Friday, December 10, 2004

Randy, Meet Russ... Randy? Randy? 

On the heels of reports that Russ Ortiz will be signed shortly (and MLB.com reports that it's four years, not three), Mark Gonzales now quotes Alan Nero, one of Randy Johnson's agents, as saying...

"I don't think there's anyone more positive than Randy. Randy has a very positive outlook — he just feels determined he needs to be elsewhere. If they came to us and said, ‘We're proving we can win, and these are things we want to do, and want to entertain an extension,' I'd have something to say. They're a little busy right now. The one thing that Joe and Jeff have been consistent is that they believe they can compete, so certainly they're making moves that would lead us to believe that that's their mission. But how it reflects on Randy, I don't know."

Now I've strung together the quotes in the article in order to make them one paragraph. Who knows in what order Nero said these things, or what Gonzales left out. But that's a whole bunch of contradictory statements there. Does Randy want out? Does Randy want an extension? Does Nero actually know what his client's feelings are? ("But how it reflects on Randy, I don't know.") And, setting aside those questions, who knows what Nero's agenda is here.

But if somebody's willing to be quoted on the record, I'm willing to pass it on.

Ortiz "Imminent" 

It's one thing when Ken Rosenthal reports something, it's another when Steve Gilbert runs with it on MLB.com: Russ Ortiz's signing is "imminent," with a possible announcement scheduled for 2:00 Pacific Time.

Edit: the MLB.com article above has been updated to make it official. Here's an AP story about the signing.

4 years, no dollar amount mentioned.

2008 could be another scary year for D-Back fans.

A Few More Thoughts 

1. See here for discussions on switch-pitchers in major league baseball. (Anyone want a SWOOGY?)

2. There are no decent Phoenix Suns blogs. This is an opportunity for somebody out there. (By the way, Jim, I also looked for Virginia Tech football-specific blogs. There aren't any. An opportunity for you.)

3. I've decided to reserve most judgement on any personnel transactions until the team is basically set. Yes, the fourth year of Glaus's contract makes me very nervous (will it be Matt Williams redux?) But it seems increasingly likely that "overpriced" contracts are going to be the rule, not the exception. For all the people who call Glaus' contract "The Worst Free Agent Contract of 2004," just wait a couple days. Heck, just wait until Richie Sexson signs a multi-year contract with somebody. But I want to look at the entire range of FA signings and trades and put the D-Backs' moves in context. Patience.

4. Sexson vs. Glaus, VORP by age
21: -- -5.9
22: -0.5 24.2
23: 16.0 81.9
24: 17.2 54.5
25: 29.2 42.2
26: 44.6 26.0
27: 47.4 19.7
28: 58.7
29: 7.3
Total: 219.9 242.6

Seems like the upside for both players is about the same, though Glaus did have his monster 2000 season. Sexson's been more consistent... until his injury. Your view of the contract(s) both players receive is essentially based on how you think each player will come back from an injury.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The Best Thing About Signing Troy Glaus 

… do you know how many punned titles I can come up with "Glaus" in the title? Clearly, D-Back bloggers will never be at a [wait for it….] GLAUS FOR WORDS!

(I got a million of 'em, folks.)

In any case, here's the Republic article on the signing, which notes that Glaus said the contract has no protective medical clause.

For something briefer and more official, Steve Gilbert's article from MLB.com with a link to the press conference (which I've not listened to).

D-Back fans first seemed of mixed emotions, though the mood seems to be shifting to something more positive. My theory from earlier today that Sexson might consider accepting arbitration this year to beef up his stats seems to be gaining credence. (Well, maybe it was others' theories, too, but I sure didn't get it from them.)

Rob is less than enamored with the deal (too much, too long).

Dodger fans are just concerned what the contract will do to Adrian Beltre's contract.

Primer is, er, less than appreciative of the deal. Levski (come back to the blogging fold, Levski, we miss you!) isn't particularly happy, but isn't quite as negatives as others.

For those national readers (if indeed there are any) who think this is an awful deal because the D-Backs can't afford it, I just want to point out the contracts the D-Backs are losing this winter: Alomar, $1 M; Bautista, $4 M; Colbrunn, $2.75 M; Dessens, $4 M; Mantei, $7 M; plus random others. We're talking $20+ M, and that's assuming Sexson comes back for a year; and Finley comes back. (Sexson's and Finley's 2005 salaries might rise from 2004, but Hillenbrand's $2.75 M salary would pay for that difference.) Taking away the $8.25 M for Glaus, that's still around $12 M for a #2 pitcher and random "veteran presence."

You can argue that the D-Backs paid too much for an injury-riddled 3rd baseman (and I do not like that 4th year), or they should've scaled back to make a run at competing in 2006. But to argue they can't afford this is just wrong.

Finally, since I've got my rant mojo working, can we please stop the slams on D-Back fans as being nothing but gullible sheep with nary a clue of how baseball is played ("gosh, Lena, what does it mean when the ball goes over that fence over there?") I'll concede that the average fan at a Yankees, Red Sox, or Cardinals game knows more about baseball game than the average fan at a D-Backs' game. But show me the proof that they're any more clueless than, say, a Rockies or Devil Rays fan. And I'll continue to point out that the D-Backs had an average attendance of 31,105 in 2004, 14th in baseball, higher than the Braves, Mets, A's, and Twins, among others. With a team that won 51 games. Some of that attendance is due to fans from elsewhere, but I think the D-Back fan base is much maligned, mostly unfairly.

The Best-Laid Planned Blog Entries Of Mice And Men 

… are usually about equal. I was all set to note a few random inanities when I picked up this morning's Republic and see "D-Backs to Sign Glaus." I normally wouldn't give an unsourced article quite so much weight, but when an article mentions an impending press conference and specific salary amounts (4 years, $4 million signing bonus, and the following non-deferred salaries: 2005: $8.25 M; 2006: $9.25 M; 2007: $10.75 M; 2008: $12.75 M), I'm willing to give the report some slack.

So, assuming that the report is true (and nothing is showing up on the D-Backs' website), two immediate thoughts come to mind:

1. Does this make Randy Johnson sticking around in 2005 more likely? On first glance, I thought the answer was "yes." Here you go, Randy, here's your offensive upgrade. Upon further reflection, however, the contract length (through 2008) does give the D-Backs enough certainty that they could feel like they could trade Randy knowing that they have a nucleus (Gonzo, Glaus, Webb) through at least 2006. That could make them feel more comfortable trading Randy. So I guess it probably makes Randy feel better about sticking around in 2005 (and possibly beyond); whether it not it gives management the same feeling, we'll see.

2. What happens if Sexson accepts aribtration? This was one of the "random inanities" I was pondering when signing Glaus was much less of a reality. Clearly the D-Backs are no longer interested in a multi-year contract with Sexson. But Richie could be finding out that nobody is willing to give him the pure guaranteed contract he wants and the D-Backs refused to give him. He may decide that he's better off accepting arbitration, getting one year at around $9 or $10 million (most likely guaranteed), hitting the lights out of the ball with Gonzo, Glaus and him batting 3-4-5 and giving each other protection, then using his 2005 season to get a guaranteed multi-year contract next winter. Certainly it might be nice having three men whose combined season-high HR totals equal 141 in the heart of the lineup. Of course, those same three men only combined for 44 HR last year. Paying $27 million or so for 141 HR seems like a pretty good value; paying $27 million for 44 HR seems like a pretty lousy value.

More on this (effects on Tracy and the rest of the team; salary implications; is the contract worth it) in the next day or so. I hope.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Another Pitcher Gone To The Red Sox 

This time, however, there is likely to be great joy...

Matt Mantei has reportedly signed a contract with the Red Sox. Thanks to the Top Of The Ninth for the tip.

At one year and $750,000 I might've been willing to take a flyer on Mantei. But I'm guessing Mantei would've required quite a bit more to stay here in Phoenix.

I personally wish him a lot of luck, of course, but we'll all breathe easier in 2005 knowing that that $7 million contract won't be on the books.

Why Editing Is Important 

How much is David Dellucci worth to you? If you believe the article in today's Republic on Dellucci reportedly being close to signing with the D-Backs, he's worth $4.3 million over two years. That's what it says -- "The Diamondbacks have offered Dellucci a two-year deal believed to be worth $1.8 million and $2.5 million." The only problem is that Dellucci only made about $700,000 in 2004 with the Rangers and all the previous reports suggested that the total contract would be worth about $2 million. Either the D-Backs have just more than tripled Dellucci's salary, or the Republic forgot to insert the word "between" between the words "worth" and "$1.8 million." I'll believe the latter. I've said before that I thought this was an OK signing, as Dellucci is likely to perform just as well as Danny Bautista at a fraction of the cost. Sure, Dellucci hits little better against major league lefties than I would, lending some credence to the suggestion that Chad Tracy might see some platoon time in right field against lefty pitchers, but I'm OK with this (but only at the $2 million total level).

According to MLB.com's Free Agent Tracker, the Rangers offered Dellucci arbitration, so signing with the D-Backs will cost them some draft picks, though I can't expect those picks would be high. Any picks received by the D-Backs if Sexson signs elsewhere will be worth more. Clayton, Glaus, and Ortiz all apparently were not offered arbitration, so at least that pain won't be there (depending on salary levels and contract years, there may be other pain, though)...

Finally, Andy Borowitz, master of the comedy mash-up, focuses on the sports world's two biggest recent controversies.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Instead, A Poem 

I could talk about the D-Backs offering Richie Sexson arbitration. I could talk about steroids. But what I'm going to do instead is post a poem.

Love Calls Us to the Things of This World
Richard Wilbur

The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple
As false dawn.
Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.

Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.
Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;

Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
The soul shrinks

From all that is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessed day,
And cries,
"Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven.''

Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world's hunks and colors,
The soul descends once more in bitter love
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,

"Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating
Of dark habits,
keeping their difficult balance.''

I found out this morning that a friend from my graduate school days passed away last night after a brief illness. She and her husband were far older than I, and (thanks to a blog) we knew of her rapid decline in health, so her death possessed for me neither the shock of my own mortality nor the shock of surprise. But as I read this review of the poet Richard Wilbur's essentially optimistic work in The New Yorker early this morning, I was struck by how Wilbur's optimism and mixture of spirituality and worldliness reflected my feelings toward the life of this couple.

This poem in particular talks about balance in life -- balance between spirituality and worldliness, between optimism and despair, between evil (the thieves) and good (the lovers). It's easy to get so buried in discussions of arbitration rules or what constitutes "cheating" or even, er, Win Shares comparisons between 2003 and 2004 that one forgets the simple joys of watching (or listening to) a baseball game. I had little patience for a steroids debate before; I have much less today.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Looking Back: Final Thoughts 

After last week's mind-numbing walk through the D-Backs' win shares, I thought I'd just add a few final thoughts before the Winter Meetings this week completely change the team's makeup.

1. This was not a 51-win team. OK, yes, it was, but the string of bad luck and other moves bears repeating: 3 losses due to "luck" (Pythagorean record 3 games better), 4 due to Gonzo's injury, 3 to Finley's trade, 8 to Sexson's injury, maybe 1 to Elmer's trade. Right there, that's 70 wins. And beyond that, other injuries hindered the team's chances. Matt Kata wasn't tearing up the league, and neither was Robbie Alomar, but they combined for 6 win shares, with a Win Shares Above Average of -2. The decision to play Scott Hairston, while correct for the long-term future of the team, hurt the team in 2005 -- just 4 Win Shares and -6 WSAA. Playing Alomar and Kata in place of Hairston would've picked the team up another 3-4 Win Shares, or another win. Injuries to Valverde and Villareal, who combined for 22 Win Shares in 2003 but just 2 in 2004, had a negative effect, even if you assume there would've been sophomore year regression in their contributions. You probably could figure out a way to get 75 or 76 wins if the D-Backs had just had a "normal" level of injuries in 2004.

Then, if Webb and (in particular) Cintron hadn't struggled this year, and if the D-Backs had won three extra games due to luck instead of losing...

I know, I know, the games aren't played on paper. But what I am suggesting is that the hope that the D-Backs would at least compete in 2004 was not so far-fetched.

What I'm also suggesting is that unless the team is dismantled for 2005 (no Randy, no Richie, no major free agents of any sorts), a 75-win season is not wishful thinking. It's a very real possibility.

2. What About Managing? I didn't include any discussion of the managerial staff in here because I had no good metric to evaluate it. Were the rash of injuries just freakish randomness, or (in the case of pitchers) was it a case of overuse? Were the struggles of Webb, Cintron, Kata just cases of second-year struggles (though I think Cintron's got more than 2 years up here...), or was it poor coaching? Were the 3 games lost to luck or poor managerial decisions? I don't know.

(On a side managerial note, I was unsurprised to see the Arizona Republic report Backman's 10-day jail term for violating his parole. This possibility of jail time -- up to a year -- seemed to me at the time of Backman's "dismissal" a very valid reason for the D-Backs' managements actions. But the decision to put Steve Gilbert's article on the jail time on the D-Backs' website seems to be more like kicking a man when he's down.)

3. If you're going to salary dump, don't do it on the cheap. Trading Curt Schilling was a salary dump. It wasn't related to the Sexson trade because we lost almost as much salary as we picked up in Sexson. We lost, what, $12 million in salary and a net 16 win shares. That's not a horrible switch. The only problem is that if the D-Backs had separated consideration of the Schilling and Sexson trades, they probably could have picked up someone better. What was problematic was the Batista salary dump. They lost $5 million in salary, tried to make that up with Sparks and Reynolds (combined, nearly $2 million), and for a net $3 million in salary, lost a net 13 win shares. That one hurts.

Well, whatever other thoughts I had have disappeared into the ether or, in the case of D-Backs' evaluation of pitching talent might degenerate into meaningless babbling, so I'll end here.