November 30, 2003

Not So Gleeman-Length Thoughts

He cannot tell a lie

Remember last month, when Jonah Keri of Baseball Prospectus did an interview with San Diego General Manager Kevin Towers?

I wrote an entry on this blog after reading the interview because I was so impressed with it. Here's a little bit of what I said at the time:

"Towers' responses were incredibly thoughtful and intelligent and I was extremely impressed by the honestly and bluntness he showed. He didn't dance around questions or speak in double-talk, he answered everything directly and actually gave insight into the organization's thoughts and plans."

In particular, I was impressed by Towers' response when asked about what the Padres were planning to do at catcher next season:

"I'll say that we're looking at two or three guys on other clubs, two AL guys, one NL guy. All three play for three of the eight playoff clubs."

Then, later in the interview, Towers said:

"I'm hoping that the trade I was talking about that may bring that catcher may also open up an outfield spot to let Nady play every day."

Well, the Padres and A's finally completed the deal that sent Mark Kotsay to Oakland for Ramon Hernandez and Terrence Long and I'd say Kevin Towers is looking even more honest and more forthcoming than he did originally, if that's possible.

They traded for a catcher, just like he said they would. The catcher was from a playoff-team, just like he said he would be. And the trade clears an outfield spot for Xavier Nady, just like he said it would.

I have never met Kevin Towers and Baseball Prospectus' interview with him is probably one of the only times I have seen him quoted in great length, but I've got say, I found his interview to be extremely interesting back in October and now that I see how his plans unfolded, I admire his honesty. Of course, whether or not being that forthcoming in an interview is a good thing or not for the GM of a baseball team is debatable, although it definitely makes for good reading.

I'd also love to hear his honest and forthcoming answer to the question of just how bad a starting outfield of Ryan Klesko, Brian Giles and Xavier Nady is going to be defensively.

Sheff to the Yanks

It sounds as though Gary Sheffield and the Yankees have all but agreed upon a three-year deal. The immediate reaction from many people seems to be that New York is making a mistake, mostly because Sheffield does nothing to solve their defensive problems up the middle.

I certainly agree that the Yankees middle-infield and middle-outfield situations are pretty bad on the defensive end. That said, Sheffield is one of the best hitters in baseball and adding his bat to the lineup is going to be a massive improvement over the production New York got from their right fielders last year (.256/.317/.465).

And really, what is the difference if you are improving a team by 50 runs on offense or 50 runs on defense? It's the same 50 runs. Actually, I don't think that's completely true, but you get the general idea. And improving the team by 50 runs on defense would probably require more than just signing one player, which is all they had to do to improve the offense that much.

As of late Sunday night, ESPN.com is saying that Sheffield will sign for three years and "$36 million to $38 million." Seeing those numbers reminded me of what I wrote about Sheffield when I previewed all of the free agents last month:

"If I were running a team with an opening if left or right field I would love to sign [Sheffield] for something like three years and $32-35 million."

Who would have guessed that the Yankees and I thought so similarly?

Meanwhile, the Royals re-signed Joe Randa, Brian Anderson and Curtis Leskanic. Leskanic and Randa signed for 2004 with options for 2005 and Anderson signed for both years.

The trio will make over $8 million next year and Anderson alone will make over $3 million in 2005. For a team that is about six months away from complaining about "not being able" to keep Carlos Beltran, these re-signings strike me as bad moves.

I mean really, Brian Anderson for $3.25 million a year? He had a nice year last season, but it wasn't that great (3.78 ERA in 197.2 IP) and he has a career ERA of 4.58. And Joe Randa for $3.75 million? Again, he had a decent year (.291/.348/.452), but he's been thoroughly mediocre for years.

When it comes to "small-market" teams, I am a big believer in not paying for mediocrity. That means not giving $3 million a year to a pitcher who isn't even a good bet to have an ERA under 4.00 and not paying $3.75 million to a league-average third baseman.

I would much rather pay Carlos Beltran what he's worth and patch together cheaper alternatives to guys like Anderson, Randa and Leskanic. When you have a limited budget, you have to pick and choose what you're going to pay for. Lots of teams can sign mediocre guys for a few million a year to fill holes. The Kansas City Royals aren't one of them.

How to ruin a great song

I was flipping channels on Friday night when I stopped on NBC and saw the great Al Green singing "Let's stay together." Al is getting up there in age at this point, but I am a huge fan of his and it is a great song. Then, a moment later, just as I was starting to enjoy the song, Justin Timberlake enters the picture. Apparently I was watching "Justin Timberlake: Down Home in Memphis."

But okay, I'm a big enough Al Green fan that I figured I could stomach a little Justin Timberlake too. So, for the next few minutes I watched in horror, as Al and Justin sang the song together. They basically just alternated, each singing a couple of lines or a few high-pitched "squeals."

I have to say that if ever you have any doubt about whether or not someone is a great singer/musician/performer, put them on stage with Justin Timberlake. A 58-year old Al Green put him to shame. It sounded as if Al Green had gone to a karaoke bar and decided to do a duet with the guy who could hit the highest note in the place.

When Al Green squeals and does all the weird stuff with his voice during a song, it sounds cool. When Justin Timberlake does it, it just sounds weird. And what kind of bizarro world are we living in where Al Green gets invited on stage to do a cameo appearance on Justin Timberlake's national television special?

Quote of the Year:

FOX NFL announcer Joe Buck, as Rams kicker Jeff Wilkins lined up for a short field goal in the first quarter against Minnesota yesterday afternoon:

"Wilkins has been as valuable as any Ram this year."

For those of you who aren't huge NFL fans, let me just tell you that it is impossible for a kicker to have been as valuable as "any" player on the team. And I don't care how many emails I get from former kickers or mothers of kickers - it is a fact. Kickers can be good. Kickers can be valuable. But kickers cannot be as valuable as any other player on the team, no matter how good the kicker and no matter how bad the team.

In this case, Wilkins plays on the same team as Torry Holt, a wide receiver who is on-pace to set the all-time NFL record for receiving yards in a season.

I don't really want to simply pick on Joe Buck here (although that was an incredibly ridiculous statement), but instead I want to point out what seems to be a growing trend in sports today. More and more announcers lately have taken to proclaiming more and more undeserving players the "MVPs" of teams.

In basketball it will be some guy on a great team who comes off the bench and averages five points and four rebounds per game while playing good defense and "hustling." In baseball it's usually some left fielder who joins a team at mid-season and hits relatively well while the team wins lots of games. In football it is apparently a kicker who plays for a team with a great offense, thus allowing him to rack up tons of points.

What is so wrong with just saying someone is good? Or that they are underrated? Or that they are very valuable? Why must people resort to such hyperbole and exaggeration? Robert Horry was not the MVP of the Lakers during their three-peat. Shannon Stewart was not the MVP of the American League, let alone the Minnesota Twins. And for the love of God, Jeff Wilkins is not as valuable as any other player on the St. Louis Rams.

Happily ever after

Congratulations to Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren, who got engaged to be married over Thanksgiving. Actually, congrats mostly to Tiger, because...well...



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