November 20, 2002

News and notes

Sorry about the lack of a column yesterday.

I had a very hectic/busy/exciting day.

I actually managed to get to bed at a somewhat normal hour, which is very rare for me.

After I got up, I went to my classes for the day.

And after the classes...I had an interview at The Minnesota Daily, which is "An Independent Student Newspaper at the University of Minnesota."

I am pretty confident that the interview went well.

I was asked who my favorite writers were and I responded, "Rob Neyer, Bill James..." and was met with a blank look of non-recognition by the Sports Editor.

Not a big deal, but I guess I won't be receiving any sabermetric special treatment!

So, depending on whether or not I was as nice and charming as I think I was today, I might be working for "The Nation's Largest, Entirely Student Run College Newspaper," which would be a pretty big deal in my life.

Of course, I will keep all of my loyal readers updated.

Back to baseball...

I got a lot of emails regarding my last entry about the Royals releasing Neifi Perez.

I really enjoy getting feedback, positive, negative and in-between, about what I write on this website.

So thanks to everyone that emailed me about Neifi, I am glad you (generally) really liked the entry.

Loyal reader "Rick S." notified me last night that we already have a winner in the "Who signs Neifi contest."

For those of you not familar with this important topic, here is what I wrote in the column:

"I guarantee a team will sign Neifi Perez this off-season, which will give us a chance to see which of the GMs belongs in the group with Allard Baird.

Let's call it the "Cam Bonifay Club For Bad GMs" or "CBCFBGMs" for short.

I am pretty confident the GM that decides he needs an appointment with the Worst Doctor In The World is not going to be mine (Terry Ryan) and I only hope, for your sake, that it isn't yours either."

Well, I was right, my GM wasn't interested in Neifi.

Amazingly enough though, a General Manager that I actually think is a pretty good one claimed Neifi Perez off waivers today.

In an effort to surround The Best Player in the History of the World with the worst possible teammates, Giants GM Brian Sabean brought Neifi Perez on board with the NL Champs.

This situation isn't exactly what I was hoping for and I don't think we have a new member of the "CBCFBGMs."

I envisioned a GM signing Neifi to a 2 or 3 year deal for a few million bucks and immediately naming him the starting shortstop.

Sabean put an end to all of that by claiming Neifi and immediately making him, at best, a back up infielder.

And really, having Neifi Perez as a cheap back up infielder isn't such a horrible idea.

He is still a decent defensive shortstop that can also play second base and having him back up a full-time, everyday shortstop like Rich Aurilia isn't going to hurt the Giants too much.

Unless Neifi is in Sabean's plans as Jeff Kent's replacement at second base...

So, our potential fun has been squashed (I think) and we don't have a new member in the CBCFBGMs club - yet.

Fear not, there will be plenty of idiotic moves yet to come this off-season.

Some other minor transactions (apparently a lot of you guys - or at least the ones that email me - really enjoy my breakdowns of the most minor of transactions)...

The Red Sox signed Julio Zuleta to a minor league contract.

And thus, The Bill James Era begins! (just joking)

Juilo Zuleta is a nice signing for a team that didn't have very good production at first base for much of last season.

Zuleta had been stuck playing for the Cubs' AAA team (Iowa Cubs) for 2 straight seasons and was actually all signed to go play in Japan this year before injuries ended that plan.

So instead of Japan, Zuleta was back to Iowa for a 3rd season in AAA.

While at AAA, he did what he normally does, which is hit:

2002 (AAA) = .293/.362/.550 with 31 homers in 444 at bats.

Zuleta doesn't draw very many walks, but he hits for a good average and hits for excellent power.

2001 (AAA) = .308/.348/.541 in 146 ABs.

2000 (AAA) = .311/.372/.579 in 392 ABs.

1999 (AA) = .295/.361/.519 in 482 ABs.

Somewhere in there Zuleta managed to play in 79 games for the Cubs.

Here are his Major League stats:

.247/.310/.466 with 9 homers and 11 doubles in 174 ABs.

174 ABs is a small sample size, but I think that is pretty close to the level Zuleta will hit for if given a semi-everyday chance in the Majors.

His Major League Equivalencies (MLEs) for the last 4 years in the minors:

2002 = .262/.326/.469

2001 = .276/.304/.468

2000 = .279/.324/.496

1999 = .272/.318/.467

Those are pretty consistent numbers.

A first baseman/DH that hits .270/.320/.475 isn't going to remind anyone of Jason Giambi, but he could be a useful stopgap for a team that spent much of last season watching Tony Clark hit .207/.265/.291 as their first baseman.

Zuleta is a right handed hitter, so I suspect he has a good chance to be one half of a first base platoon with left handed hitting Brian Daubach, which would be a productive duo.

San Diego gave Damian Jackson his unconditional release.

Jackson wasn't really needed by the Tigers because they have gone and locked up about 3 or 4 mediocre infielders (Easley, Paquette, Halter, etc) to long term contracts and also have a couple of decent, young prospects that need playing time.

So, Damian Jackson is a free agent and, while he won't be getting any big time offers, he could be a nice spare part for several teams.

One of the teams that could use Damian Jackson is my very own Minnesota Twins.

As anyone who has been a reader of this website for any significant length of time knows, I am not really happy with the Twins current second baseman, Luis Rivas.

I have discussed Rivas in great length several times here and other places, so I won't bore everyone with more of that.

I will however say that Damian Jackson would make a very nice backup infielder for both Rivas and shortstop Cristian Guzman.

Here are Jackson's stats for the past few seasons:

2002 = .257/.320/.359 (245 ABs)

2001 = .241/.316/.343 (440 ABs)

2000 = .255/.345/.377 (470 ABs)

1999 = .224/.320/.356 (388 ABs)

Basically, Jackson is good for about .250/.320/.350 or so with some good defense at both middle infield positions.

He also has some good speed on the bases (101 career steals with only 26 caught stealing).

Damian Jackson is nothing special, but he hits pretty much like Luis Rivas does and his defense at second base would be a huge improvement.

I wouldn't mind seeing him as the second back up infielder (behind Denny "I am worth $1 million a year" Hocking).

Tampa Bay released Ryan Rupe.

Before I say anything about Ryan Rupe, it should be noted that I have him on one of my Diamond-Mind keeper league teams.

I think Ryan Rupe has the ability to be a good Major League starting pitcher and his chances of doing so probably just got a lot better, despite being released.

The Devil Rays might be moving in a new direction with the hiring of Lou Piniella, but I would still rather be a young pitcher in just about any other organization.

Rupe has pitched 467 ML innings and has a 5.84 ERA, but there are some signs that he could be a productive pitcher.

He has always had a pretty good strike out rate.

This year he struck out 6.7/9 innings and for his MLB career he has also struck out 6.7/9.

Rupe also has rapidly improving control.

His walks allowed per 9 innings have dropped in each of his Major League seasons, from 3.6 in 1999 to 3.1 in 2000 to 3.0 in 2001 to 2.5 this year.

Ryan Rupe's biggest problem has always been and probably will continue to be his homerific tendencies.

In his 467 Major League innings he has allowed 77 homers, which is almost in Jose Lima territory.

Ryan Rupe has been hurt by some bad Tampa Bay defense and probably some not-so-great Tampa Bay coaching.

If he can latch on to another organization I think he can become a solid back of the rotation starter, and if he ever solves his home run problems, he could be very good.

Speaking of my Diamond-Mind keeper league team...

The Minnesota Gophers advanced to the American League Championship series in the "Three Run Homer League."

After losing the first 2 games of the series, the Gophers responded by winning the next 4 to take the series 4 games to 2.

Next up for the cinderella story Gophers is a matchup with one of the 2 100+ win teams.

As always, I will keep everyone updated (whether you like it or not!).

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