Friday, December 31, 2004

Best And Worst Of 2004

Best Met Game: I'm tempted to say the July 3rd Met/Yankee game where the Mets won a slugfest 10-9. I'm tempted to say the Randy Johnson/Tom Glavine duel where the Mets won 1-0 on a leadoff home run from Kaz Matsui.

But the honor goes to the May 16th game at Houston.

Roger Clemens, having won seven straight games to start the season, had pitched seven brilliant innings. Now it was top of the ninth, Astros up 2-0, two outs, one on, Mike Piazza at the plate, Octavio Dotel on the mound.


And Gogs was the extra inning hero to boot.

I believed, at that moment, that this team was something special. And despite the results of the rest of the season, nothing will take away from this game, certain to be shown on the new network's 'Mets Classic' series.

Best Season: Going by VORP, you'd have to give it to Al Leiter and Tom Glavine, with 46.2 and 42 respectively. Piazza was the best position player at 29.9 followed closely by Mike Cameron with 27.

But we're not going to give it to any of them.

Nope. Looking at Rookie VORP, both Kaz Matsui and David Wright clock in at 5th and 8th in the major leagues with 23.7 and 21.2 respectively.

Just think what they'll be able to do in their sophomore seasons.

Best Surprise: I think this has to go to Eric Valent -- .818 OPS, 14.9 VORP. Not bad for a Rule V pickup, eh?

Best Move: David Weathers and Jeremy Griffiths for Richard Hidalgo. 'Nuff said.

Best Souvenir: The Mets Jersey Beer Bottle Koosie (right). Also comes in a home black version. Sweet.

Worst Met Game: Boy, you can take your pick but I think you have to go with the 'Black Saturday' game against the Braves which featured:

1) Kris Benson's debut to the tune of seven earned runs in five innings.

2) Jaret Freakin' Wright pitching seven innings of three-hit ball

3) Having to sit through this mess of a game thinking about Scott Kazmir becoming a star...for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Worst Season: I'm tempted to give it to Gogs but he's going to get a different award. No, this one goes to The Great James Baldwin Experiment who piled up an astounding ten runs in six innings over two disasterous starts for a -6.2 VORP. Gives me the willies just thinking about it.

Marv Throneberry Award: Instead of 'worst surprise'. Gogs really disappointed this year but you just can't dislike the guy. I want to see a United Way commerical next year with Gogs and a whole group of kids who challenge him to a foot race. Then, in true comedic fashion, you see a series of cuts across the screen with the kids racing by, back and forth, followed by a panting Phillips. Maybe they could have the kids lap him a few times too.

Worst Trade: Duh.

And now for something competely different...

Best Album: I'd love to give this to U2 but HTDAAB is so much weaker than ATYCLB, I just can't. And even though I love the album, I can't bring myself to give it to Maroon 5 either since everything on it has been played ad nauseum to the point where I'm tired of it.

So I'm giving this award to Franz Ferdinand's self titled album instead that's filled with some of the catchiest songs you'll ever hear. Just try to get "The Dark Of The Matinee" out of your head. I dare you.

Best Movie: I'm tempted to say Spider-Man 2 (and I haven't seen Ray yet) but Kinsey was fantastic and Jamie Foxx will certainly have some stiff competition from Liam Neeson.

Best Game: Okay. I'll fully and shamelessly admit to being raised as a Nintendo fanboy, something I can't seem to get out of my system so by default this award has to go to Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. And I refuse, for the sake of my thesis, to install either World of Warcraft or Half-Life 2 in my laptop.

Nope. Not going to do it. *starts shaking*

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Free Agent Endgame

In the next week or two, Carlos Beltran will likely decide where he's going to play for the majority of his remaining career. Once he does, all the remaining big name free agents will likely follow suit. So what does this mean for the Mets?

Here are the possibilities from best to worst --

If the Mets sign Beltran:

The Mets likely will abandon their pursuit of Carlos Delgado (unless Fred Wilpon really opens up his pocketbook, which is possible) and the Yankees will bid heavily. The Mets will then likely sign one of Doug Mientkiewicz, Travis Lee, Tino Martinez, or John Olerud to play first.

If the Mets further sign Delgado, a young man in Manhattan will be crying (for joy) like a little baby from now until spring training.

If the Mets lose Beltran to the Yankees:

Expect the Mets to win the Delgado bidding war and make a strong run at Magglio Ordonez for the outfield with an outside chance at Sammy Sosa or Manny Ramirez ending up in orange and blue.

It's certainly possible that the Red Sox would take Manny off the market once Beltran signs, since they most likely want to trade Manny so they can get Beltran. However, if Delgado signs with the Mets BEFORE Beltran signs, Manny to the Mets may suddenly make a spike in likelihood. Under this scenario, the Mets would decide to take Manny and let the Sox and Yankees bloody themselves over Beltran instead. Wouldn't that be entertaining?

Again, this is a pretty remote possibilty since Delgado seems to be waiting for the Yankees to get involved, something they won't do unless they don't get Beltran.

If the Mets lose Beltran to the Astros:

This would be a nightmare. While on one hand I'd be happy to see Steinbrenner not get his prize for once, the Mets would also likely end up in a bidding war with the Yankees for Delgado, a war they may not win. This would then lead to...

If the Mets lose Beltran AND Delgado:

The biggest nightmare of all. Under this scenario, Ordonez would certainly be a likely target but here Omar will definitely look into Sosa and/or Ramirez (if he's still on the market) with Sosa in Flushing likely becoming Plan A.

Bottom line here, we better hope the Mets at least one Carlos in the next two weeks. Otherwise there may be a gloomy start to the New Year in Flushing.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Byrnes, Baby, Byrnes

Ew, I feel all dirty for using a Sterling-ism in my headline. I promise it will never happen again.

Bob Klapisch wrote the following in today's Record:

The Mets have expressed interest in the A's Eric Byrnes as a replacement for Mike Cameron while the center fielder recovers from wrist surgery, according to an industry source.

With the number of available outfielders dwindling this winter, Byrnes, a left fielder, appeals to Met officials because he can play all three positions, has both power and speed and is cheap enough to keep alive the Mets' pursuit of Carlos Delgado.

In return for Byrnes, the Mets would likely have to give up a minor league prospect such as Yusmeiro Petit or Lastings Milledge, a swap that, in the short term, would benefit the Mets. Byrnes, 28, batted .283 with 20 homers and 73 RBI, and stole 17 bases in 18 attempts.

Now, Eric Byrnes is a nice player, a player I happen to like a lot. But is it worth giving up one or two of your best prospects for him? Let's take a look:


  • Over the last three seasons Byrnes' OPS has gone from .717 to .792 to .814 with much of that being in his plate discipline.
  • He's a gritty, hard-nosed player who reminds me a lot of Ty Wigginton when he first came up, is a fan favorite in Oakland and would sure become one here in NY with his style of play.
  • ZiPS projects a .279/.345/.459 line for him this year. Not too shabby but not what you really want out of a corner outfielder.
  • Furthermore, Brynes is already 28. He should have had his breakout season by now, one that would be fairly difficult to come by if he moves to to the NL and Shea.
Now if the Mets had, say, Carlos Beltran in center, perhaps they could skimp on the other two positions but Brynes is really more suited to a power bat off the bench role on a deep team. Then there's the cost to consider.

Yusmiero Petit is the only star hurler (aside from Humber, if he ever signs) we have that's close to the majors and Lastings Milledge was recently rated the #15 prospect in baseball by If you're going to trade one of these guys, you'd better be getting an All-Star in return.

If Omar Minaya could put together a package of any of the others: Heilman, Seo, Musser, Keppel, Valent, Phillips, or even Aaron Baldaris who's blocked by David Wright, I'd say go for it. But if Beane wants to get rid of Byrnes because he doesn't want to pay him, that's his fault. The Mets certainly don't have to play ball here.

And the bottom line is that Beane's asking price is just too high, and if Omar isn't careful, he could get Byrned.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Calendar Daze

Between the holidays and my experiments, I haven't really had much time to post additional things lately. I just spent about three hours running around New York City buying some last minute Christmas items, an event that's becoming all the more regular with every passing year.

Last week though, Fumiko, one of my fellow labmates, and I decided to purchase some new calendars for the lab off Okay fine, you say. But what prompted this spontaneous purchase is kind of amusing.

Fumiko grew up in Japan as a Tokyo Giants fan so, the first few years she was in the states, she really didn't have a huge rooting interest in either NY baseball team. However, Godzilla's arrival in the Bronx prompted a Yankee love fest the likes of which have never been seen before (although Shannon's LJ comes fairly close).

She has a Yankee desktop, Yankee screen saver (that does rotate with Lord of the Rings, fortunately), Yankee keychains, even a Yankee neckstrap for her ID cards. *shudder*

So last week Fumiko casually mentioned how nice it would be to have a Derek Jeter calendar for the coming year.

Which would be hung on the wall.

Near her desk.

Which is right next to MY desk.

All year long.

The camel's back had been broken. Decisive action was needed!

So I agreed to order a calendar for her online provided we could come to a mutually acceptable selection. She pored over a number of different calendars including some generic baseball, anime (Inuyasha in particular), and the Lord of the Rings selections from this year (unacceptable without at least one month of Orlando Bloom), until we settled on this:


It's still better than looking at Jeter's smug mug all year long.

As for myself, I reluctantly bought the NY Mets 2005 calendar for over my desk. Why reluctantly? Here's the month-by-month lineup:

  • Mike Piazza
  • Jason Phillips
  • Cliff Floyd
  • Richard Hidalgo
  • Tom Glavine
  • Mike Cameron
  • Kazuo Matsui
  • Steve Trachsel
  • Ty Wigginton
  • Al Leiter
  • Jose Reyes
  • Braden Looper
Regardless of the guys who have been lost this offseason (and before), where the heck is David Wright? Obviously this calendar was made early in the season, before Wright had a chance to show his Major League magic, so he wasn't included. You think they could at least wait until the trading deadline before they put freaking next year's calendar together? Sheesh.

Ah well, the bottom line was that I dodged a horrifying pinstriped bullet.

I think.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Master Of His Domain

Fark headline on the RJ trade to the Bombers:

Randy Johnson traded to Yankees in three-way deal. Steinbrenner quoted saying "It finally took a three-way for us to grasp the Big Unit, but now that we have Johnson, our holes are filled."

Brian Cashman must be so very relieved.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Renteria to Own?

Edgar Renteria was a key contributor to my 2003 fantasy league champion Porlock Lycanthropes. He did everything that year: hit for average, hit for power, stole bases, and played exceptional defense. There were even a few days in June that year when I could actually see my floor. I can't prove this, of course, but I suspect Renteria must have taken time off from interleague play to tidy up around here when I wasn't looking.

He wasn't nearly the player in 2004 he was in 2003; all of the key production numbers were down, on top of which my apartment's a total sty. If you go by his adjusted OPS last season, Renteria was technically a below-average hitter, although I suspect he'd still stack up quite well compared to other shortstops. Granted, 2003 might have been a career year for him, but he's still too young to assume that his marked drop-off in 2004 is definitive. Split the difference between the last two seasons, and you come up with something remarkably like his 2002 campaign (.364 OBP/.439 SLG/ .803 OPS), which was still mighty good for a slick-fielding middle infielder.

On the whole, then, I'm happy with the move, considered exclusively on its own terms. Ten million per is a lot to shell out, but if Nomar's worth eight mil in 2005, I can see why one might think Renteria (younger, more durable) would be worth a little more. Considering the move in a larger context--examining not just the splash but the ripples--things get a little more complicated. Signing Renteria creates an intriguing possibility, but it also raises a crucial question.

First, the intriguing possibility. As has been widely noted, with Renteria in place Hanley Ramirez becomes primo trade bait. I'm fine with this, especially if he becomes part of a package that lands Tim Hudson. I'd be less fine with it if he is part of a deal that brings back A. J. Burnett, but I'd cope.

Now for the crucial question. Let's play the old Rob Neyer Player A/ Player B game.

Player A 2003 .394 .480 .874
Player A 2004 .327 .401 .728

Player B 2003 .351 .512 .863
Player B 2004 .390 .482 .872

Player A is Edgar Renteria. Player B is Jason Varitek.

I won't pretend that this is an easy calculation. Renteria's younger, more versatile offensively, and a better defender. Varitek's more consistently productive, a tremendous force in the clubhouse, and has proven capable of enduring the scrutiny generated by a passionate but demanding fan-base. Until yesterday, I though that the four years and 36 million the Sox had offered Varitek was more than fair, and I understood the reluctance to budge on it since no one else is really in the bidding at this point. But why is someone who's never played an inning for you at a position for which there are other options (Cabrera, for instance) worth more than a guy who's been taking bullets for you for seven years, was instrumental to an immortal season, and has no obvious replacement either in free agency or through a trade? Despite what you might have heard, A. J. Pierzynski is not a legitimate replacement, (scroll for it) even at the low low price of 1.5 million.

I get it. You don't simply roll over a twenty-five man roster from year to year, even if that roster wins it all. I knew going in that we weren't bringing back all of the big three. Is it possible, though, that in signing Renteria the Red Sox have guaranteed that none of them will be back?

Passing Grade

Welcome to New York, Mr. Martinez:

Martinez passed his physical Wednesday, and the Mets finalized their $53 million, four-year contract with the pitcher they hope will take them to the postseason.

The Mets scheduled a news conference for Shea Stadium on Thursday to introduce Martinez, who turned down a $40.5 million, three-year offer from the Boston Red Sox and told his agent Monday to work out a deal with New York.

We got our ace. Now let's get us a first baseman and an outfielder. Booyah!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


Joe Gillis: You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.

Norma Desmond: I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.

--Sunset Boulevard

I need to get this off my chest first. Pedro Martinez may have just turned himself into Norma Desmond. Who would have thought, even two years ago, that his departure would produce such decidedly mixed feelings? I'm a little sorry to see him go. I'm a little relieved that the Sox didn't try to match the offer the Mets gave him. I hope he continues to do well at Shea. At the same time, with apologies to my co-blogger, I'm a little smug about the fact that nothing he does in his new uniform could possibly matter as much as what he did in the uniform he's handing in. "I am big. It's the games that got small."

Soon enough, we'll be slathered in recriminations and ill will, some of it more than justified, some of it decidedly overstated. Before this viscous revision completely obscures the delight Red Sox fans used to take in so rare and inspiring a talent, I'd like to recapitulate, in as much detail as I can muster, what it meant to have Pedro Martinez in my team's corner in his prime. It's a question of gratitude.


At one point, in the dark off-season between 1998 and 1999, I actually uttered the following absurdity: "I'm going to one game at Fenway this year, and then I'm through."

My friend Ed, less inclined to overstatement than I am, quickly pointed out the obvious: "I think that's a lie."

As it turned out, it was. If Mets fans can believe it, my disgust with my team erupted from its failure to resign Mo Vaughn. Mo had been the face of the team ever since I'd been in town, and his departure was the most significant of my rooting life. I'd never seen the team willingly give up a player who had been as sucessful the previous year as Mo had been in 1998. I was angry because I suspected that the decision had less to do with talent evaluation than with organizational arrogance.

Multiple factors conspired to extract me from my bitter and admittedly immature boycotting scheme. I couldn't have known, for example, that a buddy from work would have access to season tickets. Free seats behind home plate can salve a lot of hurt feelings. In addition, the Red Sox were unexpectedly and inexplicably good. They lost one of their best hitters, replaced him with Jose "OBP" Offerman, and improved from 92 wins to 94, securing a second consecutive playoff berth. Most importantly, though, there was Pedro, who transformed before our very eyes from excellent to historic.

The only game I wanted to see in 1999 was Mo's return to Fenway Park in another uniform. This happened to fall early in the year, May 7 to be exact. It also just so happened that Pedro was pitching that night: 8 innings, 6 hits, no runs, no walks, and (ahem) 15 strikeouts.

Interesting. I might make it back more than once this season, I thought to myself.

Understand that I wasn't the only one upset by Mo's departure and, consequently, less than enthused about the '99 Sox. (Mets fans are reading this with blank incomprehension. I'm telling you, though, it's true.) As a result, you didn't have to buy Red Sox tickets six months in advance. After seeing Pedro pitch on Friday I was able to scoop up tickets for his next start Wednesday against the Mariners. Keep in mind that this is 1999, and the Mariners still have Alex Rodriguez (before the conspicuous display of avarice) Ken Griffey Jr. (before the endless string of injuries) and Edgar Martinez (before the gradual fossilization had set in). Daunting. Pedro's line that night: 8 innings, 4 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk, and (ahem) 15 strikeouts.

Back-to-back starts with fifteen strikeouts. You might think that one of those starts would have qualified as my most memorable night at Fenway Park. That honor actually goes to his next start, which I also attended courtesy of my friend Joe, who had access to the aforementioned season tickets from his day job.

A little context is in order. First, that night's opponent was the Yankees, and it was Joe Torre's first night back after his fight with cancer. He brought out the line-up card before the game and received a standing ovation. Let it never be said that Red Sox fans are utterly lacking in class, even when it comes to the Evil Empire. Secondly, I was at the game in spite of having run a 101-degree fever thirty-six hours earlier. I knew braving a mid-May evening in Boston was a little stupid of me, but I couldn't help it. It was the Yankees, the tickets were free, and Pedro was on the hill. Finally, my friend Joe might, without injustice, be described as a gadfly. As a lifelong Dodgers fan, he had no rooting interest in the game, but he enjoyed twisting the needle. This will be important in about five paragraphs.

The game begins, and Pedro doesn't have his best stuff. The velocity's there, but he can't locate. He's working deep counts and even walking a guy here and there. After four and a half, he trails David Cone 2-0. Joe, being Joe, is rubbing it in a little.

Mike Stanley leads off the bottom of the inning with a homer. Nothing else comes of it, but the lead is halved. Then, in the bottom of the sixth, the Sox solve Cone and take a 3-2 lead.

Pedro comes out for the seventh. He's thrown a ton of pitches already, but this is pre-injury and pre-Gradygate. Petey gives up a leadoff single. Joe sees an opportunity to salt a wound and takes it. Pedro retires the next guy, but then gives up a hit-and-run single. Runners at the corners, one out. Pedro gets the next guy, but then walks Jorge Posada (I think, might have been Brosius). Joe's yapping the whole time, reminding me that Pedro's not that sharp. What Joe hasn't noticed is that, while the bases are loaded, the Yankees' hitter at this key moment is Chad Curtis.

For those of you keeping score: it's the '99 Yankees, they have the bases loaded, are only down a run, and Pedro, lacking his best stuff, has thrown a ton of pitches.

As I said, Joe enjoys twisting the needle. Nevertheless, he looks out at the mound, he looks in the batter's box, and says, "This guy doesn't have a chance."

He was right. Strikeout, inning over, and the Sox add welcome insurance over the next two innings to pull away. Pedro's line on his "off night": 7 innings, 10 hits, 2 runs, 4(!) walks, and 11 (ho-hum) strikeouts.

I saw Pedro in person at Fenway a total of four times in 1999, the final being a complete-game, three-hit shutout against the Blue Jays in September shortly after his favorite aunt died. His composite line from "My Evenings with Pedro": 32 innings, 23 hits, 4 runs, and 53 strikeouts. Four wins, no losses, with a 1.13 ERA. Gibsonian.

This is just 1999, and only the games I attended in person, that I'm talking about. This doesn't include that July night in 1998 when I was at Fenway to see Pedro outduel Bartolo Colon 1-0, back when the Indians could score five runs a night swinging blindfolded. This doesn't include the chilly April afternoon in 2001 when I was at Fenway to see him strikeout 16 Devil Rays over eight innings. It doesn't include the one-hitter in Yankee Stadium. Nor does it include six no-hit innings in a decisive playoff game against the only team in the last fifty years to score more than a thousand runs. That last one in spite of the fact that Pedro was hurting and had no fastball.

The numbers are impressive, but even they might not be enough to capture the feel of having Pedro in the house. Put it like this: when he was pitching, he completely reversed the usual sense of offense and defense. When he was dealing--sometimes even when he wasn't, by his stratospheric standards-- it felt like the Red Sox were on the attack, even though the other guys had the bats. Normally, people go to the concession stand when their team is in the field and try to make it back to see their boys hit. Not at Fenway, not when Pedro was pitching.

The Red Sox team I'll remember is, naturally, this year's edition. The Red Sox player that I'll remember, though, is Pedro Martinez. I'm choosing to remember him at his best becaue I might live to be a hundred and never see another player like him in his prime. Thanks, Petey.

Note: The raw numbers in this post were reconstructed with the help of Glenn Stout's game-by-game log of Pedro's 1999 season in Red Sox Century.

Leave The Bat, Take The Cannoli.

So what are the odds that Pedro pitches in the series against the Yankees at Shea?

Where there's no DH...

Where he has to bat...

Against the Yankees.

Follow up question: If you were Joe Torre, who would you give the honor of drilling him?

I would say Moose, but he just seems like too much of a nice guy. Maybe El Duque, but all the other guys are just too fresh off the meat market. Maybe he'll let Jorge Posada pitch an inning.

Now that would be entertaining.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Question Marks

So it looks like the Mets are going to get an ace.

If the Mets do indeed "seal the deal" on Pedro, it would set their 1-5 in stone for 2005-2006 (assuming Tom Glavine's option vests). I have decidedly mixed feelings on this. On one hand, I love Pedro, love watching him pitch, and think that a move to the NL and Shea will do nothing but prolong his career (although four years is decidedly risky). On the other hand, Pedro alone is not going to return the Mets to the playoffs. For that glorious event to happen, take a look at what the Mets have to do:

1) Sign a first baseman and at least one outfield bat

2) Trade or release Cliff Floyd.

3) The Mets need to completely re-structure their bullpen, beginning with sacrificing The Run Fairy up to Jobu so that...

4) ...Mike Piazza can have a bounce back year with the bat

5) Jose Reyes needs to be healthy for a full year and continue to develop

6) David Wright and Victor Diaz need to continue to develop and Diaz needs playing time

7) Kris Benson and Victor Zambrano need an IV of Rick Peterson kool-aid and have to become the aces he envisioned

If all this comes to pass, the Mets will compete next year. That's an awful lot to go right. So the question remains, would the Mets have been better off spending their money on numbers 1 or 3? Will Pedro's contract hinder the Mets from improving themselves down the line when they have fewer question marks? Only time will tell.

Omar may have put an exclamation point on the winter meetings but he hasn't answered any of the question marks surrounding this team. The only question now is what will he do next?

Saturday, December 11, 2004

By the Same Logic...

"Theo, can you explain the process that led to the Wells signing?"

"I'd be happy to. As we look ahead to defending our World Series championship in 2005, we felt we needed to do four things. We needed to get fatter. We needed to get lazier. We needed to get older and, finally, we needed to corner the market on those players who were previously pinstriped."

"Fatter, lazier, older, and previously pinstriped?"

"That's right. We're calling it the F.L.O.P.P. protocol."

"So who else are you pursuing, given those priorities?"

"We're talking with the Yankees about a deal for Luis Sojo. He would fill our hole at short, and greatly increase the number of chins we bring to the infield every day."


Look, the David Wells signing isn't Matt Young crazy. It is, nevertheless, counter-intuitive at best. Admittedly, the numbers Boomer posted last year look fairly decent. Consider, though, that A) Petco Park was one of the most pitcher-friendly stadiums in baseball last year and B) beneath that 3.73 ERA lurks a K/9 inning ratio of 4.65. Bear in mind that Derek Lowe, the poster child for "contact is as contact does," posted a K/ 9 inning ratio of 5.17. So the raw numbers are cause for concern. Throw in the fact that Wells is 41 and has a history of letting himself go physically, and you've got a strange decision on Epstein's part.

Those defending the trade are saying that Wells will fit in with the "happy bunch of idiots" thing the Sox have going on in the clubhouse. I see two things wrong with this. First, Wells isn't a happy idiot; he's a surly obstreperous idiot. Secondly, and more importantly, the whole idiot thing has been blown out of all proportion. No, I don't see tenure at MIT in Manny's future. Nevertheless, the 2004 Red Sox, particularly their pitchers, prepared as well mentally as any team in the game. Holding the Cardinals to three runs over the last three games of the World Series speaks volumes about having the scouting to develop a good game plan and having the intelligence to implement it. How well do you think it will go over when Varitek tries to talk hitters with Wells, and Boomer blows him off for an Ultimate Fighting Championship at Denny's?

Obviously, Theo deserves the benefit of the doubt, and it's likely he knows something a mere keyboard jockey does not. From where I sit, though, this looks like a bad deal on multiple levels.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Just the Two of Us, Ryu and I

Jay's Note:

Okay. This post does have a baseball connection.

Sort of.

About a week ago, I was writing a post over on Always Amazin' concerning the Mets possibly signing Henry Blanco. Without really thinking, I typed out the title "Blanco, Blanco Burning Bright" and dove into my pre-work post. Right before I was about to hit "publish", I re-read the title and paused. Something was wrong but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

Obviously, the post title was supposed to be a take off of William Blake's "The Tyger" but having Blanco in there really didn't make any sense. On the other hand, dammit, it still sounded right to me. After thinking for another minute or two, it suddenly dawned on me where my cluttered brain pulled the reference from and I started to laugh out loud in the middle of the lab. I eventually changed the post title after realizing that only a handful of people in the world would get the joke.

A couple days later, still chortling to myself, I fired off an e-mail to Matt and asked him if he would be willing to put together a post on this silly little story to share with the rest of you. And so he agreed (bwah, hah, hah). So without further adieu...

There are at least eight levels of procrastination. I'll tell you all about them some other time. For now, I want to concentrate on the most beguiling form of procrastination ever to slip its anaesthetic claws into the soft underbelly of my productivity. Or I could have some chips and salsa. Yeah, chips and salsa would Focus, curse you! Focus on how you used to avoid focusing...

The year: 1992. The place: Shelton Hall, Boston University. The English major, flagrantly dodging a paper on Emily Dickinson, pokes his head around the corner to peer into the game room.

He's in luck. The Street Fighter II machine is unoccupied. This is a boon because the English major doesn't really like fighting other human players. He's not very good, and he's not a very good loser. He can beat the machine, though, while playing Ryu and using only one of the six available buttons. As you might expect, many quarters have been sacrificed in perfecting this strategy. He doesn't want to think about the number of quarters sacrificed, in much the some way he doesn't want to think about Emily Dickinson just now. Nor Walt Whitman for that matter.

He is not alone in his addiction. There's the one guy in Shelton Hall who's smaller than the English major. The smaller guy plays the only female character in the game. He's pretty effective, although the way in which he finds his alter ego quotable (her vocabulary consisting entirely of "Ya-ta!") is, well, creepy.

There's also the guy, one of the better players in the dorm, who carries a cell phone down to the console with him. The 1992 cell phone is so large it should come with back-up lights, but he's developed a knack for holding it in the crook of his neck while he plays. On he chats, never missing a block, never screwing up a combo. The English major suspects that whomever he is talking to on the phone is also, somewhere, playing Street Fighter II.

Most amusing of all is the older Greek guy who can't defeat the machine. He's smelly, and he has an immense stack of quarters perched above his left wrist. He can't beat Vega, the second bonus character, and he's been working on it for a few months. It might be a little sad, really, except for the vociferous swearing in a foreign language. One night he pounds the console so hard that it flips open, revealing the machine's innards. The English major's friend Yuichi finds the switch that the quarters trip, and the entire dorm plays for free for about three weeks. When the English major, a semester later, shows up for a computer science discussion section, it turns out that the Greek guy who can't beat Vega is the teaching assistant.

The English major can dodge that Dickinson paper all he wants, but the truth is that the two major strands of his admittedly limited existence--a devotion to a cartoonish video game and a zeal for poetry--are drawing quietly together. Ryu walks into the sunset, successful again, and the English major heads upstairs, slipping comfortably into another procrastination tactic: forestalling the work of one class by pretending interest in another. To avoid Emily Dickinson, he turns to William Blake.
Something happens to William Blake's words as the English major considers them. They seem to occupy a certain kind of place, or, more accurately, fill a certain kind of shape. It wouldn't be that hard for other words to fill that same shape. And so, the English major begins to idly scribble:

Blanka, Blanka burning bright,
Green fur ablaze in electric light,
What moronic thought could cause
A foe to brave your hungry jaws?

Things get worse from there. Other Street Fighter characters slip into the shapes of other poems. The English major disrespects William Carlos Williams; he skewers e. e. cummings. He rips off Elizabeth Barrett Browning. He even parodies some writers he likes, such as Coleridge and Poe.

Embarassingly enough, the string of cheesy parodies proves to be one of the most popular things the English major writes. Some of his college friends charitably refuse to forget it.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

James Speaks. Should We Listen?

Hey All,

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. Between a paucity of news and a tussle with the flu I haven't really had the inclination to write here over the past week or so. However since I've recovered and the Winter Meetings are in full swing there will be some reading material in the next few days.

In the meantime, Bill James has a tongue-in-cheek essay over at The Hardball Times basically chiding the media for declaring Barry Bonds Season officially open.

On one hand, he's correct in pointing out that all the evidence we have to go on in this whole steriod brouhaha is leaked testimony in a couple newspaper articles and that no real conclusions will be able to be drawn until the actual BALCO trial is over.

On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with speculation either. And if said speculation leads to more drug testing, harsher penalties, and cleaning up the sport I think the media should keep this topic burning bright throughout the cold, cold winter. After all, if Barry's truly innocent, then the BALCO trial will vindicate him and he can hit his 756th home run in 2006 with all the platitudes he deserves.

But part of me can't help but think of what happened to the other persecuted baseball star that James vehemently defended over several pages in his Baseball Abstract and the revelations that have come forth since then. Looking back at those pages now, they seem like a sorry last-ditch attempt to save a great baseball player and hero to many from the shame he brought upon himself.

And I can't help but wonder if we'll look back at this Bonds essay a couple years from now in the same sorry manner.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

So How Much Is That Free Agent In The Window?

One thing that always drives me bonkers every year is that when the Elias Sports Bureau releases its player rankings (which in turn determine the free agent compensation), they always list them by league and position (you can find the lists here for both the American and National League). Furthermore they release the rankings for all the major league players rather than just the free agents for this year. Therefore, in order to determine what compensation a team gets you have to sort through multiple lists and non-free agent players which takes time and patience that I don't really possess.

Therefore as a public service to all, I put together complete lists for the Type A, B, and C free agents. They're listed by their Elias Ranking and the number next to their name is their respective ranking at their position. If you want a review of the player compensation rules, I've listed them here.

Why am I interested in this? Well, next Tuesday, the Mets have to decide whether to offer Al Leiter (if he doesn't sign beforehand), Richard Hidalgo, Mike DeJean, and Ricky Bottalico arbitration. If the Mets were to offer all four arbitration and all four ended up signing elsewhere, the Mets could end up with a draft pick bonanza. This, however, is contingent on several things:

1) If a team picks in the first half of the first round, they can't lose their first round pick. In this case, the team gets the second round pick instead. The Mets, with the ninth pick overall this year (scroll way down for the draft order), can't lose their pick no matter who they sign.

2) If a team signs more than one free agent (and loses more than one draft pick), the team with the higher ranked player gets the higher draft pick. Ask BA has a good example of this:

The chronology of the transactions doesn't matter. The Giants signed Omar Vizquel 16 days before they grabbed Armando Benitez. Both are Type A free agents, with Benitez (85.478) outranking Vizquel (66.234). So the Marlins wind up with San Francisco's first-rounder (No. 22 overall) and the Indians got bumped down to the Giants' second-rounder. Florida and Cleveland also receive supplemental first-round choices.

So let's say Florida signs Leiter away from the Mets with the Mets getting compensation. With no other signings, the Mets will then get the Marlins first rounder (16th overall, the highest first rounder they can get) and a supplemental pick.

However let's say that then the Marlins decide to sign Rheal Cormier for the bullpen. Since Cormier (82.431) has a higher ranking than Leiter (82.333), Philadelphia would get the first rounder instead and the Mets would only get their second rounder. Remember these rankings take the past two years and position into consideration. Positions with less depth generally produce higher rankings.

From the first list, you can see all the players ranked above Leiter. Looking at the list, you can see it would much better for the Marlins to sign Leiter rather than the Phillies or the Yankees simply because they are much less likely to sign any of the players listed above him. Richard Hidalgo, who finds himself towards the bottom of the A list, has a much greater chance of producing only a second round pick.

The last thing these lists tell us is the order of the compensation picks at the end of their respective rounds. Therefore, should both teams offer compensation, the Blue Jays would get pick #31 for losing Carlos Delgado while Boston would get pick #32 should the Mets sign Pedro (Boston would also get the Mets second round pick).

So what's the best the Mets can do with draft picks next year? If they offer arbitration to all their free agents, they all end up signing elsewhere, and the Mets get the best possible compensation from their new teams, the Mets could end up with four first round picks (three plus their own), two first round supplementals, and a second round supplemental. Even if the Mets sign two additional Type A free agents (say Carlos Beltran and Richie Sexson), they will still only lose their normal second and third rounders. We're talking Moneyball draft territory here.

In reality, it will probably be a happy medium, with the Mets picking up a first rounder and giving away at least one of their lower rounders. This is what the Hot Stove is all about and it all starts next Tuesday. Woohoo!

2004 Type A Free Agent Rankings

1. Carlos Delgado 98.333
3. Pedro Martinez 94.444
3. Roger Clemens 92.25
6. Carlos Beltran 91.011
4. Edgar Renteria 89.655
5. Adrian Beltre 86.772
5. Russ Ortiz 86.667
8. Magglio Ordonez 85.75
7. Nomar Garciaparra 85.714
8. Armando Benitez 85.478
3. Jason Varitek 85.294
11. Moises Alou 84.719
9. Jeff Kent 83.673
12. J.D. Drew 83.371
10. Placido Polanco 82.653
10. Rheal Cormier 82.431
11. Al Leiter 82.333
13. Brad Radke 80.754
14. Esteban Loaiza 79.861
14. Carl Pavano 78.917
15. David Wells 78.667
16. Woody Williams 78.5
16. Vinny Castilla 76.72
14. Wilson Alvarez 76.693
15. Ugueth Urbina 76.366
20. Steve Finley 75.73
17. Dan Miceli 75.599
13. Orlando Cabrera 75.325
7. Damian Miller 74.79
18. Matt Morris 74.167
20. Kevin Millwood 73.833
7. Mike Matheny 72.973
15. Corey Koskie 72.222
26. Richard Hidalgo 72.135
20. Troy Percival 71.46
22. Scott Williamson 70.754
30. Edgar Martinez 70
26. Steve Kline 69.684
28. Odalis Perez 69
31. Matt Mantei 68.678
33. Jeromy Burnitz 68.315
25. Derek Lowe 68.254
26. Chris Hammond 68.19
34. Richie Sexson 68.148
37. Cal Eldred 67.14
22. Royce Clayton 66.502
21. Omar Vizquel 66.234
38. Kent Mercker 66.223
24. M. Grudzielanek 65.306
25. Tony Batista 64.815
22. Miguel Cairo 64.532
40. Jaret Wright 63.946
43. D. Hermanson 62.94
44. Paul Shuey 62.762
35. Jeff Nelson 62.282

2004 Type B Free Agent Rankings

34. Cory Lidle 65.333
35. Matt Clement 65.083
40. Tino Martinez 64.167
27. Barry Larkin 64.039
29. Rich Aurilia 63.054
32. Todd Walker 62.245
43. B.J. Surhoff 62
36. Ron Villone 61.315
34. Deivi Cruz 60.837
38. Terry Adams 60.089
27. Roberto Alomar 59.606
47. A. Alfonseca 59.184
48. Mike DeJean 59.154
28. Cristian Guzman 59.091
30. Eric Young 58.374
41. Chris Carpenter 58.333
52. Antonio Osuna 57.616
43. Curtis Leskanic 57.414
53. Steve Reed 57.025
51. John Olerud 56.667
12. Dan Wilson 55.882
33. Jose Valentin 55.844
44. Paul Wilson 55.833
44. Hideo Nomo 55.833
53. Juan Gonzalez 55.75
37. Alex Gonzalez 55.665
55. Danny Bautista 55.506
13. Greg Myers 55.462
38. Jon Lieber 54.563
59. Elmer Dessens 54.333
52. Esteban Yan 54.143
16. Todd Pratt 54.054
38. Jose Hernandez 53.695
17. Brent Mayne 53.668
51. Jose Lima 53.667
42. O. Hernandez 53.571
61. Gabe White 53.327
14. Doug Mirabelli 53.151
41. Robin Ventura 52.381
42. Craig Counsell 52.217
55. Ismael Valdez 52.167
64. Dave Burba 51.878
66. Chad Fox 51.464
16. Gregg Zaun 51.05
69. Jose Mesa 49.926
71. Todd Jones 49.364
18. Brook Fordyce 48.319

2004 Type C Free Agent Rankings

53. Eric Milton 53.083
38. Desi Relaford 52.709
61. Julio Franco 51.852
56. Shawn Estes 51.417
57. Kris Benson 51.167
63. T. Hollandsworth 50.112
61. Jim Mecir 49.238
62. John Halama 48.867
75. Ricky Bottalico 48.388
65. John Mabry 48.315
76. R. Hernandez 48.24
63. Al Levine 47.938
65. Bob Wickman 47.306
19. Sandy Alomar Jr. 47.059
68. Ben Grieve 46.742
22. Todd Greene 46.332
41. Troy Glaus 46.032
47. R. E. Martinez 45.813
72. Jermaine Dye 45.75
23. Mike Redmond 44.981
83. Todd Van Poppel 44.928
48. Tony Womack 44.898
86. Rudy Seanez 44.366
75. Travis Lee 43.333
49. Aaron Sele 43.254
71. Carlos Baerga 42.963
20. Henry Blanco 40.546

The Army Of The Twelve Rally Monkeys

I meant to post this NY Daily News article the other day but problems with Blogger prevented me from doing so:

Still disturbed by the Boston Red Sox's Curse-ending success, Yankee fans now have to put up with seeing a likeness of Beantown sparkplug Johnny Damon on lampposts in Brooklyn.

A stenciled image of the long-haired outfielder with a red B on his cap has been popping up across Carroll Gardens, driving Bomber fans bananas.

This gave me a wonderful morning pickup the other day. It would have been even sweeter if this was in the Bronx but I can imagine even this ballsy artist has his or her limits.