February 2, 2003
News, commentary, statistical charts and rumors (and ideas for blog entries) delivered right to your email box
One of the things that I enjoy most about this blog is that my readers often make me aware of stories about baseball that I have no knowledge of.
Basically, even a baseball nut like myself can only find so much information on the sport, so I love it when I get an email and someone says, "Hey Aaron...I saw this article in the (insert name of newspaper) and thought you'd be interested."
Another thing I enjoy is that by having this blog, I get to learn about tons of websites that I didn't know about.
Readers email me to tell me about their favorite sites.
Other bloggers email me to let me know what's going on at their site.
New bloggers email me to tell me to check out their new blog.
What does all of this have to do with anything, you ask?
Well, about a week ago I came across a baseball-related service that I had never heard about before and I have to say that I am shocked and saddened that I wasn't aware of it a long time ago.
I signed up for Lee Sinins' "Around the Majors" daily email newsletter and have been extraordinarily impressed with it each day since.
It is jam packed with breaking news, stats, analysis and even humor.
And it is completely free of charge!
Rather than speak in general terms about what type of stuff Lee puts in the newsletter, I want to use the actual newsletter I received Saturday morning as an example.
Here are some snippets of a few of the topics covered in Saturday's "Around the Majors" newsletter, along with my own comments...
"The Astros re-signed Craig Biggio to a 1 year contract extension that will pay him $3 million in 2004 and a team option that will either pay $3 million in 2005 or a $1 million buyout."
Here is some of what I said then:
"Craig Biggio is one of the best players ever to play for the Astros. In his prime, he was among the best second basemen and leadoff hitters in the game. However, he is getting up there in age and has had some injuries in the past couple years. His overall performance, offensively and defensively, has been in a serious decline for a while now.
All of this is why Houston GM Gerry Hunsicker has a very tough decision to make. Biggio is signed for 2003 and he'll play one of the Astros' 3 outfield spots and bat at the top of the order. But, after this season, would you really want to be in the position of paying Biggio (presumably) a large amount of money for several more seasons? I wouldn't.
If I were Gerry Hunsicker, I would bite the bullet and let Biggio play out his deal and leave after the season. If he wants to sign a 1-year deal for a reasonable amount and come back to play in 2004, that's fine. But I would never give out a multi-year deal to a player that is aging as poorly as Biggio is."
From the looks of things, Hunsicker did exactly what I was recommending.
It sounds like he went into negotiations unwilling to give Biggio a big, long-term deal and ended up signing him to a very reasonable 1 year extension, with a buyout for the 2nd year.
Now he's made one of his all-time great players a little happier and he hasn't committed the franchise to a crippling long-term deal to an aging star.
Let's face it, even for a team with a midsized payroll like Houston, $3 million dollars is not going to affect them very much.
If he doesn't play well in 2004, the team can just give him the $1 buyout and make the contract extension (essentially) $4 million for 1 season.
Even if Biggio is a below average outfielder in 2004, $4 million dollars isn't that much more than the going rate for mediocrity.
I think the Astros made a very nice move with Biggio, perhaps a perfect move.
They turned a tough situation into a positive.
They retain one of their best players of all-time and they do it for a very reasonable amount of money and for a very reasonable amount of time.
The fans are happy that Biggio will be back and Biggio is happy that the team was willing to listen to his request for an extension.
Hopefully, come 2004, Biggio is playing well, in which case they would pick up his $3 million dollar option for 2005.
I suspect that he won't be, at which point, hopefully, he'll be willing to step away from the game at the age of 40.
Either way, the 'Stros put off a possible public relations problem for at least another two seasons, which is always a good thing.
"If the Pirates don't sign a veteran CF, Brian Giles says he's interested in returning to the position. According to Giles, "center field is my most comfortable position and left field is probably my least comfortable."
Giles is the Pirates career leaders in OBA (.404), OPS (1.030) and SLG (.604), while he's also the leader in OBA and OPS vs. the league average, but plummets all the way to #2 in SLG vs. average, .001 behind Ralph Kiner (min of 2500 PA for each category)."
A weird thing happened to Brian Giles' defense last season.
Prior to 2002, Giles had always been a decent corner outfielder that occasionally played a little center field and didn't make a complete fool of himself out there.
Something happened in 2002, as Diamond-Mind gave him "POOR" defensive ratings in both center and left field.
The "POOR" center field rating doesn't surprise me, as Giles is 32 years old and has never been anything more than average, at best, in center.
I always considered him an "average" left and right fielder and his ratings from Diamond-Mind in previous years have basically agreed with that.
A player that receives a "POOR" left field rating has to have been truly awful defensively.
Such ratings are usually reserved for big, slow guys that should be DHing, injured players trying to play through the pain, or aging veterans on their last legs.
Defensively, that is not a group you want to have anything to do with.
Let's put those guys into categories, shall we?
Big, slow guys that should be DHing:
Injured players trying to play through the pain:
Aging veterans on their last legs:
Greer could be put into the "aging vet" group and Burks could have gone in all 3 groups, but you get the idea.
Where does Giles fit in?
I am not really sure.
Athletically, he's never going to be compared to anyone very flattering.
To quote the guy from the movie Rudy, "He's five foot nothin, a hundred and nothin."
But, Giles is far from a big plodding oaf, like Jeremy Giambi or Daryle Ward.
He is 32, but if his hitting is any indication, he is far from on his last legs.
So, I am inclined to believe that Giles had some minor injury problems last season that, along with the normal affects of aging, caused him to lose a step (or five) in the outfield.
It'll be interesting to see if he can bounce back in 2003 and play at an "average" level, as he has in the past few years.
As for the Pirates possibly playing him as a full-time CF?
At his best, Giles is a below-average defender in center and at his worst, which he was last year, he is a complete disaster out there, capable of costing a team dozens of runs.
That said, I don't exactly see them as having very many good options.
Last year, 4 guys had 100+ at bats while playing center field for the Pirates: Adam Hyzdu, Chad Hermanson, Rob Mackowiak and Adrian Brown.
That is a list of guys that would make a manager consider putting a good-hitting amputee out in center field, let alone Brian Giles.
The Pirates didn't pick up any center fielders during the off-season, so that group of options doesn't get any better (although Hermanson and Brown are gone, which is like addition by subtraction, I suppose).
They do have a nice center field prospect named Tony Alvarez on the horizon and, knowing the Pirates, they'll probably rush him to the Majors, play him full-time this season and ruin his career.
If I were Lloyd McClendon I would seriously consider just forgetting about outfield defense for this year.
The Pirates aren't going anywhere and they really do not have any center field options that are even remotely decent, so why not try to score as many runs as possible with your 3 outfielders?
My god that is a bad defense, but okay, we knew that.
It'll score some runs though.
Player AB AVG OBP SLG HR 2B BB
Giles 497 .298 .450 .622 38 37 135
Stairs 270 .244 .349 .478 16 15 36
Wilson 368 .264 .355 .443 16 16 32
If you give them everyday playing time, all 3 of those guys are good bets to hit 25+ homers and 25+ doubles.
Stairs can't hit lefties at all, so he'll need a platoon partner, but other than that, just stick those 3 out there and watch the extra base hits pile up...for both teams!
"The Expos re-signed P Joey Eischen to a 1 year, $800,000 contract.
Eischen had a 1.34 ERA/17 RSAA career year in 59 games in 2002. He has a 3.52 career ERA, compared to his league average of 4.32, and 14 RSAA in 154 games."
Joey Eischen signing a 1 year deal with Montreal is really anything but news.
However, for completely obsessed baseball freaks like myself, I like hearing about minor transactions like this one.
Saturday's "ATM" newsletter also included notes about Carlos Baerga signing a minor league deal with Arizona, Paul Rigdon signing a minor league deal with Cleveland and Scott Linebrink signing a minor league deal with Houston.
Basically, all stuff that you normally wouldn't learn of unless you were really looking for it, and even then you'd have a hard time.
But now, I get it all in one nice email that gets dropped into my mailbox every single day.
As for Joey Eischen, I realize a lot of you probably have never even heard of him before and you guys are the upper percentile of baseball freaks.
Joey Eischen is a very important person in my life because he will serve as the "closer" on my Diamond-Mind team next season.
"Joey Eischen is going to be your closer next year?"
Yes, he is.
Remember, DMB uses last year's stats in the current season, so Eischen will be serving as closer and pitching like he did in 2002.
Check out the stats:
Player IP ERA SO BB H HR OAVG
Joey Eischen 54 1.34 51 18 43 1 .224
If you didn't know who those numbers belonged to, you would have no problem believing he was a big time closer, right?
The late-inning fate of the Minnesota Gophers of the Three Run Homer League rests upon the left arm of one Joey Eischen.
I hope it doesn't end up turning out as bad as it sounds!
"The Twins hired Paul Molitor as minor league infield and baserunning coordinator.
Molitor had a .817 career OPS, compared to his league average of .739, and 479 RCAA in 2683 games, from 1978-98."
This strikes me as a very good thing, although I am not entirely sure why.
I like Paul Molitor.
He's a Minnesota boy like me and generally appears to be a great guy (like me?).
Plus, he was a great baseball player (not like me).
When Tom Kelly "retired" and the Twins were working on getting a new manager, Paul Molitor was my choice.
They ended up with Ron Gardenhire and I couldn't be happier (well, almost...FREE BOBBY KIELTY AND JOHAN SANTANA!).
Eventually, I think Molitor will get a job managing at the big league level, although not in Minnesota.
Until then, I think it is a good idea to keep him in the organization because you can never surround a franchise with too many quality people with good baseball minds.
Plus, Molitor was a hell of a baserunner in his day and the Twins were truly execrable in that department last year, so maybe he can teach Guzman and the boys some actual techniques to improve.
"The Whitesox will receive $68 million, over 20 years, to rename Comiskey Park as U.S. Cellular Field."
I am only 20 years old, so I am not exactly Mr. Tradition or anything, but this trend in stadium naming is really bugging me.
$68 million dollars is a whole lot of money and there isn't much in this world I wouldn't do to get my hands on it, but is $3.4 million dollars a year really enough to start referring to your ballpark as "U.S. Cellular Field?"
To a baseball team with a payroll in excess of $50 million every season and an operating budget that is probably over $100 million, $3.4 mill is a drop in the bucket.
I like calling places Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park and I am even proud that the Twins have yet to name their piece of crap stadium something corporate.
The way I think about whether or not the name for a stadium or arena is a good one is this: Think ahead 50 or 60 years.
Can you envision someone thinking about the past and speaking in glowing terms about the ballpark, as if it has a special place in their heart, as if it were a magical place with too many great memories to possibly count?
Plug Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park or *gasp* even the Metrodome into that scenario.
You know Yankee Stadium and Fenway work because people talk about them that way right now.
And, I have no problem imagining myself or another Minnesotan talking about the 87 or 91 Twins, with the Homer Hankies flying and "The Dome" rocking.
Now, plug "U.S. Cellular Field" in.
It doesn't quite have that same feeling, does it?
I just can't see some 70 year old guy talking about the first baseball game he ever attended and saying, "As soon as I stepped into U.S. Cellular Field, I was in love with baseball."
I'm for naming stadiums after people (Wrigley Field, Jacobs Field), the team (Dodger Stadium, Yankee Stadium) or even just coming up with a cool name (Camden Yards, SkyDome).
Heck, even corporate names like Safeco Field or Coors Field don't bother me.
But when your stadium gets in the 6-syllables-and-over range, it better be because it's called "Olympic Stadium" and not "U.S. Cellular Field."
The bright side of all this is that the ballpark will inevitably be called "The Cell" by any self-respecting baseball fan, which will be fun.
"According to the St. Petersburg Times, the Devil Rays may be interested in free agent 1B Travis Lee."
Yeah, that sounds about right.
"According to the NY Daily News, the Mets are interested in free agent INF Keith Lockhart."
For what job? Obviously not to play baseball for them, right? RIGHT?!
"Umpire Bruce Froemming was suspended for 10 days after a comment calling someone a "stupid Jew bitch" appeared on his supervisor's answering machine.
Froemming both denies that his comment was anti Semitic and also claims it wasn't intended for the supervisor. He also says he thought he had already hung up the phone and the comment was directed at someone else.
Neither of those explanations sound credible."
I couldn't agree with Lee more in regard to neither explanation sounding credible, but I suppose any sort of excuse in this situation would sound pretty lame.
Normally I try to stick to baseball on this site and when I first saw this story I decided that I wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole.
However, since I saw it, I have been thinking about it an awful lot and, well, I decided to find myself an 11-foot pole and share my thoughts with you.
Take it for what it's worth and remember that I am just some guy who writes about baseball everyday.
Can you imagine if Froemming had said "stupid black bitch" instead of "stupid Jew bitch?"
It seems to me that it has become more acceptable (or maybe more accurately less punishable) to pick on certain groups of people than others.
I don't know why that has happened and I am not sure how, but I believe it definitely exists.
At the same time, it was "just words" and I am not suggesting he lose his job or anything of that sort (although I wouldn't lose sleep over it if he did).
I am just wondering how different things would have been if he had chosen to pick on a different group of people.
It is just speculation on my part, but I believe his punishment would have been significantly stronger, it would have received more media attention and Froemming's life would have been a whole lot more miserable.
Anyway, that is about all the "political" type talk you are going to ever hear on this site, so I hope you liked it.
Remember, I got all of those "topics" straight from Lee Sinins' "Around the Majors" email newsletter and that was on the weekend!
I can't recommend signing up for it enough.
For me, it is going to keep me up to date on all the minor signings and not-so-newsworthy events taking place across baseball, so I can write big, long entries about some backup outfielder signing a minor league contract with the Royals or something.
For those of you that are not completely obsessed with the minutia of baseball and don't write about it every day of the week, Sinins' newsletter is still awesome because he gets breaking news before almost everyone and he sends it right to your mailbox.
Plus, he adds in tons of unique stats and charts and a lot of good analysis too.
And you don't have to do any work, like typing a website address or clicking on links. It just shows up right in your mailbox every day.
To sign up for the newsletter, go here:
I promise you won't regret it.
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****