t care. It’s part of our DNA. We’re always coming back. It’s just one of the things that makes human beings so freaking strange. We’ll divorce people before we divorce our favorite teams.

But an irredeemable owner? That’s the only person who can nudge a fan base to a collective breaking point. When you support a pro team with an unspeakably awful owner, at some point you take a step back, do the math and mutter things like, “I was 19 when he bought the team, I’m 34 right now, and I’m gonna be 54 in 2034 — AND WE ARE STILL GOING TO SUCK BECAUSE THIS GUY F-​-​-​-​-​-​ SUCKS AND HE’S NEVER LEAVING AND WHAT THE HELL AM I GOING TO DO?”  . . . 

Check out this seemingly ludicrous email from Paul Fischer in Arlington, VA . . . 

“Wouldn’t any rational Skins fan support Dan Snyder moving the team to LA, so long as the NFL promised DC an expansion team within three years — like what happened with the Browns and Ravens in 1996? I would gladly go without an NFL team for three years, then deal with a replacement level expansion squad for another few years, just to get Snyder out. Has there ever been another NFL team so dysfunctional that it causes its fans to daydream about their own team leaving town?”

Great question. I have some personal experience here. Patriots fans hit rock bottom just a few years after the ’85 Bears crushed us. We finished 5-11 in 1989 and 1-15 in 1990, endured a hateful sexual harassment locker-room scandal, traded down in two straight drafts and improbably turned the no. 3 and no. 1 overall picks into Chris Singleton, Ray Agnew, Pat Harlow and Jerome Henderson. The 1990 Pats actually caused me to start gambling just to stay interested in football. (In other words, thank you, 1990 Pats!) At some point, our idiot bankrupt owner (Victor Kiam) sold the team to a St. Louis billionaire (James Orthwein) who claimed he didn’t want to move the Patriots even though everyone knew he did. Me and every other Patriots fan were 95 percent mortified (“They’re trying to steal our team!”) and 5 percent hoping they were stolen away. Let the Patriots leave, blow up Foxboro Stadium, jettison 30-plus years of disappointment and incompetence, and then start over with an expansion team in downtown Boston and pretend the New England Patriots never happened. When Orthwein hired Bill Parcells, that 5 percent vanished. Robert Kraft saved the Patriots and the rest was history.

Anyway, that’s rock bottom. That’s the lowest you can sink — when you say to yourself, “I’d rather have the non-guaranteed chance at a real football franchise than the guaranteed reality of THIS football franchise.” I never realized Washington fans had reached that point until Paul Fischer sent me that email. I mentioned it to my Washington-fan friends. Three years of no team, then three years of expansion hell … would you do that? Everyone said yes. I couldn’t believe it. House even offered to drive everyone to the airport.

Just to be sure, I called the Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg, an excellent writer with an exceedingly rational feel for the Washington sports scene. He thought 75 percent of Washington fans would take the deal, as long as the new expansion team assumed the old franchise’s history. Steinberg believes that Snyder’s age is the single most important X factor for Washington fans. He’s only 50 years old. What if he never sells? What if he owns the Skins until 2050? What then? What do you do?

Here’s what Steinberg wrote in response:

Anyhow, Simmons asked me what percentage of Redskins fans would make that deal. Off the top of my head, I said 75 percent. As we talked, though, I decided that estimate might even be low.

Because which Redskins fans, exactly, would say no to that offer? The ones who believe the current team is set to excel in 2016 or 2017? The ones who just couldn’t bear to miss Jay Gruden’s second season, or a full season of Colt McCoy? The ones who have enjoyed the last two dozen NFL Sundays, as their team has put together its worst 20-game stretch since 1964?

At last check, nearly 82 percent of those casting ballots at the WaPo website voted “yes.”

More here and here.

Reveille 12/15/14

by Jason Epstein

Good morning.

First, a brief comment: 

It was probably Saturday morning when my head finally stopped spinning from all of the transactions that took place at MLB’s Winter Meetings in San Diego. If I recall correctly, 79 players changed teams during the week.

Some deals made perfect sense. For example, the Dodgers traded to the Padres a surplus outfielder – the sometimes-MVP candidate Matt Kemp — and got an upgrade at catcher in the name of Yasmani Grandal in return. The Cardinals signed Mark Reynolds, a masher of left-handed pitching, primarily to provide insurance at first base for Matt Adams, who has often looked lost against southpaws.

Others, not so much.

My head-scratcher of the week was the decision of Royals’ general manager Dayton Moore to replace his departed designated hitter Billy Butler, who signed a $30 million, three-year contract with the A’s, with Kendrys Morales, who, despite not being able to latch onto a team in 2014 until June, signed a $17 million, two-year deal

Kansas City could have merely exercised Butler’s option at one year at $12.5 million. Instead, the club paid him $1 million in order to decline the option. While a Moore defender might claim that Kansas City wanted to have an upgrade at designated hitter — in OPS+, the Royals ranked a lowly 24th in the bigs last season — but Morales is a curious choice. While neither player had a 2014 to remember, Butler clearly had the superior campaign (.271/.323/.379; -0.3 fWAR vs. .218/.274/.338; -1.7 fWAR). Also, he’s three years younger than Morales (28 vs. 31).

Sure, Morales may not have been a bad bet at one year and $5–7 million for a team that had no other options at the position. Except that the Royals merely could have stuck it out with a fan favorite, someone who had spent his entire career with KC, stayed healthy, and posted a .351 wOBA, but instead sent him packing.

With that out of the way, here are several links from the past week that will make your Monday at the office a bit more bearable: 

  • Which of the 2014 postseason entrants is most likely not to play October baseball next season? According to ESPN SweetSpot’s David Schoenfield, it’s the __________. (Okay, okay, here’s your hint: See my brief comment above.)
  • Contrary to popular belief, writes Matt Swartz in the Hardball Times​, the ill-advised contract extension given to Ryan Howard isn’t the reason the Phillies are a mess of an organization today, nor is it the byproduct of the win-now trades:

Instead, the issue was a series of terrible drafts that have yielded almost no fruit for the last eleven years. This is even more shocking when juxtaposed against their incredible success in the draft during the eight years prior.

The Phillies’ total career WAR among all drafted players from 2004 through 2014 is only 27.8 compared to a league average of 100.0. This is not just league-worst, it is less than half of the second-worst Blue Jays at 60.5. The following chart shows the total WAR by drafted players for each organization, ranging from the Phillies up to the Red Sox at 169.1.

One interesting thing about mentioning a Miami team in the 1989 film is this: There was no approved expansion team for the Miami area until December 18, 1990, and since the film was shot and completed before release, the filmmakers would have had to be prescient to think a team was even going to be awarded to the Miami area. There were a number of other contenders, including Tampa–St. Petersburg, Orlando, Denver, Buffalo and Washington, D.C., several of whom got teams in future expansions or by franchise moves. (I still think my realignment proposal [which included, among other things, having the Marlins move to the AL East] would have worked better than the one they eventually did.)

That’s not why I’m writing this, though. With the Cubs’ signings and trade this week, bringing Jon Lester, Jason Hammel and Miguel Montero to the North Side, they’re in strong position to contend for at least a wild-card spot, if not the division title. The Cubs played near-.500 ball for four months last year (60-62 after a 13–27 start), and while 90-plus wins might be a pipedream (though other teams have gone from 73 wins to 90-plus in one year with moves like the ones the Cubs have made), playing at an 85-win pace for much of the season will get the team into the wild-card conversation.

  • According to Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan, writing at Fox Sports’ Just a Bit Outside, the Reds had the best week of all during the meetings, considering the “difficult waters [GM Walt Jocketty had] to navigate.”
  • Via the Associated PressAlex Rodriguez isn’t quite at spring-training weight, according to Brian Cashman. It’s a relief to learn that the Yankee GM isn’t too hot and bothered, given that A-Rod’s not due in Tampa for another two months. Also, it’s not as though he had freaked out during the days of Derek Eater. . . . 

That’s it. Have a walk-off week!

Reveille 12/8/14

by Jason Epstein

Good morning.

Here are several links from the past week that will make your Monday at the office a bit more bearable: 

The Yankees have said that they’re still interested in re-signing D-Rob if his price comes down, but does anyone really think that he’ll take less money after seeing Miller’s contract? If anything, it seems to solidify that he will get a deal worth quite a bit more, since he successfully took over the closer role from Mariano Rivera, and has pitched well for the Yankees for years. Miller has been a good reliever for a few years since moving from the rotation to the ‘pen, but he doesn’t have closer experience. Now that Robertson’s a ”proven closer,” and after a postseason where the bullpen was everything, there’s bound to be a team out there that will pay him the ”Papelbon money” that he supposedly wants. It could be the Astros, since they had been linked to Miller (and he supposedly turned down their offer of 4-years/$40 million) and have been linked to Robertson. Now that the Yankees have Miller, the Astros might be willing to throw D-Rob all the money.

Werth, 35, was found guilty of misdemeanor reckless driving Friday for the July 6 incident, and Fairfax County General District Court Chief Judge Penney Azcarate sentenced him to 10 days in jail.

“Speed kills and does not discern what he or she does for a living,” Azcarate told Werth. “[Interstate] 495 is not a racetrack.”

Werth’s attorney, Rodney G. Leffler, said he planned to appeal his client’s conviction, and Werth probably will not serve his sentence before that appeal is resolved. Leffler argued Werth could not have been traveling as fast as Green said and attacked the calibration of the trooper’s speedometer but to little avail.

Werth, who wore a charcoal suit and glasses along with trademark long hair and bushy beard, testified in his own defense, saying he was not sure how fast he was going at the time of the offense but believed it was less than 100 mph.

“It’s possible I exceeded 90 miles per hour,” Werth said in court.

Green said the incident began around 9:40 a.m. on a Sunday. He heard the engine of Werth’s Porsche rev on the Georgetown Pike on-ramp for the Beltway. Werth drove onto the Beltway, and Green said he began pacing the player’s vehicle.

Green testified he pulled Werth over on the exit for the George Washington Parkway a short time later.

Green said he approached Werth’s vehicle with his gun unholstered but not pointed at Werth.

He asked Werth what he was doing, and Werth told him: He was “pressing his luck.”

  • Writing in Sports on Earth, Brian Kenny makes a pitch for Dick Allen’s entry into Cooperstown through the Veterans Committee Golden Era balloting. According to Kenny, Allen (.292/.378/.534, 61.3 fWAR) put up outstanding offensive numbers, racked up during a period of pitcher dominance, which haven’t received sufficient attention. (Interestingly, while the MLB Network anchor discusses Allen’s reputation of a “malcontent,” he surprisingly offers no mention of Allen’s poor defense.) The vote results will be revealed later today.

That’s it. Have a walk-off week!