Tagged: George Steinbrenner

Love and WAR

Valentine’s Day is about spending time with that special someone in your life. You express your love with gifts, flowers, candies, a nice meal, or simply spending time together. Winning builds love in baseball, it solves every team’s problems. Yankee owner George Steinbrenner hated losing, “Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing. Breathing first, winning next.” So what creates more love, winning, in baseball? WAR.

WAR, Wins Above Replacement, measures a player’s value in all facets of the game by deciphering how many more wins he’s worth than a replacement-level player at his same position. The higher a player’s WAR the more they help the team.

The highest career WAR for any Major Leaguer born on Valentine’s Day belongs to Charles “Pretzels” Getzien. Born in Germany on February 14, 1864, Getzien played for five teams during his nine seasons in the National League. Nicknamed Pretzels for throwing a double curve ball, Getzien’s career 18.1 WAR far outpaces his closest competitor Arthur Irwin’s career 15.2 WAR. Even Candy LaChance’s career 11.1 WAR was no match for Getzien.

Pretzels G.jpg
Charles “Pretzels” Getzien while with the Detroit Wolverines. (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs)

Baseball in the 1880’s and early 1890’s was not the same game played today. Getzien, a starting pitcher, was expected to pitch every few days; teams did not use the modern five man rotation. Starters were expected to pitch the entire game; pitch counts did not matter. Bullpen matchups in high leverage situations were never a thought. In 1884, Getzien’s first season in the National League, it took six balls to walk a batter, not the modern four. There were other rule changes along the way.

1886 was Pretzels Getzien’s best season. He started 43 games for the Detroit Wolverines, pitching 42 Complete Games, and 1 Shutout. His 30-11 record included a 3.03 ERA and 1.223 WHIP. Getzien pitched 386.2 innings, allowing 388 Hits, 203 Runs, just 130 Earned Runs, 6 Home Runs, striking out 172, walking 85, and throwing 19 Wild Pitches. At the plate, he hit .176 in 165 At Bats, collecting 29 Hits, 3 Doubles, 3 Triples, 19 RBI, 3 Stolen Bases, scoring 14 Runs, 6 walks, 46 strikeouts, for an .205 On-Base Percentage, Slugging .230, and .435 OPS. Getzien’s 1886 season was the first of five consecutive seasons with at least 40 starts.

More rule changes occurred before the 1887 season. Batters could no longer call for high or low pitches. Five balls were required to walk a batter, not six. Striking out a batter required four strikes. Bats could have one flat side. While the rules changed Getzien’s success remained. He was the only Wolverine starter to make more than 24 starts, starting 42 with 41 Complete Games. Riding Getzien’s right arm, Detroit won the National League Pennant. They faced the American Association champion St. Louis Browns in the World Series. Pretzels Getzien went 4-2, throwing 6 Complete Games, 58 innings, with a 2.48 ERA and 1.310 WHIP. He allowed 61 Hits, 23 Runs, 16 Earned Runs, walked 15, and struck out 17. Getzien was a threat at the plate too. He hit .300 in 20 At Bats, collecting 6 hits, including 2 Doubles, 1 stolen base, scoring 5 Runs, 2 RBI, 3 walks, and 6 strikeouts. He boasted a .391 On-Base Percentage, .400 Slugging, and .791 OPS. The Wolverines won the series 10 games to five.

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The 1887 World Series Champions, Detroit Wolverines. (www.detroitathletic.com)

In 1888, Getzien started 46 games throwing 45 Complete Games. The Wolverines pitching staff also had Pete Conway, 45 starts, and Henry Gruber, 25 starts. Despite the team’s success Detroit owner Frederick Stearns disbanded the Wolverines after the season due to financial woes. Getzien joined the Indianapolis Hoosiers for the 1889 season. Prior to the season, the National League adopted the modern four balls for a walk and three strikes for a strikeout rule. Getzien started 44 games, throwing 36 Complete Games. After one season with the Hoosiers, Getzien spent 1890, his last great season, pitching for the Boston Beaneaters. He made 40 starts, throwing 39 Complete Games alongside future Hall of Famers Kid Nichols and John Clarkson. Nichols, a rookie, threw a Complete Game in all 47 of his starts. Clarkson made 44 starts with 43 Complete Games. Getzien’s pitching career began to decline after 1890.

Getzien started nine games for Boston in 1891 before he was released. He would sign with the Cleveland Spiders and pitch just one game. Getzien finished his career with the St. Louis Browns in 1892. It was the only season of his career where batters were forced to hit a round ball with a round bat squarely; bats could no longer have a flat side.

In 1893, Getzien’s first season out of professional baseball, saw the pitching distance moved from 50 feet to 60 feet, 6 inches. The rules governing baseball in the 1800’s shed light on the games’ differences in its infancy and today. In 1901, almost a decade after Pretzels Getzien last pitched, the National League would count foul balls as strikes. Previously if a batter fouled off seven consecutive pitches to begin an at bat the count remained no balls and no strikes. Striking out a batter required a swing and miss or a called strike.

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Pretzels Getzien as a member of the Detroit Wolverines in 1888. (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs)

Getzien compiled a career record of 145-139, 1 Save, 3.46 ERA, and 1.288 WHIP. He started 296 games, throwing 277 Complete Games, and 11 shutouts. In 2,539.2 innings, Getzien allowed 2,670 hits, 1,555 runs, 976 Earned Runs, struck out 1,070, walked 602, hit 28 batters, and threw 111 Wild Pitches. He is the all-time leader in Wins, Loses, Complete Games, Shutouts, Innings Pitched, Hits Allowed, Runs, Earned Runs, Wild Pitches, and Batters Faced for German born Major Leaguers. Getzien led the National League in Home Runs allowed in 1887 and 1889, with 24 and 27 respectively. In an era of few home runs Getzien allowed more Home Runs than many modern day pitchers. He allowed 6.2% of the 383 Home Runs hit in 1887 and 7.2% of the 371 hit in 1889. In 2018, Tyler Anderson of the Rockies and Chase Anderson of the Brewers led the National League with 30 Home Runs allowed. They both allowed 1.1% of the 2,685 Home Runs hit.

Offensively, Getzien had 1,140 Plate Appearances, 1,056 At Bats, collecting 209 Hits, 27 Doubles, 15 Triples, 8 Home Runs, 109 RBI, 17 Stolen Bases, 78 Walks, 247 Strike Outs, .198 Batting Average, .257 On-Base Percentage, .275 Slugging, and .532 OPS. His pitching, not hitting, abilities made him dangerous on the diamond.

Pretzels Getzien is most remembered for his odd nickname. On his 155th Birthday, let us remember him as the career WAR leader for Major Leaguers born on Valentine’s Day. So in his honor, may the love of your life be kind like the warm sunshine and green grass of the coming baseball season. Happy Valentine’s Day, WAR can create love.

DJ

Worth The Wait

Cooperstown is the desired destination for players. Most will not openly discuss their desire to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, however human nature all but dictates that highly driven people strive to become the best at their chosen profession. The process to reach Cooperstown for a player is typically through the BBWAA (Baseball Writers’ Association of America) election process, which announces its results each January. However, there is another way into the Hall of Fame.

Previously known as the Veterans Committee, the Era Committees were formed to reexamine players who are no longer eligible for the BBWAA voting. The committees also examine the contributions of managers, umpires, and executives to determine if they warrant enshrinement. Currently, there are four committees: Early Baseball (pre 1950), Golden Days (1950-1969), Modern Baseball (1970-1987), and Today’s Game (1988-2016). Each committee considers 10 candidates, with each committee member allowed to vote for a maximum of four candidates. A candidate needs at least 75% of the votes to be elected.

The Today’s Game Committee has 16 voting members. The members include members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, executives, and veteran media members. This year the committee considered the candidacy of Lee Smith, Harold Baines, Lou Piniella, Albert Belle, Joe Carter, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel, and George Steinbrenner.

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Harold Baines and Lee Smith, the newest members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. (John Locker/ AP)

After much examination by the Today’s Game Committee, Cooperstown will welcome two new members to the Hall of Fame this summer. Lee Smith and Harold Baines will forever be enshrined along side the greatest players, managers, umpires, and executives in baseball history. Smith appeared on all 16 ballots, while Baines appeared on 12 ballots. Lou Piniella missed his place in Cooperstown by a single vote, appearing on 11 ballots. The remaining seven candidates each received fewer than five votes.

The journey to Cooperstown was longer than Smith or Baines preferred. However, receiving the highest honor in baseball was worth the wait. The Today’s Game Committee, as well as the other committees, are vital to the thorough examination of baseball. The committees give those deserving of enshrinement in the Hall of Fame the recognition they deserve, no matter how long the wait.

DJ

Can He Get On Base?

Lost in the discussions about the Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year Awards was the inaugural MLB Executive of the Year Award. The player awards are based on a player’s performs on the field. The Executive of the Year Award is based on a front office putting a contender on the field. Drafting well and player development are critical if an organization is to build a winning team. Executives are judged on long-term work not short-term performance.

There is no doubt Billy Beane, and the Athletics’ front office, has done more with less. Beane, the Athletics’ Vice President of Baseball Operations since 2015, is the inaugural MLB Executive of the Year. Each team has one vote, and baseball has spoken about Beane’s success in Oakland. Success has not come from large payrolls or big free agent signings, rather the opposite. This season Oakland became the first team to ever have the lowest Opening Day Payroll and make the Postseason. The Athletics must scratch and claw with every dollar to compete. One bad signing or trade can set the team back several seasons. Beane has made few mistakes. Oakland has 12 winning seasons and nine Postseason appearances since he became General Manager after the 1997 season.

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Billy Beane has made the impossible seem routine in Oakland. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Beane’s tenure as Oakland’s General Manager changed baseball. The application of Sabermetrics has helped level the playing field for teams unable to afford large payrolls. The Athletics created a path for teams, like the Rays and Royals, to find success. Moneyball changed baseball. Teams are now spending time and money on analytics to maximize the production of their players and to scout their opponents. Oakland enjoyed several successful seasons before other teams followed their lead.

Winning the MLB Executive of the Year Award only adds to Beane’s trophy case. He won the Sporting News Executive of the Year Award in 1999 and 2012. He won Baseball America’s Executive of the Year Award in 2002 and 2013. Beane has built success from hard work, not flashy spending.

It is doubtful a traditional rebuilding in Oakland would have resulted in similar success. Despite their challenges, the Athletics are competitive almost every season and Billy Beane is one of the main reasons why. Beane is the biggest owner or front office executive since George Steinbrenner. When you think of Beane you think of the Athletics just as you thought of the Yankees when you thought of Steinbrenner. Most importantly, when you think of Billy Beane you think of winning.

DJ

The Glorious Future

So much time and energy is spent talking about the mistakes teams make when drafting with the first overall pick in sports. The players who never turn into the superstars that many envisioned. The bulk of the time is spent in commiserating about such mistakes because it is rare for teams to use the top pick to select the best player in the draft when all is said and done. The Seattle Mariners with Ken Griffey Jr. and Atlanta Braves with Chipper Jones built a franchise around their top picks. The Houston Astros are doing the same with multiple top picks. The Washington Nationals had the first overall pick twice and have been successful both times with drafting Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. No team will feel sorry for the Nationals’ success. However Washington is quickly approaching the difficult part of drafting well, paying to retain the talent.

Bryce Harper has found a spot few athletes find, people either love him or hate him. There are few people who feel ambivalent about him. Harper’s intensity on the field, chasing every ball hit to him in the outfield, crashing into walls, diving to make a catch, crushing home runs is the textbook definition of playing the game hard and, for many, the right way. That intensity seems to laugh at the notion of getting injured, Harper just wants to win and will do anything to help his team do it. What fan or team would not want a player who brings this sort of intensity to the game, along with elite skills? However, despite his great play on the field, plenty of people do not love Harper. He rubs people the wrong way. Harper brings his own flair to the game and the national media loves him. He has not been bashful in talking about the need for baseball to reenergize, nor is he afraid to tell reporters that their question is “a clown question bro.” The most recent incident was his ejection for arguing balls and strikes from the dugout. He then ran back on the field to celebrate a Nationals walk off victory. Simply coming back onto the field after his ejection was a violation of the rules, which got him a one game suspension and a fine. Yet Harper went even further by getting the umpire’s attention by yelling, “HEY, DUCK YOU!” (edited for the family audience). Every player, coach, announcer, umpire, and fan knows you cannot argue balls and strikes. Regardless whether the umpire was right or wrong, Harper knew arguing would get him ejected. Plenty of players and coaches are ejected for arguing, but once the argument is over, it is over. There is no reason to continue the argument. The umpire was not even paying attention to Harper when he ran back out on to the field, rather it was Harper who got the attention of the umpire to continue the argument. There is plenty to love and hate about Bryce Harper.

Stephen Strasburg
The Nationals paid Stephen Strasburg, which sets the table for Washington to pay Bryce Harper. (www.washingtonpost.com)

Clearly the Nationals and Washington fans love Bryce Harper. The franchise wants to keep him in Washington for as long as they can. Harper does not reach free agency until 2019. This gives the Nationals a little time to figure out how they will retain his services for what will be a mammoth contract. Harper’s current contract runs through 2017, and is for two years, $7.5 million; clearly a bargain for his skills. Entering the 2016 season Bryce Harper is 23 years old, yet this is his 5th season in the Majors. In his first four seasons, Harper has been impressive. Offensively his stats look like this:

G
PA
AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
SB
BB
SO
BA
OBP
SLG
OPS
510
2143
1830
328
528
98
15
97
248
37
279
449
.289
.384
.517
.902

Defensively, Harper has a career .976 Fielding %, with 39 Assists, and 24 Errors in 1,039 chances. He is not a one trick pony, he is an all-around great player.

His skills on the diamond and the stats he has amassed during his young career have garnered Bryce Harper plenty of accolades. He is a three time All-Star (2012, 2013, 2015), the 2012 National League Rookie of the Year, the 2015 National League Hank Aaron Award winner, he won a Silver Slugger in 2015, and was voted the 2015 National League MVP. Not bad for the first four years of a career, regardless of age.

Bryce Harper Blood
Bryce Harper’s desire to win can lead to him injuring himself, but even then Harper will not let up his intensity on the field. (www.nydailynews.com)

The sky seems to be the limit for Bryce Harper on the diamond. His name is already being compared to some of the greatest players who have ever played the game: Frank Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Orlando Cepeda, among others. A player like Harper does not come around often, but the Washington Nationals now have the daunting task of outbidding the rest of Major League Baseball to retain his services. The Nationals put major money down on Stephen Strasburg with his seven year, $175 million contract, the highest ever for a pitcher who has undergone Tommy John surgery. Scott Boras, agent for both Strasburg and Harper, does not give discounts and will potentially use the Strasburg negotiations as a warm up for the Harper negotiations.

Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals have roughly six options as Harper approaches and reaches free agency in 2019. Two of these possible options can be tossed out without much discussion: the Nationals allowing allow Harper to simply walk away as a free agent or signing Harper to a two or three year contract. Allowing Harper to walk away without getting anything in return will not happen for obvious reasons, he is the most valuable commodity in baseball, the Front Office’s’ job is to get a return on its investment. Second, the Nationals will also not sign Harper to a short term deal, because they do not want to simply kick the can down the road a few years into Harper’s prime, ultimately costing themselves even more money. The third option is to trade Harper. This is unlikely but injuries, internal issues between Harper and the organization, and/or a decline in production could see Harper traded away for multiple players in return. The Nationals could also trade Harper if they realize they will not be able to re-sign him. If the latter happens, Washington can almost name its price for Harper.

Mike Trout Smile
Mike Trout is poised to become a free agent in his prime, that contract could make anyone smile. (www.usatoday.com)

The final three options are the most likely. Bryce Harper could sign a contract similar to Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, or Alex Rodriguez. The Angels signed Mike Trout to a six year, $144.5 million contract; averaging $24 million per season. Trout will be 28 years old when the contract ends, meaning he will hit free agency in his prime. This medium length contract gives Trout the assurance that he is not stuck with the Angels if they continue to not progress towards winning a World Series. It also gives Trout another opportunity to sign a huge contract as the value of contracts continue to grow, hard to blame a player for making as much money as they can during their playing career.

The second type of contract Harper could sign would be similar to Giancarlo Stanton’s contract with the Marlins. Stanton signed for 13 years and $325 million. However, Stanton has a player opt out clause after year six (2020) that could make him a free agent entering his age 31 season. This style of contract gives Stanton, or Harper, the security of a long term contract regardless of production or injury, yet also allows them to reenter the free agent market should they believe their skills are or soon will be under paid. This also keeps teams accountable to continue building a contender, one that is competing for a World Series. The Marlins are not known for building and maintaining a winning team, if Miami goes through yet another fire sale and only Stanton is left he has the ability get out of town instead of spending his best years on a team perpetually rebuilding.

Giancarlo Stanton
Giamcarlo Stanton gives the Marlins a foundation to build around, but he can leave Miami if  the team is not winning. (www.bleacherreport.com)

The final option for the Nationals is to sign Harper to a contract similar to the contract Alex Rodriguez signed with both the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees; specifically Rodriguez’s contract for 10 years, $252.87 million with the Yankees. The contract was for the peak of Rodriguez’s career and guaranteed him a long career regardless of injury, lack of production, or in Rodriguez’s case PED suspension. The Yankees were never going to tear the team down and rebuild, it is not how they do baseball in the Bronx, instead they went after big free agents. However nearly every other team does or will rebuild at some point, signing a long contract can tie a player to a team for the peak years of their careers will no options for getting away from a team going nowhere.

Currently the best contract for Bryce Harper to sign would be one similar to Giancarlo Stanton. It protects Harper should he injure himself, such as Alex Rodriguez and his hips, or his production flames out for some non-injury reason. The contract would also enable Harper to pressure the Nationals to build and maintain a World Series contending team. No player, especially one as fiery as Harper wants to spend their career continually coming into Spring Training knowing that their team has no chance to make the playoffs, much less win a World Series. Ensuring there is an opt out clause in the contract would mean hitting free agency in his prime, and netting Harper yet another monster contract; if he so chooses.  

ARod
Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees have seen the good times and bad together. (www.newyork.cbslocal.com)

We can only speculate what the money will be for Harper and who will be paying him. The Strasburg contract signals to Harper that Washington is serious about winning and retaining homegrown talent. While the Nationals probably overpaid for Strasburg, primarily due to injury concerns, it shows the team is willing to pay for what it wants. The Nationals’ current front office is not the Yankees of George Steinbrenner or the Dodgers of a few years ago, they do not have an endless supply of money. Paying Harper will require the team to reallocate money from expiring contracts to pay Harper what will most likely be the largest contract in history both in terms of pay per season and overall. Harper signing a Giancarlo Stanton-like contract in 2019, or slightly before, will raise the bar for the second contract that he could sign if he opts out in his prime. It’s hard to conceive a situation where he doesn’t. If Harper were to sign a 10 year, $400 million contract in 2019 when he is 26 years old and then opt out after five or six seasons, he would return to the free agent market at 31 or 32 years old. This dramatically increases the importance of the first contract Harper signs because it will set the table for the second. There would be teams willing to give a 31 year old a long-term deal. Josh Hamilton, with all his personal struggles got five years, $114 million at 32 years old. Albert Pujols got 10 years, $240 million at 32 years old. Robinson Cano also got 10 years, $240 million at 31 years old. Harper should easily be able to sign a new contract for another 10 years and $400 million, if not more money. While Hamilton, Pujols, and Cano all signed with American League teams, thus enabling them to DH later in their careers, Harper could choose to remain in the National League and not use the DH like Barry Bonds, minus the PEDs. The competitor in Harper would most likely want to see if he could beat the legends of the game like Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, and Ted Williams using the same rules they played under; not padding his stats as a DH late in his career.

Assuming Harper wants to stay in Washington, how would the Nationals afford to pay Harper the largest contract in baseball history? The money would come from three current Nationals players who will reach free agency before Harper: Jayson Werth, Daniel Murphy, and Gio Gonzalez. Jayson Werth’s seven year, $126 million contract with the Nationals ends after 2017. Werth will be paid $21 million per year in the final three seasons of the deal. He will be a free agent entering his age 39 season, doubtful Werth will see another large contract. Daniel Murphy will reach free agency at the end of the 2018 season. There is usually not a ton of demand for a 34 year old second basemen, especially one making $17.5 million in the final year of his contract. The Nationals should be able to develop a respectable outfielder and second basemen between now and 2019. Gio Gonzalez will enter free agency after the 2018 season, when he is 32 years old. Gonzalez could be the price Washington has to pay to re-sign Harper. He is an excellent pitcher, but a player like Harper is a rarity and a team ought to do everything it can to retain such a special player. $12 million a year will be a discount for a pitcher like Gonzalez, who can get more as a free agent assuming he is healthy.

Bryce Harper Catch
Bryce Harper will run through a wall if it means helping his team win. (www.si.com)

The Nationals can lay the foundation for a deal with Harper by simply shifting the $21 million from Werth, $17.5 million from Murphy, and $12 million from Gonzalez to pay Harper. Letting two aging players go in Werth and Murphy would free up $38.5 million a season. The increasing salaries could make the $38.5 million a season within a reasonable jump in pay for an elite player. The Scott Boras factor could require a little more money, thus forcing the Nationals to choose between Harper and Gio Gonzalez, which should not be difficult. $50.5 million per season should be plenty for Washington to retain Bryce Harper, if Harper wants to remain with the Nationals.

$40 million per season ought to entice Harper, and any other baseball player, to remain in Washington. The Nationals would give up three players for one, which would be the smart move for the franchise. The Nationals will also be paying Harper somewhere between $5 and $10 million in his final season before free agency. Washington should be able to develop at least one of the three pieces it will lose to sign Harper. A young outfielder or a young starting pitcher or second baseman should develop in their farm system. The homegrown player should cost no more than $3 million per season, and even this is at the extreme. This would leave between $14 and $19 million for the Nationals to go out and sign a free agent starting pitcher and position player, both of which are possible.

The money will follow Harper wherever he chooses to continue his career once he reaches free agency. Despite all the things so many people hate about Harper, the Nationals love him and want to keep him in Washington at least through the peak of his career. Few players are compared to Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Ken Griffey Jr., and a slew of other Hall of Fame players at any point in their careers. Harper is 23 years old and is entering his fifth season in the Majors. He is truly a special player, one that the Nationals should do everything within their power to re-sign as he approaches free agency.

DJ

Pilgrimages

Since I’m not Muslim, I don’t know the Quran, and I’m not all that big on massive crowds, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever visit Mecca, the Holiest city of the Muslim world. Don’t get me wrong, I think it would be really cool to visit and see the sights, watch the swirling masses of people all joining in a gigantic celebration and demonstration of their collective faith. Take a look at the Google Street View of the place, its surreal. At the same time, this is not a perfect utopian vision where all peoples in the city are all singing their own version of Kumbaya, of which this is my personal favorite rendering is below. There are indeed factions amongst the Islamic faithful, this much is evident in a brief viewing of world news over the last umpteen years. Sadly, for all concerned, it doesn’t seem to stop at mere divisions of believers, it gets much more extreme and ugly.

While I may not have the right to visit Mecca in my lifetime (Saudi Arabia only allows Muslims to enter the city), I understand that there are pilgrimages all over the world, each offering their own healing, enlightenment, or rebirth. Christianity has the Holy Land. Judaism has the Western Wall, a pilgrimage back to the site of the second temple. Hindus have the Kumbh Mela, which is touted to be the largest religious pilgrimage on the planet, more than 30 million in a single day in 2013. Insane people have presidential campaigns where they tour the great country of the United States of America and yell at people like stark raving lunatics that are fit for little more than a strait jacket and a padded, door less cell. Sadly instead we put these nutsos in charge of everything…this is what we get for giving up on Manifest Destiny and putting fluorine in our tap water I guess (P.O.E.).

Dr Strangelove

The classic Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. (Sony Motion Pictures)

Out of all of these, I could currently care less. Right now, it’s March and I’m in Tampa. It’s the best pilgrimage of all: SPRING TRAINING.

I have ended up in Tampa, a mere 2.7 mile jaunt down the street to the George M. Steinbrenner Field, spring home of the Damn Yankees. Putting things into perspective, I am closer to baseball right now than any of my fellow fantasy league devotees will be for weeks, measurable in mileage ticked off in triple digits. Eat it.

I am not an expert on pilgrimages, but for the following observations, I am willing to self-appoint myself to this lofty title, Grand Poobah of All Things Pilgrimage, The Winning Run edition (GPoATPTWRE for short). I know some things about a few pilgrimages, so I think that makes me expert enough to do this job, so let’s get started.

Fred Flintstone
The Grand Poobah (Hanna-Barbera Productions)

Observation #1

The people. There are tons of people traveling here in Tampa wearing their favorite team’s logo/merchandise/moniker on their bodies somewhere. I am usually the sole person traveling that is sporting any form of a baseball T-shirt. My favorites are always Minor League teams, but I will also sport the big boy’s threads too, if the feeling strikes me. Last night was the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, go and see their bat dog, it’s worth it. Tonight I have shared my elevator trips with Pirates, Orioles, and Yankees fans. I’m calling that a first for me to make three consecutive trips in the same elevator and see three different offerings of fan wear en mass.

Pelican Hat.jpg
Minor League Baseball is always fun. (The Winning Run)

Observation #2

The traffic. Tampa traffic sucks. I’m not sure if this is just a Spring Training thing, or a Tampa thing, but someone needs to learn to get their red lights in some sort of order. Right now, I think rabid squirrels, high on peyote, that are drowning in Jell-O pudding, must program them.  I’m serious, traffic here is dumb in the face.

Squirrel.gif

Observation #3

The businesses. There are marquees up around town welcoming fans from the closest team in Spring Training. People love feeling like they are being acknowledged, this prompts businesses to get desperate and put up things like this. A fool and his money…

Phillies Flag.jpg
Don’t waste your money. (The Winning Run)

Observation #4

Breakfast. I went down for breakfast this morning, and in any other place that I’ve stayed before, when breakfast is offered, there is usually a decent mix of men and women staring blankly into space drinking a hot cup of coffee that likely tastes like a sweaty sock (I’m not a coffee fan, so I assume all coffee tastes this way). Tuesday morning I went down, presented my breakfast voucher, and observed something quite to the contrary. Out of roughly 40 people eating, a visual guestimate would place the male to female ratio somewhere in the vicinity of 39:1, with the one being roughly 5 years old and hyper.

Observation #5

The pool. The lady at the front desk made a big deal about giving me a room with a view to the pool. Fine by me, I enjoy people watching. I took a glance out my room last night and noticed the following: a hot tub directly outside my window with seven guys and zero girls. Again, the proportions are all kinds of off. If these guys were like the standard spring break bro bunch, they are picking a bad location to stay, roughly 45 minutes from the beach, and are striking out desperately with the ladies.

Observation #6

It’s Tampa. Why else would you come here? We queried a taxi driver we had a few years back that was taking us to Tropicana Field on what else there was to do in and around Tampa. His reply, “There’s nothing to do here in Tampa. This is God’s waiting room.”

mango.jpg
NO! (www.nydailynews.com)

The above evidence is admittedly circumstantial; there is no cause and effect directly shown. I may have shown up in a demographic anomaly where men outnumber women in ways that typically lead to war. It could be that the International Sausage Festival is at the Tampa Convention Center this week and I’m just out of the loop on deliciously spiced and flavorful tube meat meet-ups. Another idea all together is that Mango is dancing this week at a club in Tampa. People must have Mango, but Mango says “No!” If none of these things are true, then we should probably follow the logic of Occam’s Razor and pick the outcome that has the fewest assumptions as being true. There is a pilgrimage going on right now, and its destination is baseball.

JJ

You Didn’t Earn It So Let’s Go Spend It

So the Powerball has hit record a record, well over one billion dollars.  During lunch today the inevitable topic came up of what you would do with your winnings.  I could imagine three things to do:

Scrooge McDuck
Literally swimming in the money. (http://blogs.disney.com/oh-my-disney/2013/06/13/dreams-do-come-true/)
  1. Build a money vault like Scrooge McDuck so I could go swimming in my winnings.
  2. Buy controlling interest in a large company on the NYSE (Facebook, Apple, something that hipsters like preferably) and then drive it into the ground and send the stock market into a tailspin, then start calling myself Dr. Claw and perfect an evil laugh as I pet my new cat.
  3. Buy a baseball team and sit up front every game.  Sadly I can’t become the manager anymore (Thanks Ted). 

I’m not sure what order I would try doing these in, but since this is a baseball blog, #3 is going to be the obvious choice to speculate on.

Ted Turner.jpg
Ted Turner ruined the fun for everyone who wants to buy and then manage a baseball team. (Marlene Karas/ USA TODAY Sport)

As a bit of a disclaimer, I am assuming that I manage to win the Powerball solo.  I’m also assuming that I don’t have to pay state income taxes.  If I did, after taking the lump sum, I would ONLY have $442 million.  If I are lucky enough to buy the tickets in a state without a state income take, I will have around $562 million. The still doesn’t give up enough to buy a team in the 2015 market.  Times are getting desperate.  In order to break into the bigs, I am going to advocate bribing the president of these United States.  Slide him a cool $100 million in a manilla envelope and I think he could see his way clear to letting you keep your well deserved winnings.  If not, I’m sure you could find someone that might do this, I mean that’s a lot of coin for someone on a government pension.  

Doctor_Claw.jpg
Everyone wants to be Doctor Claw in some way. (http://villains.wikia.com/wiki/Doctor_Claw)

With all of that being said, our market cap on purchasing a team (at the time of writing this article is going to be roughly $1.3 billion.   This automatically reduces the field of potential candidates.  Those outside of our price bracket are:

Rank Team Name 2015 Value ($millions)
1 New York Yankees 3200
2 Los Angeles Dodgers 2400
3 Boston Red Sox 2100
4 San Francisco Giants 2000
5 Chicago Cubs 1800
6 St. Louis Cardinals 1400
7 New York Mets 1350

With these teams out, I am down to a  total of 23 teams. Where do I go from here?  Well obviously I go shopping.  I know for a fact that if any of us were to win the kind of money that I am talking about I would go and buy the necessities, things like a Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4, a floating bouncy fortress, or a new kitchen.  

Lambo.jpg
The Lamborghanini Aventador LP 700-4 becomes a necessity to travel to and from the ballpark. (www.lamborghanini.com)

That being said, I’m going to reconsider my previous estimate of having $1.3 billion down to a more manageable $1 billion, because you know, you need those things. That reduces the total number of teams.  Now the following teams are also out of reach:

8 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 1300
9 Washington Nationals 1280
10 Philadelphia Phillies 1250
11 Texas Rangers 1220
12 Atlanta Braves 1150
13 Detroit Tigers 1125
14 Seattle Mariners 1100

It’s OK though, you are gonna need someway to get to the stadium to oversee your empire.

Now onto the actual narrowing down of teams.  This is gonna be the tricky part.  What metrics do you use to select the right team?  First there are the money issues.  Do you want to blow the wad and try to be a baby Steinbrenner, buying up the best team you can with no wiggle room, or do you buy a team and leave yourself some disposable cash to go head hunting?  Do you eliminate teams based on their expected ROI (return on investment)? What about the amount of debt that you are purchasing (remember stadiums aren’t cheap)? How about weather? Let’s begin with the breakdown of the teams, and let the best team be bought.

floating-bouncy-castle.jpg
Every kid, and adults, has always dreamed of owning a floating bouncy castle. (http://www.wzlx.cbslocal.com/)

Dolla Dolla Bills Y’all

Here are the estimated values of the remaining teams from March of 2015.  

Rank Team Name 2015 Value ($millions)
1 Baltimore Orioles 1000
2 Chicago White Sox 975
3 Pittsburgh Pirates 900
4 Minnesota Twins 895
5 Sandiego Padres 890
6 Cincinnati Reds 885
7 Milwaukee Brewers 875
8 Toronto Blue Jays 870
9 Colorado Rockies 855
10 Arizona Diamondbacks 840
11 Cleveland Indians 825
12 Houston Astros 800
13 Oakland Athletics 725
14 Kansas City Royals 700
15 Miami Marlins 650
16 Tampa Bay Rays 625

Junk Bond Status

So first thing first, let us check if we are doing nothing but buying a fistfull of debt.  The following is a list of the remaining teams that we can afford that have the lowest debt to value rating (D/V).  If you have a team with a zero value on this, it will mean that you are buying into no debt.  A high number will mean that the total amount of debt is greater in relation to the value of the team.

Best

Rank Team Name Debt/Value (%)
1 Toronto Blue Jays 0
2 Chicago White Sox 5
3 Cincinnati Reds 6
4 Milwaukee Brewers 6
5 Colorado Rockies 7

Worst

Rank Team Name Debt/Value (%)
16 Houston Astros 34
15 Miami Marlins 34
14 Minnesota Twins 25
13 San Diego Padres 22
12 Tampa Bay Rays 22

ROI

One of the better tracking items that Wall Street loves to foam at the mouth over is the  ROI.  How much are you going to get back for your investment?  You should be like the Lord our God, and command your money to go forth and multiply.  Let’s take a look and where your money is gonna make bank.

Best ROI

Rank Team Name 1-Year Value Change (%)
1 Baltimore Orioles 61
2 Pittsburgh Pirates 57
3 Milwaukee Brewers 55
4 Houston Astros 51
5 Colorado Rockies 49

Worst ROI

Rank Team Name 1-Year Value Change (%)
1 Tampa Bay Rays 29
2 Miami Marlins 30
3 Chicago White Sox 40
4 Kansas City Royals 43
5 Toronto Blue Jays 43

Now taking a look at this, it will have to be a judgement call on where to buy a team that’s already increasing in value and you have to pay a premium on the new shiny, or do you buy something that has a potential for a great rise?  Your call.

BBQ Boat
You have to eat, so why not do it in a Barbecue Dining Boat. (http://www.hammacher.com/)

Fat Stacks of Cash

The last major factor to look at would be the amount of cash you are bringing in against what you are paying out.  The following is a sum of the revenue and operating income for each of the remaining teams.

Rank Team Name Revenue ($millions) Operating Income ($millions) Revenue and OI
1 Baltimore Orioles 245 31.4 276.4
2 Pittsburgh Pirates 229 43.6 272.6
3 San Diego Padres 224 35 259
4 Chicago White Sox 227 31.9 258.9
5 Kansas City Royals 231 26.6 257.6
6 Minnesota Twins 223 21.3 244.3
7 Milwaukee Brewers 226 11.3 237.3
8 Cincinnati Reds 227 2.2 229.2
9 Colorado Rockies 214 12.6 226.6
10 Oakland Athletics 202 20.8 222.8
11 Cleveland Indians 207 8.9 215.9
12 Toronto Blue Jays 227 -17.9 209.1
13 Arizona Diamondbacks 211 -2.2 208.8
14 Miami Marlins 188 15.4 203.4
15 Houston Astros 175 21.6 196.6
16 Tampa Bay Rays 188 7.9 195.9

Survey Says…

If we get all sciencey and stuff, we can do some sweet sweet spreadsheet action we can seemingly make a decision on which team is the best for us to buy.  The rank was given by taking the ranks of each of the remaining teams and adding their placement in the above categories together.  Lower score is better, like in baseball’s drunk cousin, golf.

Rank Bang For Your Buck Points Team Name
1 24 Milwaukee Brewers
2 27 Pittsburgh Pirates
3 27 Kansas City Royals
4 28 Baltimore Orioles
5 28 Oakland Atheletics
6 29 Cincinnati Reds
7 29 Colorado Rockies
8 35 Chicago White Sox
9 35 Cleveland Indians
10 35 Toronto Blue Jays
11 36 Sandiego Padres
12 39 Minnesota Twins
13 39 Houston Astros
14 42 Arizona Diamondbacks
15 46 Tampa Bay Rays
16 47 Miami Marlins

So which team would you like to purchase with your new wealth?

JJ

2016 New Year’s Resolutions for the NL West

It is time to set some resolutions for 2016 and some teams have decided to start early on their resolutions with some big off-season moves. We thought it might be nice to give a quick recap of what we think are the top 2 moves in each division so far and what the other teams need to do in order to position themselves best for long-term success. We’re starting from the west and giving the nod to the NL as the elder statesman of MLB.

The Moves

The two big moves in the NL West so far were made by the Giants and the Diamondbacks with the signings of Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, and Zack Greinke respectively. Both of these teams have the hitting and fielding necessary to win games and all that they need is a rotation that could keep games from having NFL box scores.

Jeff Samardzija.jpg

Jeff Samardzija does not back down from anyone or anything. He will throw punches and eat innings for the good of the team. (AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles)

The bigger move here is the Giants getting Cueto and Samardzija because, with Madison Bumgardner as their ace, there won’t be many easy games in a 7-game series. Looks like the Giants want to keep the even year cycle going into the 2016 season.

The Diamondbacks, with a lineup mostly under 30, can anchor a rotation with Greinke for a season or two as they piece together a powerhouse rotation. Maybe it’s a bit biased but Shelby Miller is better than you might think and with the run support he can get from the D-Backs’ lineup,  should make him a solid #2.

Shelby Miller.jpg

Shelby Miller was excellent in baseball history in 2015. Only a Braves team being torn down around him was able to overcome his excellence on the mound. (www.statliners.com)

The Advice

Now we’re not saying that there haven’t been other moves worth noting, but the two we’ve discussed change the dynamics of the division. At the beginning of the 2015 season, the NL West looked like a matchup between the Dodgers and the Giants. The rest of the division was going to be an afterthought. Now the Giants look like they’ve taken the catbird seat with the D-Backs as the biggest threat to unseat them. That said…

Los Angeles Dodgers

BL – I think the Dodgers need to balance themselves out and get themselves a good core group. It seems like they’ve got good hitters who don’t have the legs to field and the younger guys can’t make consistent contact. The best place to start would be revamping their infield fast…like should have been done yesterday.

Yasiel Puig.jpg

Is Yasiel Puig destined to become a Dodgers legend or will he be moved to break up the outfield log jam? (www.gardygoesyardy.com)

DJ – The Dodgers have to focus on getting value instead of overpaying for everyone.  Their payroll is shrinking some so they cannot continue to spend like the George Steinbrenner Yankees of old.  The Dodgers need to decide who is the future of their outfield. Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford make for a crowded outfield.  Each of these players plays best when they are in the lineup everyday.  The Dodgers Front Office must decide if they will take the financial hit of paying Crawford or Ethier to go away, or risk trading away a decade or more of All Star play by moving Pederson or Puig.

Colorado Rockies

BL – The Rockies lost nearly a quarter of their games in 2015 by substantial margins (4+ runs and 38 games to be precise). Colorado could use a lot more consistent pitching to keep games close. Keeping some scoring margins manageable means having a consistent defense to keep things under control but that might mean letting go of some hitting to get that. The focus should stay on improving the rotation and bullpen in order to make it easier on the defense. Losing John Axford might hurt them in the long run but a closer should only be the icing on the cake.

Nolan Arenado.jpg

Nolan Arenado’s perennial Gold Glove defense is overshadowed by hit skill with the bat. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

DJ – The Rockies need power from their first baseman.  Combined the Rockies first basemen hit 17 HR with 78 RBI. Ben Paulsen played 88 games at first and hit 8 HR with 38 RBI.  Colorado needs more power to drive in runs.  Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez both had monster years. If the Rockies can land a first baseman that can add a bit more power to the line up the Rockies could overcome many of their other struggles.

San Diego Padres

BL – The Padres need some sports psychiatry and not just for the players but the managers and front office as well. There’s plenty of talent on this team but it’s simply not working together well. Craig Kimbrel was brought in too early when there were other issues for the team to sort out. There’s a lot of money locked up in the outfield and pitching staff. Best thing for them to do is sort out a plan and stick with it.

Kevin Quackenbush

Kevin Quackenbush and the rest of the Padres bullpen were severly overused in 2015. San Diego starters needs to do better in 2016. (www.friarsonbase.com)

DJ- The Padres were a mess and it showed in the pitching.  The starting rotation only had one starting pitcher average at least 6 innings pitched per start, James Shields. This left the San Diego bullpen with too many innings to chew up. San Diego overworked their relievers.  Five relief pitchers appeared in at least 53 games; Brandon Maurer (53 games), Shawn Kelley (53 games), Kevin Quackenbush (57 games), Craig Kimbrel (61 games), and Joaquin Benoit (67 games). No bullpen can survive this workload over the course of a season.  If the Padres want to be better in 2016, it all starts with putting together a starting rotation that can go deeper in games.

BL and DJ