Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Jeff Pearlman: Repeat offender

A few days after he called out the Pirates for sucking so hard and then sort of apologizing for the quarter-assed manner in which he did it, Jeff Pearlman, esteemed winner of Sports Illustrated's 2007 "Not Quite Fit For Print" Award, is at it again.

Initially, I was just going to debunk Jeff's argument, make fun of him a little and call it a day. And I still fully plan on doing that. But before we start the good old FJM-style funtiems, I want to make something perfectly clear: I don't think Jeff Pearlman believes one word of what he's written about the Pirates the last two weeks.

Columnists have big heads. They love writing things that provoke reactions, positive or negative. They don't care; they're in it for the attention. Jeff Pearlman has realized that the diehard Pirates fans of The Asylum are a fierce bunch, protective of their team through the thickest of thick, and he is capitalizing on that.

I don't think Jeff Pearlman has anything resembling an opinion on this issue -- or really any issue for that matter -- if there's no hope of some kind of potential for ego-strokery. This guy wrote a piece that got him a ton of hate mail, quasi-apologized for it, and has now written ostensibly the same piece again. Contrary to whatever Jeff might write on his blog about the hate mail hurting his feelings, don't be fooled. He loves every minute of it. The only differences between Jeff Pearlman and, say, Murray Chass, are about 60 years and a few million dollars. Also, while old Uncle Murray does love the attention, his superiority complex precludes him from basing his self-worth on what people write in response to his columns. Most of the self-indulgent, navel-gazing crap you'll find on suggests Jeff might not quite operate this way.

Am I playing right into Jeffrey's hands by giving him the attention he craves? Absolutely. But I don't care because I'm not his parent or his therapist. Now, onto the rich, meaty baseball side.

On July 26, 2008 the Pirates traded Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to the Yankees for Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen and Jose Tabata.

One year and 155 days later, Sports's Jeff Pearlman, fresh off a literary effort he acknowledged as completely phoned-in, decided it was high time he weigh in with an opinion on the trade. As the old cliche goes, you can't accurately judge who got the better of a trade until either three years after the fact or whenever Jeff Pearlman decides to weigh in -- whichever comes first.

Based upon the staggering number of responses I’ve received to my most recent post about the Pirates, I’m thinking of re-naming Unfortunately, that’d decrease my readership (hanging strong at about 2,000 per day) to, oh, 150 clicks. Maybe 155 if the Pirates win two straight.

And we're off! Jeff comes out swinging again, this time with a thinly veiled attempt at boasting about his readership figures, which is the columnist equivalent of bragging about the size of your dick. For perspective, Deadspin, the grandfather of all sports blogs, averages about 23 million unique domestic clicks per month. In this analogy, Jeff is bragging about having a three-inch penis.

If you write sports in the 21st century, you accept that you’ll get hammered. And hammered. And hammered. When you’re right. When you’re wrong. When you’re off. When you’re on. Whenever.

But more often when you're just wrong, and almost always when you're just doing it to get people to pay attention to you.

All that being said, I want to make a point that I consider, without question, indisputable: Pittsburgh’s July 26, 2008 trade of Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to the Yankees for Daniel McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Jeff Karstens and Ross Ohlendorf was absolutely, positively terrible. A horrible swap for the Pirates, sans debate.


I'm going to let The Pearlman flesh out his argument a little before delving into the myriad of factors that make this the least-good column Jeff has written since last week.

The Pittsburgh loyalist—an odd breed who gets punched in the head repeatedly (by his loved one, no less) while screaming, “More! More! More!”—looks at this deal 1 1/2 years later and says, “Not bad.”

I don't think anyone looked at this deal and said, "not bad." I think even people in the Yankees organization were borderline bewildered at how much Brian Cashman gave up to get these two guys, and that was on day one.

To look merely through the lenses of hindsight, however, is an ignorant way to view a deal. In the summer of 2008, Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte were hot properties.

Read that first sentence again:

To look merely through the lenses of hindsight, however, is an ignorant way to view a deal.

This is easily the most asinine thing anyone has ever written with regard to baseball.

Jeff Pearlman is straight-up suggesting that past performance is more important in evaluating the market for baseball players than is future performance. Perhaps this explains why he's hoping the Pirates will sign Nomar Garciaparra.

A. Neither man made an outlandish amount of money; B. Marte was a proven lefthanded reliever who was about to appear in at least 60 games for a seventh-straight season; C. Nady, while hardly Albert Pujols, is a 20-homer, 80 RBI type of hitter who can play multiple positions and is known as one of the game’s better clubhouse influences. If you were a contending team in 2008, you could use both guys. That’s why both the Mets and Yankees were interested; why the eyes of those covering the Major Leagues were, at last, focused upon Pittsburgh. They had players other teams craved, and they were willing to deal.

There's nothing outlandishly wrong here. Though I can't really speak to Xavier Nady's influence on a clubhouse, I've heard he does bring in cookie trays on Fridays, which is really great for morale. But in terms of factors that actually matter, The Pearlman is right. The Pirates had a couple of players coveted by other teams, and a minor league system totally bereft of talent. Two plus two equals trade those guys and start rebuilding your system.

So what did the Pirates receive for two craved medallions? Daniel McCutchen, who at best will be a fourth starter for a bad team. Jeff Karstens, a non-roster invitee for 2010 who will likely wind up in Triple A for somebody. Ross Ohlendorf, a No. 5 starter or long reliever for 90 percent of Major League teams (but, in Pittsburgh, a key component of the rotation). And, last but not least, the mighty Jose Tabata, a 21-year-old outfielder and the key to the deal for the Pirates.

Ross Ohlendorf can take his 800 math SAT score, his undergraduate degree from Princeton, his sabermetric-based thesis on the relative value of first-round signing bonuses, his breakout 2009 (3.92 ERA, 1.23 WHIP), his 95-mile-per-hour sinker and his unpaid internship at the United States Department of Agriculture and go straight to hell. He sucks. THE PEARLMAN HAS SPOKEN!

Ross Ohlendorf sucks so hard that he could never have pitched for a GOOD team like the Yankees. He lacks the talent. They're happy to have gotten rid of him. Good riddance to bad...wait...I'm being handed a note from FTC's research department...We have what appears to be a credible report of the Yankees inquiring about the availability of multiple Pirates pitchers, including Ross Ohlendorf, before re-acquiring Javier Vazquez.

I'm not going to argue that McCutchen and Karstens were crucial pickups. Karstens has fallen somewhere between alright and bad, and McCutchen doesn't have enough big league experience yet for anybody to make any kind of serious value judgement on him. What's important about these two guys is that they were young pitchers coming to a team that HAD ZERO YOUNG PITCHERS.

Tabata’s skills have been compared to those of Manny Ramirez, and he was Baseball America’s 12th best prospect in the Eastern League. But, of late, Tabata has been, well, mediocre. In 93 games split between Double A and Triple A last year, he hit a whopping five home runs, to go with 35 RBI and a .293 average. To suggest Tabata has fallen off the Top Prospect list is going too far. But in Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates have a can’t-miss slugger just waiting for a chance. Tabata can miss. An increasing number of people seem to think he will.

I don't know which baseball insiders Jeff Pearlman polled to come up with that sentiment, but clearly, New York Times baseball writer Tyler Kepner was not one of them. If you're feeling Pearlman-quality lazy, I'll save you the click. The previous link goes to an article whose title reads "Ohlendorf Making '08 Trade Look Like a Steal". It was penned back in September, after Ross had tossed eight shutout innings, including one in which he struck out the side on nine pitches. Cause, you know, he sucks. Fifth starter.

The pertinent quote, though, reads: "Once the Yankees’ top prospect, Tabata has hit .296 with five homers and a .360 on-base percentage at two levels this season. Just 21 years old, Tabata is starting to tap his potential."

So clearly, something has changed between September 6th and now that makes people think that Jose Tabata will not pan out. Well, the only baseball Tabata would have played between than and now would have been in the Arizona Fall League, so he clearly must have stunk up the joint or done to ruin his life land himself in federal prison.

Jose Tabata, 2009 Arizona Fall League: 28 games, 120 AB, .392/.448/.517

Okay, so Jeff Pearlman made all that up. But he did it with gusto! I won't deny that the lack of power is a slight concern, but Tabata is only 21 (supposedly), and power is the last thing to develop in hitters. All models and historical trends confirm this.

That’s why this trade irks me. The Pirates could have done better. The Pirates should have done better. And the under-performances of Nady and Marte change nothing.

It's nice to know Jeff rips because he just cares that much. Actually, the subsequent flopping of Nady and Marte makes this trade look even better, and the Pirates look even more right. This is what we talk about when we talk about selling high. Everything about Nady's 2008 season screamed outlier. He'd never played for so long without making a trip to the DL, and sure enough, he hasn't since. Marte's performance has slipped predictably with age, but there's also the idea that lefty specialists are overvalued in the market as a whole, and that's another point of organizational philosophy that we could have grand, well-informed Jamesian debates about from now to the next time Jeff Pearlman posts pictures of his knees on his website for you to enjoy, but that's another topic for another day.

It actually reminds me of the 1989 NFL Draft, when my New York Jets (I used to be a huge fan) used the No. 14 pick of the first round to select Jeff Lageman out of Virginia. The green-and-white clad fans rightly booed, and continued to boo throughout Lageman’s productive six years with the team.

Jets fans boo EVERY pick. This was not unique to Jeff Lageman.

This also has nothing to do with baseball.

Like the Jets, the Pirates blew a precious opportunity to get significantly better. They left chips on the table, settling for lesser value. And if Tabata becomes the next Cameron Drew, fans will look back at July 26, 2008 at one of the greatest lost opportunities in franchise history.

Yes. That's really the one place where this team has gone wrong the last 17 years. Advantage Pearlman.

PS: And to compare Nate McLouth and Lastings Milledge is ludicrous. McLouth is a proven Major Leaguer who, while far from perfect, will have a solid 10-year career. Milledge has now been discarded by two different organizations.

Now he's setting us up for the trilogy? Okay, but I'm going to wait until he actually writes it. I want to see what The Pearlman can pull out of his ass to make this argument, seeing as how he's talking about two completely different deals, and makes no mention of You Know Who.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Jeff Pearlman has your dose of holiday snark

Maybe he's just a lonely Jew on Christmas, but he's apparently too angry at the world to do research to back up his cheap shots at the Pirates.

The press conference will begin momentarily, so that the nation's newspapers will have plenty of time to lead with the blockbuster in tomorrow's sports sections. Neal Huntington, the Pirates general manager, will wear a sports jacket. A gold tie, too. His hair will be combed. Teeth brushed.

Doesn't this kind of imply that Neal Huntington might not ordinarily wear a tie, comb his hair or brush his teeth? It's good that he at least does it on Special Press Conference Day so that he looks good for important media heads like Jeff "Pappa Hemingway" Pearlman.

Everyone in attendance will be offered a choice of water or Coca-Cola. Glasses will be provided. Chairs as well. Wood ones, not plastic.

Gone are the days when the Pirates made all of the writers sit on the cold, concrete floor and drink rainwater out of the media room rainwater cistern.

This is how things are done these days at PNC Park. Classy. Smart. Are the Pirates en route to greatness? Look no further than the team Web site, where yesterday's lead headline beamed, PIRATES ADD VETERAN LOPEZ TO LEFTY BULLPEN MIX! (Admittedly, I've added the exclamation point. But, hey, it's not every day a team signs a pitcher with major league experience who literally nobody has heard of).

There's just so much wrong with this paragraph. First of all, Jeffrey, you didn't just add the exclamation point, you put the fucking thing in all caps. You did. Not them. The Pirates aren't claiming the signing of Javier Lopez to be an all-caps affair. That's just you.

Also, where do you get off saying that "literally nobody" has ever heard of Javier Lopez? It aggravates me to no end that you are a professional writer for a nationally recognized sports media outlet, but that you don't know how to properly use the word "literally." That literally aggravates me. I am literally aggravated with your fourth-grade command of your native language that I'm taking time out from my life and my responsibilities to pen not only this blog post, but a strongly worded letter to you, expressing on behalf of millions of fact-loving Pirates fans and English majors what an enormous douche we think you are.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the man sitting to my left needs no introduction," says Huntington, beaming from dimple to dimple. "He's someone we've been interested in for a long time; someone who can restore honor and a winning attitude to the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. We are committed to excellence here in Pittsburgh, and that's why this is such a historic day in our franchise's history. I'm pleased to introduce the newest member of the Pirates family, a proven winner and a future Hall of Famer ..."

"Nomar Garciaparra!"

I know it's only been one paragraph, and that said paragraph consisted entirely of a fake Neal Huntington block quote, but I suppose that's just part of the problem. Jeff Pearlman went to the University of Delaware, where he no doubt majored in over-sharing. Neal Huntington merely has a BA from Amherst College, an MA in Sports Management from UMass-Amherst, and has, to the best of our knowledge, never found blood in his stool and proceeded to write about it in a public sports forum on the Internet. Never will you hear Neal Huntington use the phrase "historic day in our franchise's history." It takes an English wiz like Jeff Pearlman to pen a gem like that.

Also, I don't ever recall the Pirates expressing any interest in Nomar Garciaparra. Ever.

You are wondering if this can happen.

No, I'm not.

You are wondering if any team would be crazy enough to sign an unproductive, uncooperative utility infielder stripped of his range, his pop and his health.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Joe Morgan's not the only one to think Michael Lewis is pushing an evil agenda

The FTC Film Society would like to opine that "The Blind Side" is going to blow, and here's why.
1. It's about a Baltimore Raven.
2. It's essentially a Hallmark Channel original, headlined by Sandra Bullock.
3. The title refers to the main character playing Left Tackle, when in fact he's a Right Tackle. I don't care what he did in the past, we're not here to talk about the past; we're here to say that it's a stupid title, and that it will teach a lot of suburban MILFs the wrong terminology.
Now, for your pleasure, I'm going to break down this pile of teary shit trailer. My comments come pretty fast, and I'm not sure how you'll read them while watching the video. Print it out or something, see what I care.

0:22-- What makes the DMV great (and let's admit it, the DMV's pretty great), is that rich housewives have to wait amongst people who smell, and that no amount of affluential sass will change that. The DMV equalizes in ways the Bill of Rights never could. For Sandra Bullock (playing Heather Locklear's character from Spin City) to get her way... gah! It just upsets me in the same way that uncalled holding penalties do. It cheapens everything for everyone!

0:29 -- where's Dennis Quaid and why isn't he playing this part?

0:51-- They pull into the driveway of this absolute pimp mansion, and then cut to Sandra Bullock putting blankets on the couch for the homeless kid. Entirely reasonable that they wouldn't have a guest room.

0:54-- Not-Dennis Quaid asks: "It's just for one night, right?" SPOILER ALERT: Nope!

1:15-- SPOILER ALERT: They build an addition to the house that includes a guest room, complete with guest bed.

1:33-- If this was a real movie, the part would be played by Whoopi Goldberg or Oprah.

1:35-- SPOILER ALERT: He prefers the couch!

1:39-- FTC commends the appearance of 40 oz malt liquors in any and all feature film trailers.


1:55-- Sandra Bullock pats Not-Dennis Quaid on the ass, and he yells "We're at practice" and she replies "you can thank me later."

2:05-- Sandra Bullock is teaching the kids how to play football. I find this very unnerving, as she's also going to (SPOILER ALERT!) make moms who came to the movie cry their eyes out. More specifically, she's going to make my mom bawl in public, and then my mom's going to come home and tell me how much I should see this movie because "there's actually a lot for a guy to enjoy, like the parts where they talk about football." NOT HAVING IT, MOM!

2:10-- Deadlifting a young Culkin brother is not as impressive as James Harrison's workouts, where he leg presses Haley Joel Osment's youngest siblings into a concrete wall.

2:14--It may not look like him, but that is actually Freddie Prinze Jr.

2:25-- SPOILER ALERT: They fuck right there on the bleachers before the big game. You can see Sandra Bullock's breast briefly before the credits roll.

Final thought: I hope it turns out that the reason Sandra Bullock's character is so nice to Michael Oher is because there's a bomb somewhere on him, and the moment her kindness slows down, everyone dies. I know it won't happen, but I can still hope everyone on the Ravens dies.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mixed-Sports Metaphor

When I first proposed this feature to Spinmove he said "Oh, you mean like when someone says a running back has home run speed?" At the time, I didn't think it was that significant, but after 4 weeks of mild awareness and infrequent, snarky blogging, I've concluded that 73% of all mixed-sports metaphors involve a football running back being described as having the ability to hit a home run.

What separates this one from the pack, and makes it vaguely useful as comparative trope, is the "pinch-hit" part:

This doesn't necessarily mean we've seen the last of Fast Willie. He might still help the Steelers. He is capable of a pinch-hit homer, even if he hasn't had a run longer than 34 yards since late in '06.

Good job, Trib. You earned that one.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Vincente Padilla goes all Plex on himself

But because he did it in Nicaragua, it probably isn't a crime.

Per the AP:

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Vicente Padilla accidentally shot himself in the leg in Nicaragua.

Dr. Eduardo Reguera said Padilla didn’t need surgery after spending time at Managua’s Metropolitan Hospital.

Police spokesman Vilma Reyes said Wednesday that Padilla’s pistol apparently jammed during a target shooting session late Tuesday. Padilla was trying to clear a round from the chamber when the pistol went off.

His agent, Adam Katz, told The Los Angeles Times that it was a “hunting accident.”

Padilla went 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA for the Dodgers the final two months of the regular season. He allowed one run in 7 1-3 innings in Game 2 of the NL Championship Series, but was battered for six runs in three innings in a season-ending loss to the Phillies.

Oh my god...

...does anyone remember Xavier Nady?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Some Ideas

I saw this from the AP, today. Hilarious.

Randall said he and Schafer would spend Monday night putting together a formal presentation for Lerner, who took over ownership of the Browns after his father, Al, died in 2002.

Powerpoint? Hypercard? Posterboard and magic marker?

I decided I'd put together a counter-presentation, in case Randy Lerner isn't convinced by what two random season ticket holders have to tell him. So, if you're out there, Randy, please consider the following:

1. Euthanize Bernie Kosar.

Read as much of this as you can without vomiting. Then tell me the poor bastard doesn't deserve to be put out of his misery.

2. Bring back Charlie Frye.

Charlie Frye was TERRIBLE, yes. No one's denying that. But Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn are combining for what could be the worst quarterbacking of all time. Not an exaggeration. Worst quarterbacking of all time.

Also, if you bring back Charlie Frye, you bring back this:

Charlie Frye!

3. Fire Greg Kokinis.

Rex Ryan seems to be doing all your GM work for you. Why pay Kokinis?


4. Sue your own players.

This sounds crazy, sure, but just stick with me. Everyone knows that your own guys-- even the ones who grew up huge Browns fans and dreamt their entire lives of playing for your miserable team-- come back to sue you in the end. Beat 'em to the punch! Just imagine, you could be recouping those giant bonuses you recklessly awarded to players who never played a single snap... or if nothing else, you could try your luck on the other side of the counter-suit. Look, I'm not asking you to punt on 1st down. Just to alienate your personnel beyond what you've already done with the chance that-- MAYBE-- your problem is not going far enough.

5. Euthanize my father.

I can't stand to see him like this.

6. Let the fans play.

You have SIXTY-TWO THOUSAND people who are more deserving to start at nickelback than Hank Poteat. That's not even close to false. If you really want to show the people of Cleveland that you're a cool guy and not just some prick who hates American sports but loves British ones and just happened to accidentally inherit the Browns, then you need to line them up for open casting calls. See what kind of talent you have in section 178.

7. Let the fans drink.

Cleveland has gone 45 years without a championship. 35 years since 10 Cent Beer Night. Bring it back and you'll be the cool owner.

8. Euthanize Nick Sorensen.

I don't even know who that is, I just picked his name randomly from your roster. I can't imagine he'd mind the favor you'd be doing him.

9. Join in the protest.

Monday Night Football rolls around. The Ravens are licking their chops. Your fans are hiding out before kickoff to show their displeasure with .... things that aren't pleasurable. Maybe the entire team should do the same. See if Baltimore will just take the hint and go home without kicking your ass. Sure, you may get called for the forfeit, but whatever. Who were you trying to impress anyhow?

10. Start learning the words and melody to this.

I'll expect to hear it next time we're in town.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Primetime beanings

I kinda like the Phillies' strategy of just hitting A-Rod with pitches as often as possible. Now, with Joe Blanton hitting A-Rod in the top of the first with one out and men on, making his situation worse, the umps have warned both sides.

And CC Sabathia has yet to throw a pitch in this game.

Tim McCarver says that this advance warning will hurt Sabathia's ability to throw inside.

Who else thinks he's wrong?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why it's impossible to root for the Yankees

Not to pull a Keith Hernandez, but the Yankees have a woman broadcaster on their radio team. Why is this objectionable? Here, have a listen.

While we're on the subject of broadcasters, the Yankees currently employ Michael Kay.

And if you really want your skin to crawl, have a gander at this list of nicknames and sayings, used by John Sterling:
"An A-bomb from A-Rod" (Alex Rodriguez)
"The Melkman Delivers" (Melky Cabrera)
"El Capitano" (Derek Jeter)
"The Giambino" (Jason Giambi)
"It's a Tex Message!" (Mark Teixeira)
"You're on the 'Mark' Teixeira" (Mark Teixeira)
"It's a Thrilla - By Godzilla!" (Hideki Matsui)
"The Sayonara Kid does it again!" (Hideki Matsui)
"Swish It Away" (Nick Swisher)
"Swishilicious" (Nick Swisher)
"Jorgy Juiced One" (Jorge Posada)
"Robbie Cano Don't You Know" (Robinson Cano)
"It's a Johnny Rocket" (Johnny Damon)
"Hinske with his best shot" (Eric Hinske)
"Robin becomes Batman" Robin Ventura
"The Bam-Tino" Tino Martinez
"X marks the spot" Xavier Nady
"Gardner plants one" Brett Gardner
"Bernie goes boom!" Bernie Williams
"Bern baby Bern!" Bernie Williams
"Brosius the Ferocious" Scott Brosius
"Shane Spencer the home run dispenser!" Shane Spencer
"El Comedulce! Bobby Abreu is as sweet as candy!" Bobby Abreu

Rudy Giuliani is a Yankee whore.

Scott Brosius was nominated for entry to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. This could not have happened without the work of several loud, fat, STUPID Yankee beat writers.

Aaron Boone will someday be nominated for entry to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, too. Fuck you, NY Post.

The Yankees killed Nick Adenhart.

The Yankees bilked the State of New York and every team in baseball (see: "operating lease"), when building their (below standard) $1,000,000,000+ stadium.

Spinmove makes the point that Philadelphia fans don't deserve to boo A-Rod. After years of abuse, New Yorkers don't deserve to cheer for him. Hey fuckheads, look at this:
A-Rod regular season career: .305/.390/.576
A-Rod post-season career: .307/.408/.570
Alex Rodriguez is exceptionally good whenever. The fact that you were looking at tiny sample sizes may explain why he appears "choke" or "clutch." He's neither. He's just fucking great, and the truth about baseball is that more often than not, even the fucking great players make outs. I'd like to emphasize that I hate Alex Rodriguez. He's a cheat, a bad husband/father, a narcissist, the embodiment of fucked-up sports economics, and a Yankee. Are those any reasons for his own fans to hate him? Sure, but it's no reason to say he's bad at baseball, which is what they were doing for years. Morons.

Why it's impossible to root for the Phillies

  • The Phillies won the World Series last year. Let someone else have a chance, for god's sake.
  • Fact: Philadelphians do not actually like sports. Philadelphians follow and invest themselves in their sports teams as a vehicle through which to hate on other people for no reason whatsoever.
  • Have you ever had a real Philly cheesesteak? There is absolutely nothing special about a cheesesteak from Pat's or Geno's, relative to a cheesesteak you can get anywhere else in the country. I've had both Pat's and Geno's, and I still prefer the Special Steak from Uncle Sam's Subs on Forbes in Squirrel Hill. I'm sure Philadelphians would use this to critique my palate's lack of complexity and awareness with regard to cheesesteaks. To those people I say, "fuck you."
  • You assclowns need to give Brad Lidge a break. If you look at the statistics that actually matter, such as ERA+, WHIP, K/BB, etc., you'll see that he's consistently been one of the best relievers in baseball over the course of his career. I'll concede that Lidge's performance this year has been the worst of his career to date, but that's the exception and not the rule. Between 2003 and 2008, only once did Lidge post an ERA+ lower than 121. In that same timespan, he posted a 143 ERA+, a 1.17 WHIP and struck out 3.27 batters for every walk he issues. You can't really fault him for giving up the home runs he does because your ballpark is the size of a goddamn sandbox. Also, you got him from Houston for next to nothing. Do you dipshits really want to see Ryan Madson in there? I mean, really?
  • If Ben Franklin were alive today, he would hate each and every one of you motherfuckers.
  • How can anyone get behind this "Win one for Harry Kalas" bullshit? Yeah, he died. I get it. But he was alive to see them win last year. The Steelers won a Super Bowl the year after Myron Cope retired, AND the year after Myron Cope died, but nobody was running around saying how they should win it for Myron. We don't need to win championships for our local non-athlete heroes because 1) we have dozens and dozens of championships, and 2) we shower them with love, which is like the ultimate championship of life. But you wouldn't know anything about love, would you? No, you wouldn't, because you're all violent sociopaths.
  • This one has nothing to do with Philadelphia. Much the same way you hate on Brad Lidge, the rest of the world likes to needlessly hate on Alex Rodriguez, often because of how "un-clutch" he is. People who do this are idiots. I dislike A-Rod as much as the next guy, but the fact remains that he is astonishingly good at baseball. He just happens, like so many in his profession, to be kind of a dick. Well, I have news for you: most baseball players are dicks. They're kids who are often drafted right out of high school or plucked out of Latin America at very young ages and thrown into development systems that more or less cut them off from society. Of course they're going to act like high school boys when they spend all of their time from junior high until their late thirties around groups of 24 similar people, many of whom are stuck in similar states of arrested development. Some day, we'll make a list of all of them, but for now, here are just a few: Ty Cobb, Jim Rice, Ian Snell, Carlos Garcia, Reggie Jackson, Rich Loiselle, Steve Carlton, Jason Kendall, Brian Giles, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Eric Hinske. I'm not saying all baseball players are dicks; not saying that at all. But to hate on A-Rod just because he's kind of a dick is the single most hypocritical thing you can do as a sports fan if you've ever liked any athlete despite that athlete being a dick. Do you hate A-Rod? You do? Okay. Do you like Michael Jordan? You do?! Great! Now, you're just like 98 percent of employed sports columnists! I hope A-Rod totally goes off in this series, hits .700 with 13 home runs and brings peace to the Middle East so that you'll all just shut the fuck up.


Dear FTC Readers:

We are pleased to bring you a new feature in our great series of letters: a rousing debate forum, in which Spinmove will offer a point of argument and I'll tell you why it's bullshit. Our first topic-- Who to root for in the 2009 World Series?

I'll be explaining why you can't possibly root for the Yankees, and Spinmove will explain why you can't possibly root for anything that comes out of Philadelphia. Prediction: no one wins.


Still Topical

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mixed Metaphors of the Week

From the PPG:

"We scored so quick in the third quarter when we had the ball and then we hit a lull," [Bruce] Arians said. "We sat there for a while on the bench and I think we lost our rhythm. I got a little greedy there trying to hit the home run ball."

What I like about the phrasing is that he goes so far as to use the word "ball." It's not just a colloquial term for success here; 'home run ball' is a precise reference to something that happens in another sport.

And from the AP:

Harbaugh added: "Ray Lewis is a tough, a physical guy. Ray Lewis is also as a great a sportsman as I've met. He plays good, clean football. I guarantee you the shot on Ochocinco was in the strike zone. I want to stand behind Ray in that sense."

Another football -> baseball thing. Here's hoping FOX's handling of the ALCS will take us in the opposite direction.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Blast from the past

Hey everyone. Remember April 24th? I couldn't, until I went here.

Of very mild interest, is the second comment on the post where I said Adam LaRoche's PECOTA forecast was .271/.354/.489, with 24 HR. I also thought he might defy that by a bit because of his flukey hot start. Well, have a look at the actual stats:

.277/.355/.488, 25 HRs.

How terrifying must that be, if you're Adam LaRoche, and your entire destiny as a mid-level power bat with an ever lowering ceiling was foretold so accurately every spring? I'd like to believe that he heard of this prophecy, and, trying to exceed it, regressed even further to the mean, just like King Oedipus did.

Some other PECOTA projections:

Freddy Sanchez PECOTA-- .291/ .332/ .422, 3 HR
Freddy Sanchez Actual-- .296/.334/.442, 6 HR

Nate McLouth PECOTA-- .269/.349/.475, 8 HR
Nate McLouth Actual-- .256/ .349/.470, 9 HR

Jack Wilson PECOTA-- .265/.302/.367, 2 HR
Jack Wilson Actual-- .267/.304/.387, 4 HR

Andy LaRoche PECOTA-- .239/.328/.366, 4 HR
Andy LaRoche Actual-- .258/.330/.401, 12 HR

All of these projections seem to be short in quantity. The only one I have that lists a full season is Adam LaRoche. It's like they figured all these guys would be traded, and they're only bothering to project what they'd do as Pirates. That makes it all the more impressive that PECOTA could estimate how much opportunity they'd get before being moved.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

New Feature

Here in the heydays of overlapping baseball, football, hockey and soon to be basketball, we here at FTC are pleased to announce a new seasonal feature: celebrating the mixed sports metaphor, reference or trope.

For example...

Out of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, we have Bud Shaw writing:

Wonder why the Browns didn't look prepared to open the season? Why they rank last or next to last in critical offensive categories? Why the lone touchdown score came -- like an uncontested steal of second base -- with the Minnesota Vikings lulled into late-game defensive indifference.

A fairly good crossover, I think. Good syntax, effective description; doesn't come across as highly irrelevant.

This one from Yahoo! Sports baseball favorite, Tim Brown, is on the other side of the spectrum:

Not only would there be less talk about the hex, there’d be a lot less talk about all those fallow innings, and the overanxious at-bats, and the whiffed squeezes, and the shaky defense, and the three-games-and-outs.

Clearly he's borrowing from football with that last clause. Terribly awkward results. Doesn't help me understand the situation any better than if he hadn't made the reference, and if anything, it junks up the phrasing. Try saying "three-games-and-outs" out loud. It doesn't feel good on the tongue or on the brain.

If anyone can find Cliff Lee's interview after yesterday's game, pass it along. I remember him saying something about his only goal was "to get my offense back on the field." Not sure he intended it as a mixed reference, but for the sake of splitting hairs, I think we can all agree that in baseball we get the offense back up to bat, or back to the plate, or back on base-- not on the field. Someone find me the actual quote, I'll make a big deal out of it!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Brandon Inge

Watching the end of regular season baseball on TBS.

Top of the 8th. 1 out. Runners on first and second. Joe Nathan vs. Brandon Inge.

The TBS stooge in the booth says "Brandon Inge really personifies what the city of Detroit has been through this year."

I mean, it's true. Brandon Inge is the embodiment of blight. But like, I'm pretty sure the TBS guy meant it as a two-way compliment. "Congratulations Detroit, you've OPSed .538 since the All Star break, and kudos Brandon Inge, you lead all third basemen in unemployment and violent crime." Except said sincerely.

(Holy shit, what is Dana Carvey doing in a T Mobile commercial?? I love playoff caliber advertisements.)


ESPN Brittfarr Fact #102: Brett Favre is a voting member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #17: Brett Favre loves football so much that he's lobbied five different United States congressmen to introduce legislation legalizing civil unions between a man and the abstract concept of football.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #34: Physicists at CalTech have devised a algorithm to determine which football players have the most fun playing football. It allows for adjustments for comparison across eras, and has a margin of error of +/-.00001. This algorithm dictates that nobody has ever had more fun playing football than Brett Favre, whose Adjusted Love of the Game Quotient (ALotGQ) is more than 3,004 standard deviations from the next closest player on the all-time list.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #312: "...pump it, let it go." - Brad Childress

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #56: Brett Favre's post-football career plans involve opening a series of Brett Favre-only sperm banks throughout the midwest so that millions of football-loving couples may produce their own Brett Favre-spawn.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #257: As soon as Brett Favre stops playing football long enough to feel pain, he will immediately re-discover his love for prescription pain medication.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #22: "Man, I'm losing it." - Brett Favre

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #562: Brett Favre spends his Saturday afternoons having coffee with God.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #77: Brett Favre developed and built a machine that allows him to enter Stuart Scott's dreams as his own personal Holodeck.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #912: Brett Favre dyes his hair grey to make himself look older to enhance the amazement factor.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #88: Brett Favre fucked your mother. And your grandmothers. Both of them.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #4: Having launched ESPN Boston and ESPN Dallas, the Worldwide Leader plans to launch ESPN Brett Favre by Week 12 of the 2009 NFL season.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #17: Brett Favre has been clinically dead and successfully resuscitated seven times in his life.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #6,241: Brett Favre's 'self-deprecating' sense of humor is the most disingenuous crap this side of every time Barry Bonds tells his kids he loves them.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #90: Brett Favre wants you to buy a truck.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #91: Brett Favre wants you to buy some jeans.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #41: When not playing football, Brett Favre keeps himself busy by playing football.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #39: Brett Favre once killed a British man in an argument over the definition of "football".

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #66: Brett Favre has told friends that he will not retire until he has played one full season for each NFL team.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #67: When he does retire, Brett Favre plans to buy a CFL franchise and install himself as GM and starting quarterback.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #110: The more I hear Brett Favre's name, the more I am beginning to like Philip Rivers. Simply by default -- simply because he's not Brett Favre.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #111: Same with Ray Lewis.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #112: And Michael Vick.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #113: But not the Flyers. Never the Flyers.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #712: Peter King's laptop contains 1.67GB of photoshopped Brett Favre porn.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #512: Brett Favre is the best quarterback in the history of professional football. He's also the best shortstop in the American League, a nine-time all-star power forward, an avid bowler and a member of the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #497: Brett Favre collects antique shotguns and occasionally uses them to defend his family from illegal immigrants.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #909: ESPN has devoted exactly 100% of tonight's edition of 'SportsCenter' to coverage of Brett Favre.

ESPN Brittfarr Fact #1: If and when I ever decide to take my own life, be certain that the nearly twenty years of masturbatory Brett Favre media coverage I've had to live through will be mentioned in whatever note I leave. If it's not, suspect foul play.

Monday, September 28, 2009

This really bothers me

There are other bad nominees, but no one as unlike Roberto Clemente as this guy. My only explanation for how this happened, is that MLB decided on the nominees sometime in June, and it was questionable whether Grady Sizemore would still be on the team when the candidates were announced.

Maybe it's because I've spent several summers watching him completely implode under the pressures of hitting a major league curveball. Or maybe it's because he's fat. I don't know, but I'm positive that Jhonny Peralta is the anti-Clemente.

Peralta = .267 career batting average

Clemente = .317 career batting average, 4 time batting champion

Peralta = 14 career triples

Clemente = 166 career triples, 11 per 162 games

Peralta = 822 hits, 161 per 162 games

Clemente = 3,000 hits, 200 per 162 games

Peralta = 6'1", 210 lbs (conservative listing)

Clemente = 5'11, 175 lbs

Peralta = 27.7 Body Mass Index (overweight)

Clemente = 24.4 Body Mass Index (normal)

Peralta = terrible fielding shortstop

Clemente = 12 time gold glove winner

Peralta = terrible fielding third baseman

Clemente = considered one of the greatest right fielders of all time

Peralta = participant in "Cleveland Indians Community Outreach Department's "Shop with a Pro" program, an event where local Boys & Girls Club members team up with players to then go shopping."

Clemente = "died on New Year's Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua."

Everything I hear about Bob Clemente tells me that he was one of the most exciting players ever. Heck, he's the answer to the trivia question: who hit the only walk-off, inside the park, grandslam? Walk-off, inside the park, grandslam!! That is so ridiculously exciting! Gunning guys down at third base, while still on his knees in deep right field--exciting!

Jhonny Peralta's 752 career strikeouts and .760 OPS... not so thrilling. For him to match Clemente's legacy, he'd have to overcome his on field mediocrity with just a shocking amount of charity and good works. We're talking the cure for AIDS or something on that level.

"...participates in special meet-and-greets with young fans at the ballpark."

Fuck you!

Monday, September 21, 2009

A think piece on the Dolphins

I've always hated the Browns. Growing up in Cleveland, I just intuitively knew that those guys were losers. Even before they were stolen by Baltimore, I was busy looking for a new team. Somehow my search was narrowed down to the Dolphins and the Steelers-- with the Steelers eventually winning out, after I received the Sports Illustrated for Kids issue with Kordell Stewart on the cover (most dangerous player in football, I was told).

But still, even after that moment of great decision, I always held the Dolphins in high regard. Dan Marino ran a very classy show for the vast majority of my life, and I really never had reason to think poorly of the franchise. Heck, I even found myself enjoying Mercury Morris when he ranted about the Pats a few years ago.

But all that has changed.

My respect for the Dolphins died the moment they sold their stadium's naming rights to Jimmy Buffett. Sell it to whoever you want-- but not that guy! Haliburton or Wal-Mart for fucksake, not Jimmy Buffett. I know it sounds like I'm overreacting, but mark my words, this is second only to regular season games being played in Europe.

Alright... for as much as I hate parrot heads, I can't help but enjoy watching Joey Porter blitz Peyton Manning on Monday Night Football. The Dolphins have won me back just a little because of him.

They're also running some very interesting offenses. I've resisted thinking the Wildcat was anything more than a gimmick for a long time now (a year to the day, ESPN tells me), but Miami runs it right, at least. They execute it with purpose, just like it's any other package in the playbook. Most every team in the league has dabbled with the strategy in the past year, but I've yet to see anyone who takes it seriously. It was downright silly when we ran it in the playoffs last year, looking like Bruce Arians had lost a bet to Willie Parker and owed him a direct snap (more likely it was Tomlin who lost the bet, as Arians couldn't spell wildcat if you spotted him the 'wild' and the 'ca').

Anyway, I guess Ronnie Brown has done his job to win me back. Of course, Jon Gruden keeps yelping "WILDCAT!...WILDCAT!" every few seconds, interrupted only by claims that "...IT'S WILD!" So that's a big step in the wrong direction.

There's a baseball diamond on Miami's football field. Jury's out on what that does for the Dolphins.

Returning to the play calling: I'm liking how much Miami mixes up their backfield. They run the draw out of a 3 RB set better than anyone. They're also mixing up QB looks, subbing out Pennington for a lefty off the bench. It's interesting stuff, and very good strategy. The Colts' defense is absolutely exhausted, as Indy is getting destroyed on T.O.P.

Joey Porter just sacked Manning for 8! Wow is that exciting!

I don't know, let's do the math on this.
Pluses for the Dolphins:
+Dan Marino's 17 years of class-act football
+Only perfect regular season without an asterisk
+Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
+beating the Pats with the wildcat last year
+Joey Porter

Minuses against the Dolphins:
-Bill Parcels being an overrated jerk
-this guy

I'd say Miami just squeaks by as acceptable...but-- what's this?? NO! Oh my god they're playing 'Fins to the Left, Fins to the Right' as the celebratory, touchdown music.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

From the Smize-archives!

At the top of Smizik's latest blog musings, he describes his storied past as the Pirates' beat writer during the 1970's dynasty.
It was a great experience for a young reporter to be around such an outstanding team and such extraordinary players. I didn’t quite realize it at the time, but it was an honor to cover Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski and the rest of those players. They were my Boys Of Summer.
Wow, Bob! That's a really incredible gig! But was it enough to make you... enjoy sports?

October 14th, 1960--
While there is reason to celebrate now, you can expect even more fireworks from Pirates' second basemen in the future. Bill Mazeroski's hit is looking less and less like an aberration, and more like something he can build on.

October 1st, 1972--
3,000 hits for Bob Clemente, and he's just getting started! Could we be seeing the makings of a 4,000 hit career?

April 7, 1973--
Bucs win opening day, as Steve Blass gets a jittery start out of his system. Should be smooth sailing from Pirates' ace from here on.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Silver lining, part i.

As we sit through another WGN rain delay, let's dig deep for some positives on the 2009 season. How 'bout this: Andrew McCutchen. Compare him to the Cubs' leadoff-hitting center fielder, Kosuke Fukudome.

Fukudome's career stats:
254 games, 20 HR, 18 SB, 12 CS, .264/.372/.414, 102 OPS+

McCutchen's career stats:
63 games, 7 HR, 12 SB, 1 CS, .285/.352/.473, 120 OPS+

Other main difference is that Chicago's Japanese import cost $48,000,000 for 4 years, whereas 'Cutch is rookie cheap. I'd be shocked if he makes more than $2 million total, by the time Fukudome's contract is up.

And for those of you following, Andrew McCutchen leads all rookie position players in Value Over Replacement Player. I don't put a ton of stock into that as a predictive tool for Rookie of the Year considerations (partly because VORP and BBWAA are two acronyms that can't stand to be in the same room together, and partly/more importantly because McCutchen will also be up against some non-position player competition-- J.A. Happ being the leading candidate); however, it's still encouraging.

There's probably at least one other positive thing to say about the Buccos, but WGN is going to their 'Coach' marathon, so I'm tapping out for now.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What could this mean??

I love Mike Tomlin to the max. I have an unhealthy amount of respect for the dude, and have yet to find fault with the way he runs the team. That said, fuck the heck does this mean??

“Hines has money in my emotional bank account, so I take care of Hines,” said Tomlin, who had Ward sit out every midweek practice last season.

Working backwards:
3. Hines Ward was kept out of Wednesday practices last year because he's getting fragile, didn't need to learn anything new, and would be better conditioned on game day because of the extra rest.
2. "I take care of Hines" Perfectly fair; we expect a coach to take care of his players.
1. "emotional bank account" !??!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!??!

Thoughts? Anyone?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Editor's note

Some, if not all of the information in this post is no longer true. Derrick Mason has unretired and will join the Ravens' training camp after all.

Let's make him regret it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Eulogy for Jack Wilson

One day, when the powers that be are ready to close the book on this horrendous, near-two-decades-long binge of suck, you can bet your sweet ass there's going to be a lot of intense and emotional reflection on the part of the die-hard Pirates fans. As if die-hard Pirates fans weren't already emotionally reflecting on pretty much everything, simply as a result of being die-hard Pirates fans...

Anyway, when that book is closed, this is the guy you'll remember. He wasn't the best player, but that never really mattered. Jack Wilson never failed to justify his place in the lineup.

We heard anecdotes for years about the miserable atmosphere in the Pirates' clubhouse. We heard about Brian Giles and Jason Kendall greeting new players with "welcome to hell." We heard about how those two even went out of their way to give Wilson an especially hard time.

If five years ago, you'd said to anyone even remotely in the know that in 2009, the Pirates would still be awful, they'd almost certainly believe you. But if you'd said that they'd be awful, but with pretty remarkable attitude and character, you'd be laughed out of town quicker than a crackpot mayor lobbying for a baseball-only stadium.

Five, six years ago, everyone here was miserable. Now, though, we're all miserable together. There's an almost tangible sense of unity in this club now: a candlelight vigil for Nate McLouth, players crying upon finding out they've been dealt. And when was the last time you ever heard of statistically average players on a cellar-dwelling team try to collectively bargain their way into staying in town and staying together? You almost never see this with teams, let alone teams this bad.

We all know that players win games, but that executives choose the players. And for all the talk we've heard in the past about creating a "culture of winning," nobody's done more to change the attitude and feel of this club than Jack Wilson. The Pirates are better off now than when he got here, and the only consistent feature over that period of time is him.

He likely won't be here when the club turns the corner and wins that 82nd game or makes the playoffs. But you can be damn sure he'll be paying attention, and that he'll be thrilled as anyone on this board.

I really hope that he returns to Pittsburgh later on in some capacity, or at least winds up an active member of the Pirates' Alumni Association. I look forward to some day down the road when I'll be able to walk up to him at PirateFest or an alumni autograph session, shake his hand and personally thank him for giving us something to be proud of during the very roughest of times.

Best of luck, Jack. We love you, man.

Kwanza for everyone!

And to top off my day, "Steady" Freddy Sanchez is now a Giant.

I don't want you to think I'm a total monster: I love Freddy and I love Jack. (And for a brief while, I even believed in Ian Snell.) However, I fully understand that they're not the future of this club, and that if we're going to go in a direction regarding personnel, we should go there 100%. It's not enough to chip away at this team, one veteran at a time. If the opportunity is there for a complete makeover, we need to take it. The sooner, the better.

This is the opportunity that presented itself from San Francisco:

Tim Alderson
Pitcher, 22nd pick overall in 2007
Age: 20
6'6", 217 lbs
Comparable Pitchers (according to PECOTA's projections): Adam Miller, Nick Adenhart, Shawn Hillegas, Don Schulze, Gaby Hernandez, Sam August, Jerome Williams, Greg Mayberry, Matt Cain, Mike Dowless, Steve Avery, Jeff Russell, Zack Greinke, Roger Salkeld, Randy Knoll, Jimmy Gobble, Pat Strange, Jim Pittsley, Mark Eichhorn, Mark Grant.
Minor League Stats: 3.07 ERA, 1.153 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 0.5 HR/9, 8.5 H/9, 3.96 K/BB.

I love Freddy, but at age 31, and at a price tag of $6.25 million, how much upside and value is there?

Just the facts

As you know, nothing gets me more excited than seeing major league talent traded for prospects. Just imagine my buzz when I read that Cliff Lee had been sent to Philadelphia. It was pretty much Christmas morning. Throw in the fact that the Buccos were finally able to dump Jack Wilson and Ian Snell for minor leaguers, and we're talking one of those Christmas-Chanukah fusions that kids with mixed religious heritages get to experience. Total ecstasy.

I'll try containing myself, so as to break this down for you.

Here's what the packages looked like:

Jack Wilson + Ian Snell = Ronny Cedeno + Jeff Clement + Nathan Adcock + Brett Lorin + Aaron Pribanic

Jack Wilson - shortstop, 31-years old, due $7.4 million this year, and over $8 million next (with a buyout just over half a million). Longest tenured Pirate on the roster, pretty much the all-hustle/little-talent veteran leader. Wilson was a fan favorite and had expressed interest in being on the team when they finally make the turn around. Neal Huntington agreed that would be fine, but that in order for that to happen, Wilson would have to take his 2010 salary and spread it over to 2011 as well. Wilson balked at that, Huntington didn't flinch. We all know what happened next.

Ian Snell - starting pitcher, 27-years old, due $3.2 million this year, about the same next. Snell wowed us for a couple months in 2007, showing off a mid-90's fastball, and a wipeout slider that started at the knees and disappeared toward the ground. Then he returned to mediocrity, exceeding his pre-2007 ERA of 4.95 with a post-2007 ERA of 5.40. A couple days after Spinmove and I saw him stink it up earlier this summer, he went on to trash his coaches, claimed to be suicidal, and then asked to be demoted to AAA. Finally Huntington said "Yes, yes, just get out of here and stop being nuts!" Snell returned to AAA, where he spent most of the past two months blowing away kids three to seven years younger than him. When Huntington asked him if he wanted to come back, Snell told him he'd never return to Pittsburgh. Huntington sighed with exasperation, and traded his crazy ass.

Ronny Cedeno - shortstop, 26-years old, due $822,500 this year, free agent at the end of the season. Cedeno stinks. He is absolutely Cesar Izturis, except that-- unlike 2007, when we acquired the 27-year old Izturis from the Cubs-- we're not paying $4.1 million dollars for him (WHICH IS WHAT DAVE LITTLEFIELD ACTUALLY DID FOR 45 GAMES OF CESAR FUCKING IZTURIS OH MY GOD HE WAS SO BAD AT HIS JOB). I guess the other difference is that Cedeno will be a place holder at the shortstop position, whereas Izturis was just kind of a fifth infielder. Anyway, as I said, he stinks. His defense is nothing that we couldn't get from Wilson (I'd go so far as to say it's decidedly inferior to Jack's), and he swings the bat no better than the leather (.616 career OPS, .504 OPS this season). The idea is obviously to let him go after this year, or if he really wants to, let him pay us to play in our low-minors as a former utility prospect. Argenis Diaz, the SS we recently acquired from the Red Sox in the LaRoche deal, will then be in line to battle for the starting position next spring. Should he fail to perform at a major league level, we'll probably go out and find an Adam Everett type who'll sign for a lot less than Jack Wilson's would-be $8 million+.

Jeff Clement - catcher, 25-years old, due chump change. 3rd overall pick in 2005. .286/.374/.497 batting line in the minors. !!!

Nathan Adcock - pitcher, 21-years old, minor leaguer. Sort of a bum pitching in A ball, but he's young and you can never have too many young pitchers in the pipeline.

Brett Lorin - pitcher, age unknown, minor leaguer. Another guy in A ball, but this one strikes out 8.8 per 9 IP, with a 3.4 K/BB. !!!

Aaron Pribanic - pitcher, 23, minor leaguer. Yet another low minors pitcher (the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and High Desert Mavericks are completely out of arms thanks to this trade); 3.21 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 54 K, 26 BB, 87 IP this year.

Those are the facts. You do the math.

p.s. Thanks for all the good times, Jack.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tony Bernazard's bad day

Thoughts that came to mind after reading this:
-Awesome, if true.
-This is something I'd watch if it was on television.
-Fight Club vs. Baseball... I think we all know what wins.
-Bucs don't need this kind of thing now, probably could have used it at some point in the last decade.
-When frustrated, I should start taking my shirt off, challenging people to fight me.
-I especially like that this guy was "a scrappy infielder"; means Jack Wilson or David Eckstein may have violent streaks in them.
-Omar Minaya's going to get his ass kicked.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The art of the salary dump

We here at Free Tank Carter are some of the most adamant supporters of the Neal Huntington regime. We take great umbrage to the charge that his maneuvers are nothing more than the work of a cheap, heartless bastard. Believe us, we know cheap, heartless bastards. We know this guy. And this guy. And this guy, this guy, and this guy. Neal Huntington is not a cheap, heartless bastard.

But sometimes he does have to trim some of the fat off the books, because the idiot before him overpaid for a bunch of bums. So yeah, the so called "salary dump" trade happens. And it's fine so long as several conditions are met:
(1) The money saved will be reallocated wisely
(2) The player being dumped won't come back to haunt you
(3) The player being dumped isn't beloved by your fanbase*

*condition (3): not that important; can be thoroughly bypassed if you go on to win a World Series (see: Nomar).

I think Spinmove has sufficiently skullfucked the "McLouth-trade-was-a-salary-dump" camp into submission. And the Morgan/Burnett for Lastings Milledge deal was potentially the biggest grift of this young century, so we're not thinking that was a dump. However, the Adam LaRoche for two minor leaguers was probably, definitely a lightening-of-our-load transaction, and let me tell you why that's okay:

Adam LaRoche is due to make $7,050,000 this season. The Red Sox will be absorbing the pro-rated remainder of that, so we'll be saving around $3 million. Adam LaRoche will be 30 next year, generally the age when batters level off their production and either rev up the roids or enter their decline. There were no plans to re-sign him on account of this fact of nature. We're probably not going to win the division race this year, so there's no reason to spend $3 million just for the sake of spending it.

Okay. All that is obvious. Totally sensible. But the problem is this: Pittsburgh has heard enough apologists and stooges like me, justifying the annual scrapping of talent. We get to late-July and start saying "why spend money if we're just going to keep losing this season??"

That's valid, Pittsburgh. I don't blame your cynicism and general fear of front office authority. Let me try to assuage these doubts by holding this "good" salary dump up to a "bad" salary dump.

The LaRoche deal happened on July 22, 2009-- almost the sixth year anniversary of the Aramis Ramirez deal (7/23/2003). Aramis Ramirez, as you may recall, was going to be our franchise third baseman, but he was making $3 million a year. We also had these guys on the books:
Reggie Sanders- $1,000,000
Kenny Lofton- $1,025,000
Randall Simon- $1,475,000
Brian Boehringer-$1,500,000
Scott Sauerbeck- $1,566,667
Pokey Reese- $2,500,000
Mike Williams- $3,500,000
Kris Benson- $4,300,000
Kevin Young- $6,625,000
Jason Kendall- $8,571,429
Brian Giles- $8,833,333

Naturally, it made sense to send our 25-year old third baseman to the division rival, Chicago Cubs, with Kenny Lofton AND a bag of cash covering their remaining salaries, for Jose Hernandez ($1,000,000) and two bum prospects.

In the previous two years, Jose Hernandez had set and broken his own record for single season strikeouts. Near as I can figure, he had been traded once earlier in 2003, and was still under another team's payroll, so neither the Cubs nor the Pirates had to pay anything for him. The money was entirely tied up in Ramirez and Lofton, and the Pirates were still paying it.

WHY!? you may ask. I think it had something to do with an escalating clause in Ramirez's contract, that we were willing to eat the $3 million if it meant getting him out of town before we'd have to cough up $6 million and then $9 million and then $12 million, etc. Sometimes that's how it has to work. However, we broke one of the cardinal rules of a salary dump: we put him in a position to haunt us.

Because Aramis Ramirez was sent to the Cubs, we've gotten to see him 19 games a year. Since being a Cub, he's hit 180 HRs, with a batting line of .303/.367/.555. Chicago has had no problem treating him as their franchise third baseman, and he's had no problem punishing us, sporting a .966 OPS when playing Pittsburgh.

I wasn't around and can't attest to whether he was a fan favorite or if this trade lost hearts and minds (I assume it did), but I do know the Buccos management broke rule number one, spending the saved money on really stupid shit instead of investing it.

Aramis Ramirez year-by-year salary:
2004 - $6,000,000
2005 - $8,950,000
2006 - $10,750,000
2007 - $9,000,000
2008 - $15,000,000

Some bums we paid, year-by-year salary:
2004 - $6,150,000 (Kris Benson)
2005 - $7,750,000 (Matt Lawton)
2006 - $6 million (Jeromy Burnitz) + $4 million (Joe Randa)
2007 - $10 million pro-rate (Matt FUCKING Morris)
2008 - $10 million (Matt FUCKING Morris)

We had the money. We had the choice. We chose poorly.

Now let's bring this back home.

Adam LaRoche is not going to haunt us. How do I know this? Because he's a late-20's pile of mediocrity that is striking out in the American League East right now, and will be striking out harmlessly somewhere else next year. Even if he comes back to the NL central, there is no chance in the world we'll some day be saying "Oh Big LaPoison...he was the one who got away."

Furthermore, I'm pretty confident that Neal Huntington is going to take the $3 million he's saving right now and invest it in the development side of things. That's been his M.O. these past two seasons, and it's the right one. I've heard it said that Dave Littlefield was going out signing bums to 1-year, multi-million dollar deals so it appeared like he was doing his job, so as to stave off being fired. I don't know if that's true. I don't know if we'll ever understand what was going through his head. The man was unreasonably terrible at things. All I know is that Neal doesn't dump overpaid players just so he can overpay some other guys. That's the trick to this working, that's what makes it exciting: because it's not just more of the same.

p.s. One of the bum prospects he got for LaRoche is this all-glove/no-bat shortstop, which is a thinly-veiled love letter to Jack Wilson's agent, that Neal would like to trim some fat from that contract.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wednesday Afternoon Update

Have a lot of work I should be doing, which means it's blog-about-sports time.

In football, the big news coming out of our division is that Baltimore has locked up Terrell Suggs for 6 years, while losing Derrick Mason to retirement. Considering that Mason was always a bit more of a Titan than a Raven, and thus classier than most, I'd say this is a net gain in douche-bagginess for the dirty birds.

At age 35, Mason wasn't getting better at his craft, but that's not to say he wasn't a significant part of Baltimore's offensive plans. He put up 1073, 750, 1087, and 1037 receiving yards in four years, and did it in a run-based system. What really underscores his value as the top downfield target, is his teammates' production in that same period. In the three years in which he led the team in receiving yards (2005, 2007, 2008), the runners-up looked like this: 855 (Heap); 531 (Clayton); 695 (Clayton). Mark Clayton will be 27, a former first-round WR selection from 2005. Todd Heap comes into 2009 at age 29, and is a very capable receiving TE. Both of these guys can make the step-up if needed; however, forcing them to do it and forcing Joe Flacco to go into his sophomore year without his most dependable target is still preferable to more Derrick Mason.

Final thought: Ben lost Plax after his rookie season and did okay. I tentatively like comparing Flacco's development to young Ben, but in this case, the 2005 Steelers' receiving corps. strikes me as deeper then, than the 2009 Baltimore unit will be. Hines Ward was proven and in the prime of his career when Burress left; Clayton still needs to establish that.

Okay. There's your football. Let's talk baseball.

Another All-Star Game, another American League win. Feel a little ripped off that it wasn't Duke versus Wakefield pitching the home run derby. Also, wouldn't it have been awesome to see Ian Snell striking out AAA batters in the future's game?

I can't help myself, here. Just glanced at the latest Smizik manifesto. It's a blurb about not blaming the manager. I see several paragraphs, which I assume contain grievances about how much we overpaid Jason Kendall, how the Penguins new arena deal is probably going to fall through, and why trading Kendall was a mistake. Then there's a picture of Jim Leyland. My interest is piqued.

With the Pirates in the midst of a July meltdown -- losers of 11 of their past 14 -- it is not surprising, yet still somewhat mystifying, that in searching for someone to blame fans are pointing fingers at manager John Russell.

Hear that, fans? Bob wants you to shut up and get off John Russell's back! The team is rebuilding and needs your patient, attentive support, not your irrational, misdirected whining.

How many Pirate managerial changes do there have to be before people start realizing the fault lies elsewhere?


Fans seem to forget that all this losing started with Jim Leyland, who is a brilliant manager. After his run of success with three division titles from 1990 to 1992, Leyland had four straight losing seasons. If Leyland couldn’t get this mess turned around, no manager can.

Okay. Who is this, and where's Bob Smizik?

The only way the Pirates are going to become winners is with better players -- not with better managers.

I guess it's still him, except that he's channeling his bitterness into simple, salient points; kind of like we try to do.

I'll fast forward a little, because there really isn't much to annotate. The Smize is stating that managers are only as good as the teams on the field, and that's not always something they can control. Super correct. Now he's going to say something about Jim Tracy. Probably that he's Exhibit A in proving that a manager can, at times, go far out of his way to make a bad team worse.

Do we need to look any further than the success Jim Tracy is having at Colorado to see that the 16 years of losing in Pittsburgh is not a managerial thing.

No, but... sometimes.... look, in that case, Bob, in 2006, it was a managerial thing that really put the kibosh on our already terrible team. Remember Jim Colburn, Tracy's fuckhead pitching coach? Remember how Zach Duke's ERA went from 1.81 to 4.47? That was regressing far past the mean. Remember Chris Duffy, and how Tracy wanted to change his whole approach to the tune of making the kid reconsider whether he should even be in professional baseball? Remember the "wait for the big hit" philosophy? I know these players sucked, but talk about anti-OBP lineups.

The same manager who was fingered as an incompetent in Pittsburgh is a raging success in Colorado.

Incompetent and detrimental + bad team, in Pittsburgh. Probably still an idiot + good team which happens to be getting lucky breaks in droves, in Colorado. Also, Tracy took over mid-season in Colorado. In Pittsburgh he had the offseason to do a lot of stupid shit that made us even worse.

Same with Leyland. After his four straight losing seasons with the Pirates, three of them last-place finishes, he went to Florida and won the World Series in his first season.

This is an obnoxious point to be arguing. Mainly because he's so close to getting it right, but just skims over the specifics. Managers aren't going to turn around teams without talent. They can vaguely hinder or help teams where there's already some talent, and they can retard or nurture teams that are still developing. The Pirates haven't been losing for the last 16 years because of their managers. They've been losing because they lack talent. That means the manager isn't to blame for one overall, general, vague thing; however, he can be blamed or lauded for specific things. Is John Russell getting his players to play hard? Yes. Is John Russell getting his players to play hard enough to overcome a mountain of mediocrity? No. Is John Russell doing as good a job as possible managing his bullpen? Maybe. Is John Russell managing his bullpen to a miraculous 82-80 season? No. Etc.

Hold people accountable for what's actually within their reach. That's all there is to it.

Nope, I'm wrong, there's more to it.

If the Pirates continue to lose, and that’s a pretty good bet, if it makes you feel better, take out your frustrations on Russell. He’s a convenient target. But the manager is not the guy to blame. Jim Leyland and Jim Tracy are proof of that.

This reminds me of one of those carefully worded statements from a neo-nazi group. "Even though the Brotherhood does not condone violence against the Beast-- there is no stopping the people's revolution against their federal oppressors." A subtle stoking of the fire like that.

That's all for this Wednesday Afternoon. Stay black & gold and proud.

Friday, July 10, 2009

All-Star standby

As you may have heard, there's the possibility that our sole representative at the All-Star Game, Freddy Sanchez, won't be a Pirate long enough to actually represent us. I have no idea what MLB will do in this scenario, but it won't go unnoticed. They'll either have Steady Freddy go out on the field wearing a Pirates' hat as his one last salute to Allegheny county, or they'll fly a replacement Buc out to St. Louis at 3am in the morning, and Joe Buck will constantly remind the viewers that this guy is back at the hotel and pseudo-available should Charlie Manuel need him.

For the sake of this entry, let's assume MLB is so married to their policy of every team getting a representative on the roster, that they go with the second option. That means it's a time for deciding: who is that All-Star level replacement Buc (ASLRB)?

After Freddy, Adam LaRoche has been our most productive bat. However, considering that the NL is already taking four first basemen, I kind of doubt there's anything Adam L. can offer that they don't have.
Adam LaRoche- .259/.345/.464, OPS+ 118, 12 HR
Ryan Howard- .253/.332/.522, OPS+ 120, 21 HR
Prince Fielder- .312/.433/.615, OPS+ 175, 22 HR
Adrian Gonzalez- .256/.396/.539, OPS+159, 24 HR
Albert Pujols- .332/.458/.723, OPS+ 210, 31 HR

Yeah, sorry Adam.

I know we'd all love to see Andrew McCutchen's upside validated by a trip to the All-Star Game, but he's sinking like a stone all the way to the middle. What had been a high BAbip, low-ish walk rate, and limited power, is now a reasonable BAbip, low-ish walk rate, and limited power, good for .291/.346/.440. I've seen this kid play, I love him. He is going to be what we dreamed he would be. But right now, it's a stretch to say he's All-Star worthy. Also, he's only played 33 games.

Of the guys who have 250 PAs thus far, only Adam LaRoche and Sanchez have OPS+ above league average. So, what kind of pitching could we bring to the party?

Zach Duke has the best ERA of any of our starters, at 3.28. His 4.5 K/9 is pretty pathetic, and a BAbip of .280 can only contain that 1.22 WHIP for so long. Still, if Tim Wakefield is going to St. Louis with his 4.31 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, and 11 Boston Red Sox wins, I feel like Duke wouldn't be an embarrassing choice. He's not dominant on the same level as some of the other guys who'll be there, and yeah, he has sort of gotten lucky thus far, but he's still not a Mark Redman.
Rocco DeMaro made this point in his mid-season review of the team, and I fully agree with it: there are no star players on the Pirates. Freddy is the closest we have to a star. McCutchen is a star in wait. Saying that Adam LaRoche and Zach Duke are two of our most productive players is indicative of our mediocrity.

That said, star power shouldn't be an immediate concern for this team. The days of importing someone who once was a star, or someone who never was but got paid like a star-- those days are over. Huntington is investing a lot in the development side of things because that's where actual rebuilding takes place. Not on the surface with one or two guys who are great but surrounded by bums.

I miss Jason Bay. I miss feeling like there's A guy who is legit. But how much more fun will it be when all of a sudden there are like four or five guys who are legit? That's coming.

Yours in Christ,

Johnny Q. Optimism