Baseball in the Olympics

Yesterday Jayson Stark at ESPN posted an Insider article about Major League Baseball’s chance of rejoining the Olympics.  The seed for the article is the fact that more Americans watched the Canada-United States gold medal hockey game than watched the World Series (apparently).  He asks if baseball could replicate that kind of attention with Olympic participation.  He decides that baseball will not and should not, and his reasoning, backed up with quotes from Bud Selig, falls into these points:

  • You can’t suspend the baseball season the way the NHL suspended its season for the Olympics.  The summer games happen in August or September, which is too critical of a time for baseball.
  • You can’t suspend the baseball season because fitting in 162 games while keeping the playoffs from going into November would then be impossible.
  • You cannot shorten the baseball season because of the hit that would deal to baseball’s finances.
  • America understands and enjoys the Summer Games more, and baseball would not stand out in the Summer Games the way hockey stands out in the Winter Games.

Fair points, all.  He goes on to advocate for the WBC to be concluded during the All-Star break, which is a fun idea.  I’ve written about the WBC here before, but a couple of thoughts about an approach to letting professional players participate in the Olympics (should baseball be readmitted, of course).

The crux of the idea: let major league players leave their teams in order to play in the Olympics.

The cons:

  • Teams would lose their best players for a critical stretch of the season.
  • The impact on teams would be uneven (some might lose 5 best players, others might lose none).
  • Teams lose revenue, theoretically, from loss of star players.
  • Tension created between a country wanting a specific player, that player’s desire, and an owner not wanting the player to leave the team.
  • Team tension between a player wanting to leave for the Olympics, and teammates who view it as a selfish decision.
  • Taxing a pitcher mid-season, increasing chance of injury or fatigue for the playoffs.

(Notice how I started each ‘con’ with the letter T?  That’s the mark of a good, coherent thesis.)

Here are some thoughts for doing this anyway:

  • First, the Olympics are every four years, so this would not be a frequent problem.
  • Baseball currently has an image problem.  The Olympic spirit of selfless patriotism could inject baseball with story lines and personalities the game could use to counter its money-and-steroids image.
  • I think we underestimate both fans and teammates’ respect for a player being selected to, and playing for, their national team.  Evidence of this can be found in the Penguins-Sabers game yesterday, when the Pittsburgh crowd gave Ryan Miller a bigger standing ovation than it gave Sidney Crosby.
  • Nobody wants to tax an athlete into injury, but at some point you have to just let them play.  These are world-class athletes, and there is a chance of injury whether they play in Pittsburgh or Perth.  Pitcher coddling can be taken too far.
  • A fundamental part of sports is its ability to generate inspiring stories of courage and respect amidst competition.  For every fan who respects Pete Rose barreling over Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star game, there is a fan who respects Sandy Koufax for not pitching on Yom Kippur.  Allowing MLB players to leave their teams to play in the Olympics has the potential to generate defining moments in the history of the sport.
  • Example: Imagine if the Phillies and the Mets are tied for first place on August 1st.  Johan Santana, David Wright, Roy Halladay and Chase Utley all leave for 2 weeks to play in the Olympics, with an unspoken nod to each other that they will have unfinished business when they return.  That story would linger beyond whatever transpired that summer, and be a moment both those players and baseball can point to with pride.

Sadly, I don’t think it will happen, and the WBC is probably hurting baseball’s chance of even being reinstated into the Olympics.  But it is nice to daydream about great acts of national pride in which millionaires forsake money to play their favorite sport in the most heralded athletic competition in the history of homo sapiens.

Please, Joe Mauer, Stay a Twin (update)

Resident Boston wacko Jonathan Papelbon provides some interesting quotes in Gordon Edes’ recent ESPN column.  The article is mostly about Papelbon’s off season and contract status.  One quote that drew my attention is the following: 

Closers are millionaires too, you know

“But what do I have to give up to be in that marriage? Understand, I’m in the prime of my career. Why would I give up something? I’d give up something if it’s fair to both sides, but I want to do things for my fellow closers, just like Mo paved the way for me. I want every closer out there, man, to get every penny they deserve.”

I have speculated that the Players Union pressures big free agents to follow the most money, in order to inflate the salaries of lesser players.  I don’t know if that is true, but Papelbon provides evidence that such thinking is certainly floating out there.

——-

Also, Roy Halladay, as expected, left the Blue Jays.  However, he took less money in order to play for a contender.  Some ASC props to you, Doc, for being a classy competitor (to the extent that signing a $20 million dollar per year contract can be said to be a classy move).

The Full Deal: The Doc For A Boatload Of Prospects

Everyone is focusing on the recent deal of Cliff Lee out, Halladay in, but keep in mind that the Phillies traded for General Lee in the ’09 season meaning that they have shipped out 7 prospects in return for Halladay, Ben Francisco, 3 prospects, and cash. Cliff Lee negates himself overall.

Additionally, keep in mind this concerning prospects. According to Baseball America’s Organizational Prospect Rankings of April 1st, 2009 (so, pre-trades) running from Texas at #1 to Houston at #30, the Phillies were #12, while the Mariners were #24.

Net IN:
Ben Francisco is a backup OF for the Phillies. Generally backup OFs tend to be defensive, but BenFran is a below average fielder and the Phillies starters were all above average last season. BF has good power, but he doesn’t hit for average and his OBP is neither great nor bad (in 3 PAs he will hop on board once). I would think this spot could be used to bleed in a prospect since Raul Ibanez is a year older.

Roy Halladay is basically the best pitcher over the past decade. Ok, you can make a case for Zack Grienke over the past couple years, but no one really comes close to Halladay for the full 2000’s (Santana has unfortunately fallen prey to the Mets syndrome – “I will regress”). He moved from the AL East where he was pretty damn good to the NL East where he could be pretty damn better.

$6,000,000 will get you Cliff Lee for 2009, the next two seasons of Pudge or Jason Kendall, or almost Oliver Perez for 2008. If the Phillies have set a cap for themselves for 2010 and Halladay is getting $20 million per year from 2011-13/14 then that makes and increase of $10.25. So they will either be raising that cap a bunch in 2011 or attempting to shed salary.

You may only take as much as you can compress into a baseball.

Tyson Gillies played all last year at high A and showed remarkable improvement in batting for average, getting on base, and speed. His power seems limited to doubles and triples (speed helps) and he plays OF (CF). In Baseball America’s Organization Top 10 Prospects for the Mariners from last year (update comes Jan. 22) he didn’t make the top 10 but was listed as Fastest Baserunner and Best Outfield Arm.

Phillipe Aumont is the gem for the Phillies in this trade. He split 2009 between high A and AA displaying great K rate but struggling slightly in AA. In Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects from early 2009 he is ranked #93. Unfortunately there are usually two or three other Mariners ranked ahead of him, but the Phillies weren’t able to wrangle those better choices. In the top 10 org. prospects he was #3, the top pitcher, and the Best Fastball. He can start, but is apparently being bred for bullpen duties. He is also 6’6″.

JC Ramirez, also known as Juan Ramirez, was the second best pitcher prospect in the Mariners org. and #5 prospect overall. He spent 2009 in high A with less than appealing numbers.

Overall: Halladay – Great, Cash – Whatever, 3 Prospects – Restocking system with 2 low-minors guys and 1 better guy who is a bullpen pitcher – Not Good.

Net OUT:
Carlos Carrasco (to Cle) hit BA’s Top 100 at #52. In their Jan 6, 2009 top 10 Phillies prospects he was #2 and had Best Fastball and Best Change-up. He has shown success at every level of minor ball and even made 5 starts for the Indians…going 0-4 with an 8.87 ERA and 2.28 WHIP. He’s not there yet, but is the best prospect out of the 10 involved in these trades.

Jason Knapp (to Cle) came in at #10 in Phillies org. rankings. He has had some troubles in his A ball adventures between Philly and Cleveland, but his K rates are great and his FIP (Fielder Independant Pitching) in comparison to ERA suggests less than decent defense at his back. He has had some shoulder issues.

Lou Marson (to Cle) hit #66 on BA’s top 100 and was #3 in the org. with Best Strike-Zone Discipline and Best Defensive Catcher to boot. He has seen limited time in the Majors (76 PA), but his OBP is usually better than average to Beane-desirable. There isn’t much power and his BA has zoomed all over the place in his minor’s life (.243 to .314). He would have been at best a backup on the Phillies or a starter for anyone signing Jason Kendall or Pudge. Cleveland already has a talented catching prospect so Marson will either enjoy the backup life or get traded again.

Jason Donald (to Cle) weighed in at #69 on BA’s top 100 and #4 in the Phillies org. He is an infielder (SS) who could hit for average before bottoming out at AAA or due to injury. He has also shown excellent plate discipline in the lower minors, but has less than average power (or average power for middle infield). His plate/injury troubles at AAA could just need time for him to play it out or he could just suck against better competition.

Travis D’Arnaud (to Tor) was the next best catching prospect for Philly. He was #7 in the older BA Philly org. rank and in the newer one he bounced up to #4 and took Lou Marson’s old Best Defensive Catcher status. He is young for a catcher and his offensive abilities have been fairly loopy in his few seasons of low minors. He did display a surge in power this past year.

Kyle Drabek (to Tor) is a name that I’ve heard in every trade rumor for the Phillies for some time now. He jumped from #5 to #2 in the org. ranks and held Best Curveball for both. Given some more time in the minors (at AAA) he should develop into quite a nice top-mid rotation pitcher.

Michael Taylor (to Tor to Oak) moved from #6 to #3 in Philly’s org. rankings and has been their Best Power Hitter for both of those rankings. He has displayed the ability to hit for power, average, OBP, and run. He unfortunately is missing out on great defensive ability, but would make a reasonable RF/LF. There is a good chance that he’ll see modest to significant time in the Bigs.

Overall: From the earlier Organization Top 10 Rankings the Phillies traded 7 of those. The other three were J.A. Happ (who will most likely not see the same level of success) and two OFs (Domonic Brown – #1 twice now (remember what I said about bleeding in new talent over Ben Francisco) and Zach Collier – dropped off second ranking). They traded away significant prospects, but some of them have enough question marks/injuries that this could still be a major steal.

Over-Overall:
Trading away large amounts of your farm system really sucks. Replenishing it with less than equal prospects is better than doing nothing but still kind of sucks. Look at it this way – 4 better ranked prospects from the #12 system were turned into 3 lower ranked prospects from the #24 system. Yes, Lee was in the final year of his contract and making $9 million would push the Phillies over some arbitrary cap limit they have, but look at the (better) alternative. Keep Lee (paired up with Halladay!) and when he walks get two great draft picks. Trade one of the less necessary starters…Blanton is due for a raise in arbitration and that would cut payroll slightly…for some of those prospects (not as great as a Lee haul, but better than nothing). Two draft picks plus 2-3 mid-grade prospects with upside seems like a better deal here. I respect wanting to keep a farm system stocked and payroll at reasonable levels, but at the same time, biting the bullet and putting yourself in prime position for a WS run (rematch) seems like a no-brainer.
Right now the only thing that went right is that the Phillies upgraded Cliff Lee into Roy Halladay and no team in the NL has made any significant enough moves yet to put them ahead of the Phillies.

It’s cock bashing time

So I’m posting, which means a few things. A) It will probably be thrown together quickly B) It certainly will be mindless and incoherent C) It will have a Phillies slant.  Lets go through this mongo mega trade and really depict it…and who I truly see as the biggest winners.

PHILLIES:

OUT: Cliff Lee (under contract for one year at 8 mil), Travis D’Arnaud, Michael Taylor, Kyle Drabek

IN: Roy Halladay (who immediately signs 3 year extension with vesting options for two more), Tyson Gillies, Phillipe Aumont, JC Ramirez, Six million bucks

BREAKDOWN:

I love Cliff Lee…really I do.  But he wasn’t resigning here.  Just wasn’t happening.  That dude wants CC-like money at CC like length (for you bastards playing at home…thats 20+ for 6 or more years).  It’s been rumored Amaro has had a boner the size of the Comcast Building for Halladay for quite some time…he finally found a way to get him.  Now, the Phillies do give up a boat in prospects (Taylor is a potential stud, Drabek as well….D’Arnaud has potential but is only single A), but the blow is softened by getting back very quality players as well (I investigated these boys…two pitchers with very plus stuff and an absolute SPEED demon who hit .341 in A+ ball last year).

People in Philly are shitting their pants over Roy Halladay.  We’ve heard he’s so good and blah blah blah…but lemme tell you something, this guy is the fucking titties.  You know how good Cole Hamels’ changeup can be? Like how it comes directly out of the same arm slot angle as his fastball that sits at 89 mph?  Well, imagine if Cole Hamels was 6’6″, 230 lbs, and instead of having one of those devastating pitches, he had 3.  Oh yeah, and have that fastball sit at 97mph instead of 88.  Oh yeah…he’s been pitching in the most offensive division in the most offensive era in baseball, and all the while shitting on everybody’s faces.  I can’t even describe how legit this guy is.  No bullshit, a sub 2.00 ERA is a serious possibility for him in the NL East.

This is a move that makes sense, but stings a bit for the Phils.  Gave up some real homegrown depth on the farm…but dudes like Halladay just DON’T become available.  Not only that…he really gave the Phillies a bit of a discount on his extension.  For an avg of 20 mil…thats a joke.  Comparable to other guys out there (CC, Santana) it truly is a deal.  To sweeten the pot, Phils also got six million bucks to offset Halladay’s salary this year.

In time I’ll break down further how the Phillies aren’t totally fucked for salary in the future as well.

SEATTLE:

IN: Cliff Lee, two draft picks in ’10, and in one year nothing but a dick in their hands

OUT: Phillipe Aumont, Tyson Gillies, JC Ramirez

People are blowing their loads over how fuckin rad of a deal this was for the Mariners.  Yeah…they got Cliff Lee.  Everybody in Philly knows how good he can be, and with The King at the top of the roto, they’re going to be a power to deal with in the AL West.  One problem:  THIS IS A MOVE A TEAM WITH A LEGIT SHOT TO WIN THE WORLD SERIES MAKES….AND THE MARINERS AIN’T THAT.

I’d bet dollars to donuts Cliff Lee is staring at a loaded revolver and a Mariners hat, deciding which fate is worse.  He’s going to a passionless fan base where he’ll post 17 wins, MAYBE a playoff appearance and then get paid.  THEY’RE GOING NOWHERE THIS YEAR PEOPLE.  At this time next year, the Mariners and their fan base are going to be looking around at no more Cliff Lee, the King posting another monster year and saying “Pay me”, and watching the Halo’s reload and overtake the AL West.  Enjoy this year Mariners fans, because if you don’t win the world series its going to be right back to Bavasi-esque doldrums.  Oh yeah…they emptied half their farm to get Cliff for one year.  Maybe the revolver is for the front office next October? Probably.

TORONTO:

IN: BALLER PROSPECTS

OUT: Roy Halladay, six mil

Boys and girls, I present to you a very shrewd team looking to stay competitive.  I tip my hat to the Jays…they got the man they REALLY wanted (Drabek, immediately the #1 pitcher in their farm), Travis d’Arnaud who has an awesome last name and very well could develop into a good major leaguer, and flip Michael Taylor to the A’s for a prospect named Brett Wallace.  For people who don’t know Brett Wallace let me break it down.  He’s kind of big framed/kinda pudgy, and is one of the best pure hitters in the minor leagues.  For you scoring at home, people with awkward bodies who can really swat=friggin’ awesome (ask John Kruk and Princess Fielder).  A lefty 1b/3b who has an ability to actually hit lefties rocks.  The only problem with Halladay leaving is the Jays have to sell to their fan base that they’re in rebuild mode, considering Roy Halladay truly was the face of the franchise.

OAKLAND:

IN: Michael Taylor

OUT: Brett Wallace

Nice little move for the A’s here, although as you can see I have a some serious love for Wallace.  Taylor has the tools to be the next Strawberry but is still a little raw—however unlike most super athletes in the minors he’s already a contact hitter trying to develop power.  Usually its the other way around.

Bottom Line for the best god damn team on the planet: Yeah, we did give up some better prospects than we got back.  But think like we just gave up a BMW 7-Series for a BMW 5-Series; we didn’t get slouches in return.  Adios Cliffy baby, Hello Doctor.  Yay baseball.

Ace Swap

Roy Halladay

Doc would be one of the 3 best pitchers in the NL

There will be more about this as details emerge, but a deal is in the works that would send Roy Halladay to Philly, Cliff Lee to Seattle, and a lot of prospects flying around like shrapnel.

It remains to be seen if the upgrade from Lee to Halladay (if one can even call it an upgrade) is worth the prospects Philly will give up.  My initial reaction is two-fold:

  1. If anyone can pull Cole Hamels’ head out of his ass, it’s Roy Halladay.
  2. I hope the Mariners are trading Brandon Morrow to somebody.  He is and will always remain for me not Tim Lincecum.