December 21, 2003

Sign #1,045,275 that Terry Ryan doesn't read this blog

Earlier this month, after the departures of Eddie Guardado and Latroy Hawkins from Minnesota's bullpen, I spent an entire entry making the case for Arthur Rhodes as someone the Twins should sign as their new closer.

I finished that entry, in which I showed how Rhodes has actually been a better pitcher than Guardado over the last three years, by saying the following:

I am officially endorsing Arthur Rhodes as Minnesota's replacement for Eddie Guardado. He can do Guardado's job just fine and he can do it for less money. Sign Rhodes up for 2-3 years and take the money you saved and use it somewhere else (I hear second base is a giant, gaping abyss of uselessness). I only hope Terry Ryan or someone close to him is reading this, because I honestly think signing Rhodes could be the key to their off-season.

Well, Rhodes signed a three-year deal for $9.2 million over the weekend. Unfortunately, it was not with the Minnesota Twins. So which team followed the advice I put forth for the Twins? Which team saw the value in Rhodes that other teams apparently didn't? Which team is going to get a great relief pitcher for just over $3 million a year? The Oakland A's of course, run by everyone's favorite GM, Billy Beane.

As if Beane signing Rhodes for what I feel is a good price is not enough to make me cringe, there's more to the story. In that same entry about Rhodes, I said the following:

There is also the issue of whether or not Rhodes can handle being a "closer." Personally, I think the majority of all that closer-talk is just that - talk. Sure, there may be players better suited for a pressure situation than others, but for the most part I think a great reliever will be a great reliever, whether you use him in the sixth inning or the ninth inning.

Arthur Rhodes has the numbers of a closer. He has the stuff of a closer. He has the confidence of a closer. All he needs to become a closer is a team willing to let him try it for an extended period of time.

Don't try to tell me any of that junk about Guardado being a "proven closer" while Rhodes isn't. Eddie Guardado is a perfect example of why all this crap about closers is garbage. He was a guy who was a failed starter who became a good LOOGY and then, when given a shot closing out games, did well. And now, a few years after he was just another lefty in a bullpen, he is a "proven closer."

Despite my telling you guys not to, many of you emailed me to tell me "that junk about Guardado being a 'proven closer' while Rhodes isn't."

I even got some emails from people who said not only wasn't Rhodes a "proven closer," he has actually been asked to close in the past and been against the idea. I have no idea whether or not that was true at one point or if it is still true. What I do know about Arthur Rhodes and his interest in closing games is this...

From The Oakland Tribune (before he signed):

Arthur Rhodes is getting closer to joining the Oakland Athletics, and if he does, he'll get his long-awaited chance to be a closer.

"This deal was predicated on that," Dan Horwits, the agent for Rhodes, said on Wednesday after talking to A's general manager Billy Beane twice in the day. "Billy wanted him to be a closer. Arthur wants to be the closer. They are upfront and honest with each other about this. He's being brought on to be the closer of the A's."

So, from that we learn that Rhodes has been waiting a long time to be a closer and that he "wants to be the closer."

From (after he signed):

Rhodes will replace Keith Foulke, who led the American League with 43 saves in 2002, and become Oakland's fourth closer in as many seasons.

"Arthur has been in some tough situations and gotten some big outs in the eighth inning, so I don't see why he couldn't do it in the ninth inning," manager Ken Macha said.

I couldn't have said it better myself (although I tried).

We now know that Rhodes wanted to be a closer and that his price was three years and $9.2 million. I applaud Billy Beane for making the move that I was praying the Twins would make and I applaud him for, once again, realizing that a "closer" is something that can be made. He did it with Jason Isringhausen a few years ago and now he'll do it with Arthur Rhodes.

At the same time, I pray that Terry Ryan still has some sort of plan for the rest of this off-season, because Minnesota's pitching-staff is looking a little thin at the moment.

Meanwhile, while Rome burns and Arthur Rhodes signs for $3 million a year, the Twins did something over the weekend that damn near made me cry:

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins were able to avoid salary arbitration with one of their starting players Friday when Luis Rivas agreed to a one-year contract, according to the Associated Press.

The 24-year-old second baseman will reportedly earn $1.5 million in 2004, a substantial raise from his 2003 salary of $340,000.

I know players who become arbitration eligible get substantial raises simply because that's how things work. That said, I also know that teams are not forced to give them those raises, simply because that's how the system works.

In what universe does Luis Rivas deserve a "substantial raise"? I ask, because it certainly isn't this universe.

Someone deserves a substantial raise when a) they are a good player or b) they have improved substantially. Luis Rivas meets neither of those qualifications, of course.

YEAR      AVG      OBP      SLG      GPA      EqA      OPS+

2001 .266 .319 .362 .234 .243 79
2002 .256 .305 .392 .235 .244 86
2003 .259 .308 .381 .234 .244 80

If you can look at those numbers and see either a) a good player or b) substantial improvement, you're a better man than I am.

It absolutely kills me that the Twins have lost key players this off-season and have not been able to sign attractive free agents because of their limited budget. A budget that now includes: "Luis Rivas, 1,500,000."

Obviously $1.5 million isn't a ton of money, even for a team like the Twins, but it's about half of what Arthur Rhodes will make this year. Of course, if you think that's bad, just wait until next year, when Rivas is once again in line for a "substantial raise."

There was a time when Luis Rivas' meager contributions only handicapped the Twins on the field. That time is gone. Now he kills them offensively, defensively and monetarily. If Rivas posts his usual .310 OBP next year and then agrees to a $3 million-dollar deal during the off-season to avoid arbitration, my head may literally explode.

As a great man once said, "It's getting to be ri-god-damn-diculous."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I was recently interviewed by Rich Lederer of "Rich's Baseball Beat," who has been doing a series of interviews with various internet writers all off-season. The interview with me was published over the weekend. It's a long one (Gleeman-length, even) and Rich asks a lot of interesting questions. If you're a fan of this website you'll probably enjoy it quite a bit.

An example of the type of serious, hard-hitting questions and responses you'll see:

RWBB: Let's say you're putting together a team and you need a left fielder. Who would it be, Ted Williams or Barry Bonds?

Aaron: I don't get a DH? This is really tough, but I think I would go with Barry for his defense. If you ask me next week though, I may give a different answer. It's like asking me to pick between Heidi Klum and Jessica Alba. I'd rather let Heidi DH and not have to make the choice.

And there's plenty more where that came from. If you haven't had your fill of Gleeman yet today, head on over and check it out...

Rich's Baseball Beat: Interview with Aaron Gleeman

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

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