In response to a few of the more pointed questions of the past two weeks:
Yes, I really believe that [stuff] I write, except when calling Brad Hennessey "Brian," for which I have no plausible explanation.
Yes, I get paid for it.
No, my mother didn't raise me to be an idiot. Seriously, it's not her fault. Personally, I blame it on all those Steak-Ums in college. Over nine years, that's a lot of damage.
On to the emails, with my responses in italics:
FREE AGENCY FALLOUT ("Assessing baseball's offseason," Dec. 28, 2006)
As someone with 20 years of experience, I guess you might be the only person around who can answer the following question for me: How in the world does Bill Bavasi actually have a job in baseball?
He has pretty much ensured that the Seattle Mariners will not only not contend for the AL West title this season, but that they will regress to about 70 wins. The No. 1 priority this offseason was to add a No. 1 starter and possibly a No. 2 or 3 to push Jarrod Washburn and Felix Hernandez down. Instead, he gets TWO No. 4 starters, wasting $25 million on Miguel Batista and Rafael Soriano on Horacio Ramirez. Great …
Then, instead of signing the LEFT-handed hitting outfielder we needed, he signed Jose Guillen, a right-handed hitter coming off of Tommy John surgery, and trading a left-handed hitting outfielder for a non-power-hitting DH in Jose Vidro. What's next? Offering up Hernandez for a backup catcher?
It seems to me that the man has no real plan. He panicked when the prices started going higher, and instead of overspending on good players, he's overspending on poor ones. Not the work of a savvy or smart GM.
These moves (or lack thereof) will do nothing to encourage Ichiro Suzuki to sign a contract extension anytime soon, if ever. I think it's just a matter of time before Ichiro is wearing Giants black-and-orange. That spells doom for the franchise, in terms of wins, attendance, and Japanese advertising and promotional dollars that disappear from Safeco Field. That would leave the team as the AL equivalent of the Milwaukee Brewers, except without the deep farm system. Actually, that leaves us more like the Washington Nationals.
Please explain this to Mariners fans everywhere so that maybe we might understand the logic (or lack thereof) of ownership here.
You know, Jared, when you started "As someone with 20 years of experience …" I flinched so bad coffee splashed onto my 8-by-10 glossy of The Moose, expecting a vicious attack on me or something I'd written. You can imagine my relief when you went after Bavasi instead.
And I cannot defend him. In nine years as a general manager, six of them in Anaheim, he's had three winning seasons. I will say that the Angels were onto something in his final years there, though I'm hazy as to whether the organization was beginning its march to the World Series under him, or free to get on with it without him. What is clear is he did not have the benefit of Arte Moreno, who hadn't yet purchased the team and turned it into the revenue-generator it is today, and Bill Stoneman did, which might not save Stoneman for much longer.
Frankly, as far as Bavasi goes (and I'm guessing your hope is "very far") I'm somewhere between signing the Fire Bavasi Internet petition and resolute indifference.
Just last week, Scott Boras told me Bavasi "did an unbelievable job" and "was really impressive" in a meeting with free agent Barry Zito, calling the Mariners one of "a couple teams that really separated themselves."
And then Zito went to the Giants, which, considering the term of the contract, might not have been a bad thing. You might laugh, but I kind of like Miguel Batista. He pitches well every time I see him, and then I look up and his ERA is four-and-a-half. Whatever happens in between can't be good, but, given the economic climate and the shortage of pitchers, he is what you get for $8 million a year.
I hated the Soriano-Ramirez trade from the Mariners' end.
As an L.A. guy, I was mostly in the Let Him Go camp when Adrian Beltre left, and his two seasons in Seattle have sustained that momentum.
Jose Guillen looks like this year's Carl Everett.
This is a win-or-out year for Bavasi.
Being a Houston Astros fan, they have come out of this free agency mess smelling like a rose. The St. Louis Cardinals did basically nothing and need pitching. The Pittsburgh Pirates and Brewers are still the whipping pups of the division, the Cincinnati Reds still have no pitching and the Chicago Cubs … well … they're still the Cubs. They can hit … but they can't pitch.
3) St. Louis
I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the Brewers, particularly if Ben Sheets can find a way to keep his arm attached for a full season. Your Astros, meantime, subbed Jason Jennings and Woody Williams for Andy Pettitte, Taylor Buchholz, Jason Hirsh, probably Roger Clemens and an out-for-the-season Brandon Backe. That's a net loss of 29 starts that will have to come from somewhere. Assuming Clemens goes to the New York Yankees, the fourth and fifth starters will have to come from Matt Albers (whom they love), Chris Sampson, Wandy Rodriguez (who should be better), Fernando Nieve and, if he can make the jump, Juan Gutierrez.
I can't seem to get my arms around this division, but I'd probably start by flipping the Brewers and Reds in your model.
You and the rest of the Yahoo! writers are being a bit hasty on the Pirates' upcoming season. A big assessment for all of the teams and you say "at least they will be better than the Pirates." That's it. The other baseball column strictly says "doing nothing is not the answer." Nobody has anything to say positive or negative about the Pirates. Nobody is addressing the fact that they played like a contender the second half of last season. Nobody is mentioning the fact that they have Mariano Rivera potential in Mike Gonzalez. Even in trade they know how great he is. Nobody has mentioned the fact that they have kept Jason Bay, Freddy Sanchez, Ronny Paulino, Jack Wilson, Xavier Nady and more that are not only great defensively but offensively also. Not to mention the pitching staff, which is young and only getting better. Watch out for the Pirates. And maybe doing nothing IS the answer, you bunch of over-analyzing armchair coaches.
Now I'm confused; are we under-analyzing or over-analyzing?
Were you watching the Pirates at the end of the season? Though I don't think they will make a playoff run (I hope I am wrong), I do believe they will break .500. Pittsburgh's needs are: Left-handed slugger at first base, a more consistent-hitting second baseman, and a good-hitting right fielder. The pitching is young and played well at the end of the year. I think it will start sooner this season.
Don't blame me. Billy's got you 10th in a six-team division.
"That said, and even with the Philadelphia Phillies' superior rotation, the Mets should pound their way to another division title."
How do you expect the Mets to "pound their way to another division title" when the Phillies had the most runs scored in the NL last year?
This is a typical and patently absurd NYC-biased statement. Rather than just assume that the Mets, who throw money around, have a better lineup than the Phillies, look at the numbers for verification first. Not only did the Phillies score more runs, but they had a higher batting average, more home runs, a higher slugging percentage, and a significantly higher OBP.
As a fan I am very concerned by unsubstantiated comments like this, because they create false perceptions. There are reasons why the Mets are still likely to win the division, but pounding their way to it is not one of them.
Two words, Ryan: Bobby Abreu.
I don't dislike what Pat Gillick has done here, though I know he went into the offseason seeking better lineup protection for Howard. Granted, Howard did just fine with what he had and the Phillies were a potent offensive team. I believe Moises Alou, if he's able to play, say, 130 games, makes the Mets better.
Why hasn't anyone, especially my Toronto Blue Jays, taken a flier on Joel Pineiro? Is there a hidden reason that he has yet to receive an offer from anyone? This is a kid who's one season removed from 16 wins and 200-plus K's.
Three years ago, Pineiro threw 211 2/3 innings, won 16 games and had 151 strikeouts. Here's the issue: His ERA has risen in five consecutive seasons, beginning at 2.03 and landing, last season, at 6.36. There is potential there, but it wasn't working in Seattle, which, in that ballpark, is saying something.
Here's the scouting report on Pineiro: His overall stuff, particularly the command and velocity of his fastball, have gone backwards. His pitch counts are too high, his baserunners too plentiful. Starting about, oh, four years ago, his fastball began to merge – velocity-wise – with his slider and cutter, making all three more hittable.
All that said, he just got $4 million from the Red Sox, with a chance to make $2 million more.
The San Diego Padres are the favorites in the West? Where do you think runs are going to come from? Without Dave Roberts there is no one to manufacture runs and they ain't exactly smacking the ball in Petco.
The Padres scored nearly 100 fewer runs than the Los Angeles Dodgers and still – technically – won the division. And, while he was ill-fitted for the middle of the order, J.D. Drew did lead the Dodgers with 20 home runs (with Nomar Garciaparra) and 100 RBI. I'm not sure Luis Gonzalez or Andre Ethier will replicate those numbers.
The Padres will win with pitching (assuming they sign a veteran like David Wells) and defense, neither of which the Dodgers will do as well.
I will say the Diamondbacks are beginning to enter my consciousness, especially if they drag a productive season out of Johnson.
I was wondering how you came to the conclusion that Andy Pettitte's 2006 numbers suggest that he is running out of steam? He has posted back-to-back 200-plus-inning efforts, and had a winning record and significantly above-average ERA after the break. If anything, these numbers suggest that he picked up steam in the second half. Other than his first year in an Astros uniform, he has suffered nothing more than minor setbacks in the injury department.
It seems as though you may have misspoken. Do you have any justification for your comment about Pettitte's status?
I'll give you the second half, Matt, and it's a good point. He's also going to a place in which he's comfortable, a great left-handers' park where he'll get all the run support he'll ever need. My concern regarding Pettitte: Two months ago, he was talking about retiring. And I can't get those early months – 5.25 ERA in April, 6.06 in May, 5.45 in June, .309 batting average against at the All-Star break – out of my head.
Here's what I think will happen. The Dodgers will start the season with Jason Schmidt, Derek Lowe, Penny, Randy Wolf and Chad Billingsley in the rotation. If they're not scoring runs by June, which they won't be, they'll look to trade Penny and his very attractive contract ($7.5 million in '07, $8.5 million in '08, $8.75 million option in '09) for a power-hitting corner outfielder or third baseman.
Rolen is a gamer and Ned Colletti's kind of guy. Colletti would have to be convinced Rolen is healthy, however, considering the contract ($12 million a year through 2010). And then the Cardinals would require well more than Penny and Betemit in return.
ZITO'S PAYDAY ("Giants land Zito," Dec. 28, 2006)
The D-Mat deal (does he mind that name?) looks pretty good right now. Assuming he is at least slightly above average, six years and $103 million is a good deal opposed to seven years and $126 million. I'd rather have a nine-pitch pitcher (I heard D-Mat has many breaking balls and off-speed pitches in his pocket) than a one-pitch pitcher (a giant curveball is going to be figured out eventually). As a Giants fan, I have a bad feeling about this deal. In two more years, Giants will want a Mulligan.
Mulligan, I understand, has four pitches.
Funny how the Yankees are never bright enough to go all out to sign a pitcher like Zito, who is a young promising pitcher that can and will be an important part of a rotation for many years. They would rather sign guys like Randy Johnson who are past their prime and then get annoyed when the New York pressure leaves them struggling to keep pace with their past stats.
From the injury report: Carl Pavano (shoulder, back, ribs, buttocks), expected to be ready for spring training.
YANKEES SHOP RANDY JOHNSON ("Yanks evaluating Unit cost," Dec. 26, 2006)
It is puzzling to me as to when will the Yankees learn that spending millions on over-the-hill pitchers such as Andy Pettitte will offer no return. As a Red Sox fan I am delighted by the Yankees' astonishingly steep learning curve.
Even trading Randy Johnson will not mean that the Yankees have changed their stripes. I predict a third-place AL East finish for the team in 2007. Thank you.
I hear Pettitte had a pretty good second half …
Wow, a California sports writer showing his bias in a Yankees column. How original!
Thanks for the note, Cyrus.
White Plains, N.Y.
One sentence you wrote is grammatically awful. In the fifth paragraph you say "But, anymore, he is symbolic … " But, anymore? I don't think you ever learned that in a writing or English course. Best wishes.
What's really bad: I keep looking at it and still like it.
The Mussina deal ultimately worked out? I guess if you look at this year's paydays maybe.
Mussina was bought in as a top-of-the-rotation starter, an ace. I think only a defensive Yankees fan would say that contract was worth it.
The man is 7-8 in his postseason career, most of that with an All-Star lineup. He is what he is the last six years: a nice No. 2 guy, soon to be a No. 3, for ace money. And he spits it up in big games.
He's won 40 games the last three years with a $200 million lineup behind him. How can you say he's worth that kind of money?
I'm not a huge Mussina guy, Tom. But, he did average 31 starts and nearly 15 1/2 wins over six years. His ERA did get a bit clunky, but when you're paying him through his 37th birthday, that's to be expected. The postseason thing, I can't defend. The Yankees had the right to expect better.
Tell Milan from Illinois that George Steinbrenner ruined all North American major league sports by introducing free agency by buying up the champion Oakland Athletics team back in '75 (remember Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson?). That snowballed into what the average fan has endured over the past three decades in the MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL with strikes, lockouts and skyrocketing ticket prices.
Secondly, as a life-long Red Sox fan, I never heard any disapproval with the name "D-Mat" thus far.
G-Stein actually bought Reggie from the Orioles, but your opinions are not uncommon. I prefer to view the past three decades as a victory for Curt Flood and the players, rather than free enterprise gone mad. If the owners can't control themselves, that's on them. If the ballparks are full and the concession lines are crowded, that's on us.
Just a comment: Did you know that if the Chicago Cubs win the World Series, the New Jersey Devils get a new home rink!!
My compliments on the exclamation points, Walt. One thing: The NHL is playing again?
Do you really get paid as a sports writer? You are proof that there are too many talking heads today without real insight, not only in sports writing but in journalism as a whole.
Who do you think will get the services of Sammy Sosa? In your opinion, do you think Cubs should sign him now that Dusty Baker is gone?
Sammy is right where he should be.
I was wondering if in the future, whenever you do a sports preview, that you begin with the West Coast instead of the East Coast. Every magazine, website, news show, always starts with the East Coast and works its way west, with West Coast teams always at the back of the magazine, or the bottom of the website. And, for example, in MLB, everyone always starts with the AL. And when they do get to the NL, it's NL East, NL Central, and then NL West.
So, if you can break tradition, you'll make West Coast readers very happy, and maybe the West Coast will get a bit of recognition from the East Coast, if only to flip through, or scroll through the West Coast to get to their East Coast section.
You got it, Miguel.