Random Ramblings

December 12, 2007
  • Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is officially out 6-8 weeks with a high ankle sprain. It’s a big loss for the Pens, as Fleury had just turned his season around, winning four starts in a row after an amazingly inconsistent November.
    • The Pens will also be without center Maxime Talbot for approximately a month with an almost identical injury.
  • Steelers have lost DE Aaron Smith for the year. Any chance Pittsburgh had of competing with the Colts or Pats in the playoffs just died.
  • The Orioles have agreed to send shortstop Miguel Tejada to the Astros in exchange for five players, including outfielder Luke Scott, Michael Costanzo, who hit an impressive 27 home runs in Double-A Reading before being traded to the ‘Stro’s as part of the Brad Lidge deal, and three young fringe major league pitchers.

    Tejada brings a big name to Houston, but he also brings a $14 million contract that is probably a little hefty for his declining production.Most notably, from 2006 to 2007, his OPS saw a major decline, falling from .877 to .799. Every major statistical measurement of Tejada’s performance, with the exception of batting average and on-base percentage, was significantly below his career averages, and his 18 home runs were the least he’d hit since he slugged 11 home runs in 365 at bats in 1998, his second season in Oakland.

    The one thing that really scares coaches about Tejada is his defense. Tejada has slowed with age, and his play at short has begun to reflect that. The O’s had been talking about moving Tejada to third base, and the Astro’s might ask Miguel to do that at some point, maybe as soon as this season. It isn’t as though Ty Wigginton is the answer for them at the hot corner.

    As I peek at Tejada’s career stats, there is something very impressive that I feel to need to take note of — between 1999 and 2006, Tejada missed just five games, including appearances in every game of each season between 2001 and 2006. You don’t see too many guys in today’s game who are both willing and able to do that.

  • The Mitchell Report, said to contain over 50 names of known steroid users, is slated to be released at a press conference in New York tomorrow. Not a whole lot to comment on about that at this point, but expect a lengthy post from me tomorrow, especially if Roger Clemens’s name appears on the report, as I suspect it will.
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A Little Inside Scoop

December 6, 2007

I would like to take advantage of recent Damaso Marte trade rumors to post a suggestion to the Pirates, based on some inside knowledge I have of the Yankees’ farm system.

Any trade the Pirates make with the Yankees needs to include Scott Patterson. Patterson grew up about five minutes from my house in Pittsburgh, and this past spring I had the opportunity to catch a couple of his bullpen sessions. He has a low-90’s fastball with good, sharp sink to it, along with a plus splitter and a curveball that both break late and sharp. I’d say his stuff would be a little above average on for a major league pitcher, but what defines him is his control.

I kid you not when I say that every pitch he threw was exactly where I put the glove, and according to those who have seen him work in live game action, his accuracy almost never waivers, even in tight, pressure-packed situations.

Patterson made 43 appearances for the AA Trenton Thunder in 2007, accumulating a minute 1.09 ERA and an even tinier .81 WHIP. Most impressive: he struck out 91 guys — in just 74.1 innings. That’s a K/9 of 11.02.

The only downside to Scotty P. is that he’s already 28-years old, which is probably the reason the Yanks seem to have been hesitant to make him a priority in their farm system. Fortunately for the Buccos, this means he could come pretty cheap, possibly as a near toss in on any deal the Bucs and Yanks do agree to.

I realize I have the tendency to be a bit bias in situations like these, but I would bet everything I own that Patterson could be a successful pitcher in a middle relief spot.


Marlins Deal Cabrera, Willis to Detroit

December 6, 2007

Dontrelle Willis
Dontrelle Willis and his trademark leg kick will head to Detroit looking to return to 2005 form, when Willis won 22 games while posting a microscopic 2.63 ERA

The Florida Marlins, baseballs perennial fire-salers, have agreed to send 24-year old stud Miguel Cabrera and 25-year old fan favorite Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers in exchange for a plethora of talent. We can all agree that there isn’t a prospect alive that we wouldn’t send for Cabrera, but many believe that Willis could be a major bust.

Although many in the baseball world are pointing to Willis’s quickly declining numbers (note the yearly increase in ERA, WHIP, and HR along with decreases in W, CG, SHO, IP, and SO since 2005), I think there is reason to believe that we may see at least a brief resurgence in Dontrelle’s career.

It’s no secret that Dontrelle’s early success was tied to his funky delivery, which confused a lot of hitters. Scouts claim that the high leg kick and inconsistent arm slot were effectively deceptive early in his career, helping him post Cy Young-like numbers despite having just above average stuff. However, scouts are saying now that National League hitters have seen him for five years, they have figured him out, thus the declining numbers. Also, mechanical issues are making Dontrelle’s control and his stuff fairly inconsistent, although I doubt his stuff has gotten that much worse since ’05.

Moving to the American League might be an okay move for Willis, at least for a while. With catcher Ivan Rodriguez calling the game for him, Willis could very well make a strong comeback this year while American League hitters try to figure him out. Granted, hitters have scouting reports built already, which means it won’t take five years for guys to get around his deceptive delivery, but there is reason to believe Willis could be successful, especially with a monstrous line-up behind him.

As for the Fish, there’s reason to be excited about the crop of players that have been brought in. Cameron Maybin is an absolute stud talent-wise, and has the potential to be a top-notch, five-tool player in the near future. The real gem of this trade, however, is 6-foot-6 pitcher Andrew Miller. Though still decidedly raw, Miller has the potential to be a top of the rotation guy. His mid-90’s, ¾ fastball comes with a heavy sink, allowing him to induce an abundance of ground balls. He needs work on establishing some secondary stuff, but as ESPN’s Eric Karabell says, he might already be a better value pitcher than Willis.


Ramblings From an Un-happy Small-Market Baseball Fan

December 5, 2007

Jaromir JagrJaromir Jagr and his infamous mullet, once fan favorites in the ‘Burgh, are public enemy #1 after unsuccessful contract negotiations led to his exile in 2001

Stick with me on this one…

Alright so I was watching my Steelers wallow through the swamp that is Heinz Field against the Cincinnati Bungals – yes the Bungals (Myron Cope where are you in my life) when suddenly, I was inspired by the infamous babblings of NBC broadcaster John Madden.

(Bear with me, this isn’t a cheap set-up for a Brett Favre joke, I swear)

So good ole John was talking about Steelers’ offensive lineman Alan Faneca, who is set to become a free agent at the end of the year and has already stated that he will not be coming back to the Steelers, who simply can’t find room for him in the payroll.

Faneca, a perennial all-pro, is a Steeltown favorite who has played with the team since being drafted in 1999. In training camp this August, some dumb reporter asked Faneca about maybe giving the Steelers a hometown discount on his contract.

Faneca almost let loose in his pants, he was laughing so hard.

But this hometown discount stuff is a very, very intriguing idea to us small-market baseball fans. What if players had some financial incentive to stick around with the franchises that brought them up? What if fan favorites like Miguel Cabrera, Torii Hunter and Jason Bay weren’t un-signable by small-market teams who struck it big when they raised these guys in their own systems?

So here is my inspired idea:

Create a system that gives small-market franchises a little financial help in holding onto guys once they become free-agency eligible.

You know that luxury tax set in place to end the Yankee dynasty? Yes, the one George Steinbrenner and sons are capable of completely disregarding. Why not use it to help pay for new, long-term contracts of players who have been with one team their entire career and have earned a big-time contract.

Say you set a cap of $100 million – five major league teams had payrolls over the $100 million mark, with only the Yanks and Sox over by significant amounts – and you tax these teams a certain amount (I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t know the exact percentage teams are taxed, if somebody would be so kind as to help me out there). Either way, I would probably up the tax enough to make the Steinbrenner’s and Henry’s of the world sweat a little bit.

You offer this tax to teams, with the mandate that they have to put the money towards locking up homegrown favorites to long-term deals, weighting the system to help small-market teams such as the Marlins, Pirates, and (the no longer Devil-ish) Rays first.

So say for some unforeseen reason the Pirates decide not to trade Jason Bay at some point in the next year, and leave themselves the option of resigning him long-term after next season. (I realize this probably won’t happen, and actually would probably be a bad idea for the Bucco’s, but I’m just creating an example here).

For arguments sake, lets put Bay’s projected market value at $10 million per year (I don’t know what it really would be at this point, I’m just using a nice, round number since I am but a simple journalism student). If this tax can generate just $3 or $4 million for the lowly Buccos, bringing the Pirates contribution to Bay’s salary down to $6 or $7 million a year, they just might have a shot at resigning him, whereas a $10 million per year salary is just too much for the Pirates modest payroll.

Maybe I’m just an overzealous, small market fan, but wouldn’t it be better for the game to have more Cal Ripken Jr.’s, Tony Gwynn’s and Craig Biggio’s to help put fans in the seats.

The goal of every professional franchise is to keep the interest of the casual fan. Casual fans want two things: a winning franchise (obviously), and a franchise face. One of the easiest ways to do put a face on your franchise is to keep around the guys who have grown through the system, and who have taken their bumps and bruises right in front of the hometown fans. When those guys succeed, it does wonders for a team’s fan base, because the fans begin to identify with the player.

Personal example: Jaromir Jagr was a fan favorite for the Penguins in the 1990’s, and following the retirement of Mario Lemieux, Jagr became the face (and the hair) of the Penguins franchise. He was the team captain and was arguably the best offensive player in the NHL. Following bitter, unsuccessful contract disputes with Penguins personnel, Jagr was traded to the Washington Capitals, and has been a villain in Pittsburgh ever since, getting booed every time he touches the puck at the Igloo.

It is completely undeniable that fans feel a stronger bond with players who stick around for their entire careers. Think fans want to see their hometown favorites disappear? Ask Red Sox fans how they felt about fan-favorite Johnny Damon’s departure to the Evil Empire a couple years back.

So maybe my little system is a slightly extreme/improbable, and maybe there is no way to generate the funding to help implement it, but I think it’s a decent idea. If nothing else, it was a creative way for me to vent my hatred of the Steinbrenner family.

*By the way, I defy Al Michaels to come up with 900+ words based on anything that John Madden says.