December 11, 2002

Ray Durham, Charlie Hustle, Les Expos and why the Brewers are still stupid

While I have been busy writing Hall of Fame articles, a lot of stuff happened, so let's jump right in...

San Francisco signed Ray Durham to a 3 year deal worth about $20 million.

At the beginning of the off-season, I discussed my thoughts about the 3 big second basemen on the market - Jeff Kent, Ray Durham and Edgardo Alfonzo.

Click here if you want to read the original entry.

Here is what I had to say back on November 22nd:

Jeff Kent |2B| Age: 34, Edgardo Alfonzo |3B/2B| Age: 29, Ray Durham |2B| Age: 31

Welcome to our little game of "Musical Second Basemen."

The way I see, there are 4 main factors involved in decided who the best option for a team is among these 3 second basemen.

1) Cost

2) Age/Health

3) Offense

4) Defense

I would guess that their respective prices will go like this:

1) Jeff Kent

2) Edgardo Alfonzo

3) Ray Durham

As long as we are ranking them like that, let's go ahead and do the other 3 factors...


1) Ray Durham

2) Edgardo Alfonzo

3) Jeff Kent

Alfonzo is actually the youngest of the 3, but he has had some fairly serious problems with his back, which is never good.

Durham is younger than Kent and has played in 150+ games in each of the last 7 seasons.

Jeff Kent is the oldest of the 3, but, aside from motorcycle accidents, he has been very durable, playing in 152, 159 and 159 games over the last 3 years.

I think Durham is head and shoulders above the other 2 as far as age/health are concerned and even though Kent is much older than Alfonzo, Edgardo's injury concerns make them a lot closer in this category.


1) Jeff Kent

2) Edgardo Alfonzo

3) Ray Durham

Kent gets the nod here and it isn't even close.

His average EqA over the last 3 seasons is .320 and his lowest total in that span is .304.

Alfonzo's EqA in for the last 3 seasons is .297 and it includes a .260 EqA in 2001.

Durham's 3-year average EqA is .288 and that is basically the general level of performance he has shown his entire career.


1) Ray Durham

2) Edgardo Alfonzo

3) Jeff Kent

Most people would probably have Alfonzo at #1 and Durham at #2, but I think that is going more on "reputation" and past performance than it is on current abilities.

Alfonzo has a reputation as a great defensive 2B, but a) he didn't play 2B at all this season and b) when he did play 2B, in 1999-2001, he wasn't really that great statistically.

Baseball Prospectus shows him as -7, -2 and -7 runs defensively at second base compared to the "average" 2B during those 3 seasons.

From personal observations, I think Alfonzo was a pretty good defensive 2B, but he has had back problems and an entire year away from the position, so I don't think he can be considered great anymore and maybe never should have been.

BP shows Ray Durham as +5 this season and +7 and -1 in 2001 and 2000.

As a Twins fan I watched Ray Durham play a lot while he was in the Central Division and I think he is a pretty solid defender at 2B.

Oakland used him as a DH this year, but I think that had more to do with Mark Ellis and them not knowing whether or not Durham was going to be on the team in the future than it did Durham's defense.

BP shows Jeff Kent as +12 this season and +11 and +/- 0 in 2001 and 2000.

From personal observations I find it hard to believe Kent has been +12 and +11 the past 2 years.

In his career prior to 2001, he basically hovered around being even (+/- 0).

It is possible that Kent has improved with age and experience, but I am skeptical at best.

All 3 of these guys are definitely solid defensive second basemen.

I don't think any of them are Gold Glove caliber, but they are all pretty good.

To recap our little ranking system:

Jeff Kent is: the most expensive / worst age/health / best offensive player / worst defensive player

Edgardo Alfonzo is: 2nd most expensive / 2nd in age/health / 2nd best offensive player / 2nd best defensive player

Ray Durham is: the least expensive / best age/healthy / 3rd best offensive player / best defensive player

If I were running a team (and just to remind everyone - I am not) I think I would go after Ray Durham.

He is incredibly consistant and durable, he plays good defense, is a solid offensive player and he is likely the cheapest of the 3, possibly by a wide margin.

Jeff Kent will have the most impact on a ballclub and is the best player of the 3, but he is probably going to be very expensive and he is getting up there in years, which is not a real good thing for a middle infielder.

For a contending, veteran ballclub with no major financial limitations, Kent would be a good choice.

Edgardo Alfonzo is probably more reasonably priced than Jeff Kent and he is the youngest of the 3, but back injuries worry me and I am not very confident in his defense at 2B at this point.

Give me a good ballclub with a decent sized payroll and I would rank them, all things (age, money, performance) considered:

1) Ray Durham

2) Jeff Kent

3) Edgardo Alfonzo

Just to make myself clear: I am not saying I would rather have Ray Durham than Jeff Kent. I am saying that when taking their salaries and ages into account, I would rather make a commitment to Ray Durham as my second baseman. Got it?

The key thing in there (in case you skimmed it) was:

Give me a good ballclub with a decent sized payroll and I would rank them, all things (age, money, performance) considered:

1) Ray Durham

2) Jeff Kent

3) Edgardo Alfonzo

And that is exactly what the Giants are, a "good ballclub with a decent sized payroll."

In other words, a definite contender that does not have an unlimited budget.

I think Ray Durham is a great signing for the Giants.

He gives them some on-base abilities at the top of the lineup, which they so desperately need and (if he stays at 2B) he gives them a good defensive second baseman, who is durable and consistently very good at the plate.

Plus, he was "only" $7 mill a year, which (I think) will be a lot less than Kent eventually signs for and probably less than Alfonzo gets too.

The Giants also offered arbitration to Jeff Kent.

Kent is an expensive free agent being courted by other teams AND the Giants just signed a very good second baseman.

Normally offering someone arbitration in this type of situation just means that Kent is going to decline it and the Giants just want to make sure they get some draft picks from whichever club signs Kent.

But, I have heard some rumblings that the G-Men are still trying to work something out with Kent and may actually end up going to arbitration with him, meaning Kent would be back for another year (at least).

That scenario could mean several things:

1) Kent continues to play 2B and Durham moves to CF or RF.

2) Kent goes to 3B and Durham continues to play 2B.

3) Kent goes to 1B, Durham continues to play 2B and the Giants take J.T. Snow out back and shoot him.

I am not sure if I am just giving too much credit to center fielders for how hard it is to be a good one or not, but I just can't assume that Durham would be even a decent center fielder.

So, if I were running the Giants and I had both Kent and Durham, I would play Kent at 3B and Durham at 2B.

That way, you are basically just replacing David Bell with Ray Durham, which is absolutely, without a doubt an upgrade and a pretty big one at that.

I am not sure how Kent would handle 3B, but I would rather take a chance with him there than I would with Durham in center field.

Plus, playing Kent at 3B and not 1B still allows for the possibility of finding another decent 1B, which is a heck of a lot easier than finding a decent 3B.

A SF lineup with Durham and Kent in it would be pretty damn good.

I envision something like this:

1) Durham - 2B

2) Aurilia - SS

3) Superman - LF

4) Kent - 3B

5) Santiago - C

6) Snow - 1B

7) Grissom - CF

8) ??? - RF

A couple of things...

Felipe Alou might choose to follow Dusty Baker and bat Kent before Bonds, but I think that would be a mistake.

Marquis Grissom as a full-time center fielder - playing defense and hitting against right handers - will be a major problem.

Who will the Giants trot out in right field?

If Durham moves to center, I think Grissom would play RF, but if Durham stays in the infield, who plays in right?

I would guess some combination of Marvin Benard (in CF, with Grissom moving to RF) or Tony Torcato, but I could be way off.

Also, since we are talking about Felipe Alou here, you have to at least consider that he might put Grissom in the #2 spot in the lineup, just because he used to be fast when Felipe originally managed him in Montreal.

Whatever they end up doing with the bottom half of the lineup, a top 4 of Durham, Aurilia, Bonds and Kent (or Kent and Bonds) will score a ton of runs, especially if Aurilia is closer to his 2001 than his 2002.

Of course, this all can only happen if Kent is a Giant next year, which isn't exactly a certainty.

I also read that San Fran is shopping Russ Ortiz around for a right fielder with some pop.

Two names I have heard so far are J.D. Drew and Brian Giles.

First of all, if Pirates GM Dave Littlefield is dumb enough to even consider trading Giles for Ortiz he should be fired and banned from GMing ever again (or at least sent to Kansas City).

I actually think Littlefield is a pretty good GM, so I don't believe that rumor one bit.

There is a much better chance of Walt Jocketty giving up Drew for Ortiz.

If I were the Giants I would do that quicker than you can say "ripoff."

Ortiz is a nice pitcher, but his stats look real pretty because of Pac Bell, so his value is higher than it should be.

Plus, I think Drew still has a chance to be an elite player.

And, the Giants have a ton of good arms in the minors, some of whom are ready to play in the Majors right now.

As with the Kent related speculation, it is, after all, just speculation.

But, I like Barry and I like the Giants, so I can hope. Can't I?

In other, non-Giants news...

My readers like to try to start trouble.

Yes, you!

Yesterday I mentioned that I do not like to get involved in any Pete Rose discussion, because it frustrates me to no end.

And guess what? I got like 50 emails from people asking me to say something about Rose.

Okay, I'll say something, but this is it (and I mean it this time!):

A lot is being made about whether or not Pete Rose will publicly admit to gambling on baseball games.

If he is guilty, I would certainly like to see him admit it, but the bigger issue is this:

If someone is guilty of a crime, what does them admitting that guilt have to do with anything?!

I just don't get it.

Either Rose is guilty or he isn't.

If he isn't guilty, he doesn't deserve to be punished.

If he is guilty, he does derserved to be punished.

Why would him admitting his guilt change a single thing?

Before the lawyers all start emailing me...

Yes, I understand that people often plead "guilty" and are given lesser penalties, but that doesn't mean I agree with it.

Either he did it or he didn't, I don't really care if he admits it to me or not.

See what I mean?

I didn't even really get into the "meat" of the issue and I am already sick of talking about it.

I think it is best for all involved if I just stick to things related to on-field issues.

Plus, John Perricone over at "Only Baseball Matters" has plenty of Rose-related discussion going on and he is way better at the Rose-talk than I am.

The Brewers declined to offer Jose Hernandez arbitration (making him a free agent) and then signed Royce Clayton.

There is no doubt in my mind that this deal was done for one reason and one reason only: the fact that Jose Hernandez strikes out a lot.

Apparently the Brewers would much rather have a guy playing shortstop that simply cannot hit than one that can hit, but strikes out a lot.

I guess weak groundballs to second base are their preferred method of making outs for their shortstops.

Meanwhile, Jose Hernandez was their best player in 2002 and the best shortstop in the National League.

He hit .288/.356/.478 with 24 homers and 24 doubles in 152 games.

And he struck out 188 times, which apparently means more than anything else.

So, the Brewers gave $2 million bucks to Royce Clayton.

But guess what?

Not only can't Royce Clayton hit, he strikes out a lot too!

He is nowhere near Hernandez's level, but Clayton struck out 67 times in only 342 at bats this year and is a very good bet to K 100+ times if given 500+ at bats.

This is the reason that the Brewers stink and will continue to stink for the near future.

They get rid of their best player - the best SS in the NL - because he strikes out too much and they replace him by signing a horrible player for $2 million dollars.

It is actually amazing to me the lack of attention Hernandez is getting on the free agent market.

The guy had an awesome season.

Don't believe me?

Check out these numbers for 2 Major League shortstops in 2002:

Player        AVG      OBP      SLG     HR     2B

Player A .308 .354 .508 34 30
Player Z .288 .356 .478 24 24

Player A was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League and Player Z just got released by the Brewers.

Baseball is a funny game sometimes.

There is a lot of talk about the Expos being ordered to cut payroll by MLB and possibly shopping Bartolo Colon or (gasp!) even Vlad Guerrero.

If they need to cut some payroll and end up trading Colon I have no problem with that (assuming they get some decent prospects back).

But, if they end up trading Guerrero, I think MLB should just shut them down instead of going on with this farce any longer.

Vlad Guerrero is young, great and a fan favorite.

If the Expos have to get rid of him to cut payroll, then what is the point of them being in existance any longer?

Let's say they do get rid of him and cut payroll way down.

What would be their goal in the next few years?

One of them would be to develop a young star around whom they can build around.

Gues what? They already have that and his name is Vladdy.

Developing another Vlad Guerrero would be very very tough to do AND if the eventual outcome of actually beating the odds and developing another young star would just lead to them having to meet payroll again by dealing him, then what is the f@#%ing point?

An amazing amount of "statheads" are from Canada.

If you don't believe me, just head over to and check out how many "favOUrites" you see people say (yep, the easiest way to spot a Canadian is to ask them to type the word "favorite").

Anyway, I really feel for them because this time last year my team was basically in a similar spot.

At some point, even the biggest Expos fans have got to feel sort of like the owners of a injured race horse.

You love the horse and you desperately want it to return to health, but eventually you have to say goodbye to the horse before it gets too painful for everyone involved.

There is no point in trying to nurse the horse back to health, just so it can hurt itself again and start all over.

Maybe when the Giants take J.T. Snow out back they can take the 'Spos with em.

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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