August 20, 2002

News and notes

Random thoughts while wondering if my beloved 2002 Twins will turn into the 1994 Expos...


My uncle had a really good friend that pitched for the Univerity of Minnesota (the school that I now attend) years ago and spent some time in the Expos' minor league system in the late 70s, before blowing his arm out.

When I was a kid, probably like 11 or 12, I was playing catch with him one day (it was really fun, he thew sub-marine style and really fast) and I asked him who the best player he ever played with was.

He immediately said Rock Raines.

I didn't know who Rock Raines was (I was just a kid and not yet the total baseball geek that I am today).

He explained to me that Tim Raines' nickname was "Rock."

I asked why and he said, basically, that Tim Raines had a head filled with rocks.

Since then, I have seen Raines play on TV and have heard him refererred to, many times, by Expos or Marlins announcers as Rock Raines.

A couple of times the announcers went so far as to explain the nickname.

They said, basically, that Tim Raines has always been in great shape, his body is like a rock.

I, of course, know the real reason for the nickname.

I suspect the announcers do to, but you aren't likely to hear this on a Marlins' telecast:

"Tim "Rock" Raines steps to the plate...he is hitting .257 on the know, they call Tim "Rock" because he is a complete idiot...Raines takes the first pitch for a strike..."

As for Rock as a player?

Well, he was pretty great.

In fact, I believe Tim Raines is one of the most under-rated players of the last 20-30 years.

He played for the Expos, which didn't help him get noticed and his game was getting on base and scoring runs, not hitting homers and driving in runs, which usually gets someone noticed.

Also, he was only the 2nd best guy at doing the things he did, because there was a guy named Henderson who got on base a little bit and stole some bases.

Tim Raines broke into the majors in 1979, at the age of 19, playing in 6 games, stealing 2 bases and not batting a single time.

In 1980 Raines got another small taste of the bigs, playing 15 games, stealing 5 bases and actually getting to the plate 27 times.

In 1981 Raines, 21, was up for good.

He had 313 at bats and hit .304/.391/.438 with 71 steals.

A 21 year old, in his first season in the majors, hitting .300 with good plate discipline (45 walks in 313 ABs) and stealing almost a base per game (71 SB in 88 G).

Wow. That is what I would call a star in the making.

And he was.

Starting in 1981 and lasting for 18 straight seasons, Tim Raines had an on-base % over .350.

And, most of the time, it was way over .350.

Included in the streak were on-base percentages of: .391, .393, .393, .405, .413, .429, .395, .379, .380, .401, .374, .383, .403 and .395.

The 18 year streak was ended in 1999 when he had an OBP of only .337.

Raines retired after that season because he was suffering from lupus.

He took a year off and then came back last season with the Expos, hitting .303/.413/.449 at the age of 41.

This year, Raines has struggled and he announced that this will be his final season.

Although he is still getting on base a lot (.360 OBP), he is hitting only .179 and slugging just .269.

He has only started 2 games all season and has only 67 at bats.

I still think, given some at bats for a veteran team in need of a 4th outfielder, Raines could be having a productive season, sort of like that Henderson guy I mentioned earlier.

In 5 years when the time comes to vote, I hope Tim Raines is elected to the Hall of Fame.

I think it might be a struggle, especially on the first try, but he absolutely deserves it.

Lieberthal's deal...

The Phillies recently agreed to a 3-year contact extension with catcher Mike Lieberthal.

The contract is for $22.25 million, or about $7.5 million a season.

For those of you who don't remember, I wrote an entry a while ago about Darin Erstad's 4-year contract extension with the Angels, which was worth $32 million, or $8 million per season.

Basically, I thought (and still think) that the Erstad deal, while certainly not a great signing, was a decent one.

If I had a team with a mid-sized payroll, which the Angels (15th in payroll this season) do, I would not be against signing Darin Erstad for $8 million a season, for 4 years.

That said, I think the Mike Lieberthal signing is a pretty bad one.

There are some obvious similarities between the two situations.

The Phillies, like the Angels, have a mid-size payroll (17th this season).

And the contract, like Erstad's is for about $8 million a season.

So, you might asking, "Why do you think one signing is good and the other is bad if they are so similar?"

Well, I am glad you asked...

The Angels signed a player who played in 157 games in 2000 and 157 games in 2001, to a 4 year contract that covers his age 29, 30, 31 and 32 seasons.

The Phillies signed a player who played in 108 games in 2000 and 34 games in 2001, to a 3 year contract that covers his age 31, 32 and 33 seasons.

The kicker is, and I haven't mentioned it yet mostly for dramatic effect, Mike Lieberthal is a catcher.

So, as bad I think signing any player who has played in 108 games in 2000 and 34 games in 2001 to a contract that pays him until he is 33 is, it is exponentially worse to do so with a catcher.

All that said, Mike Lieberthal is having a nice (and pretty healthy) year and when he isn't injured, he is a good hitter.

But, he has shown the ability to not stay healthy and he is already on the wrong side of 30, which is bad for any player, but even worse for an oft-injured catcher.

More on Burnett...

I already vented my anger on this topic already, so I will try to be brief. A.J. Burnett is likely out for the season and there are some interesting quotes coming from various Marlins.

First and foremost...

"We would never do anything to hurt him. With the future the guy's got? No way." - Marlins' "manager" Jeff Torborg.

I already touched on this quote yesterday, in great detail, but basically, they did almost everything to hurt him.

Specifically huge pitch counts and unnecessary complete games, which add up to him being, at only 25 years old, one of the most abused pitchers in baseball.

And then this one...

"We didn't see this coming. He has been a workhorse all year. He has been terrific." - Marlins' GM Larry Beinfest.

This quote just made me angrier.

It is almost as if the Marlins' think that the very things that likely caused Burnett to become injured (pitching long into games and being a "workhorse") are things that should have prevented him from getting hurt.

Which is like saying, "We didn't see this coming. Joe got drunk and drove home every night and never had a problem. He is a great drunk driver."

A.J. Burnett constantly throwing tons of pitches and being a "workhorse" are what caused his injury, not what should have prevented it.

Just like a guy getting drunk every night and driving are what caused the car crash, not what should have prevented it.

See, now I am all worked up again...

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