Teix already doesn't like the Sox

I had no idea Teix hasn’t been a fan of the Sox for some time. I knew he wore #23 in honor of his hero, Donnie Baseball, but the dislike of the Red Sox is new to me. (emphasis mine)

As a senior, Teixeira was one of the best high school players in the country but went to Georgia Tech instead of signing a pro contract. The Red Sox had talked about choosing him in the first round, but wanted him to commit to a pre-draft contract. Teixeira refused a reported $1.6 million deal and fell to the ninth round, when Boston selected him.

After the ’98 draft, Teixeira held hard feelings against Boston, telling the Baltimore Sun in 1999: “The Red Sox then spread the word I wasn’t interested in signing. That was unfair. I don’t think after what happened that I want any future involvement with the Red Sox.”

It’s unclear whether that will affect his first shot at free agency, but [Dave Norton, who was Teixeira’s coach at Mount St. Joseph High School in Baltimore] says, “I can’t say he’ll never be a Red Sox, but they would have to go pretty hard at him. It didn’t sit well with him.

Continue reading Teix already doesn't like the Sox

Reverting back to the norm

For seemingly all of baseball history, until the mid-1980’s, the position of SS was a defensive-first position, usually* manned by all-glove, no-bat types. Then came Cal Ripken and Robin Yount and the mold was broken.

* Ernie Banks sticks out as the main exception. Mantle came up as a SS but was moved to CF. Who am I missing, having only given this a nanosecond’s thought?

In the ’90’s, there was the “holy trinity” of Nomar, ARod and Jeter, eventually expanded to include Tejada. Then Michael Young, sort of. And now? Jeter has little power and never really had that much to begin with. ARod’s at 3B. Nomar’s body betrayed him. Tejada was named in The Mitchell Report. Michael Young is really not a big power guy (24 HR was his high and only had 100+ RBI once) but was a threat with the bat.

And now, only Hanley Ramirez remains a major offensive threat from that position, while remaining a defensive liability.

So why is that?

Whether it is the onset of drug testing or an MLB-wide shifting of priorities to defense over offense that resulted in power-hitting shortstops being moved to other positions, the difference is there. In the 2008 season, only five shortstops hit 15 or more home runs, and just three had 70 or more RBI. Contrastly, in 2005, 10 shortstops had 15 or more homers and 12 had 70 or more RBI, followed by nine and 10, respectively, in ’06, and seven and eight, respectively, in ’07.

The expectations are a lot different now, with a big question being long term, can (a top talent) remain a shortstop?” one long-time major league scout said. “If he gets strong, inevitably he’s going to have a tougher time carrying that strength at shortstop.

The value of defense has risen at that position.

You want plus-defense at that position,” the scout confirmed, “and the most realistic expectations you can have at shortstop is somebody who hits for a high average and hits a lot of doubles. The days of Alex Rodriguez as shortstop are gone.

The position is a little like catching now, where you are willing to sacrifice offense for defense. Five years ago, you expected both.

After thinking about it for a bit, I am OK with this reversion to the norm. I’m realizing that I am enjoying the game more with the speed element more in play.

Continue reading Reverting back to the norm

Pete's mailbag

Pete Abraham from his LoHud blog perch took some Hot Stove questions for his mailbag and I thought he had two good responses to one basic question:

Dave writes: Simple question – if you’re Brian Cashman how would you value 1. CC Sabathia, or 2. AJ Burnett and Derek Lowe?

Answer: If I’m Brian Cashman, I quit back in October and now I’m making huge bank giving corporate speeches and waiting for a job to open up with a team whose owner had no children. But since you asked, I would value Sabathia more. Give me one great pitcher instead two guys I can’t be sure of. Burnett is not another Carl Pavano, but he is very overrated.

I find it interesting that if he were in Cashman’s shoes, he would have walked away from the Yanks. No matter that he’s a 20 year Yankee employee and his only employer he’s ever known. Sure that’s easier said than done, but maybe Cashman’s more loyal than any of us. Maybe he feels a degree of indebtedness for the opportunities he’s been given. Maybe he’s come to appreciate George via his absence. Maybe he’s developed a good rapport with Hal and have figured out how to keep Hank effectively out of the kitchen. Maybe he just loves having that sort of financial clout at his fingertips. Maybe he’s just batshit crazy.

As far as the free agents, I also agree that I’d rather have one cannon than two rifles. Continue reading Pete's mailbag

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Joe Posnanski, over at his newish SI.com digs, dishes on a new way of looking at relievers, using Bill James’ work as a basis. You should go have a read because, well, most things from Joe Pos are worth reading (even if they are less Pos-like than his blog).

But, to quote The Who: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss:

Here goes nothing: these were the best closers in 2008 (20 or more save opportunities):

1. Mariano Rivera, Yankees
…I’m fascinated by the guy’s ability to get people out for a decade and more with, essentially, one pitch. Plus, I have this theory that I’m working on that Rivera has been even more valuable than his reputation, but for a very odd reason.
See, we all know that nothing sucks the life out of a fan base more than the local heroes blowing a late lead. I don’t know if it has a measurable effect on the team — I haven’t studied it — but it definitely seems to have an effect on the general atmosphere, the energy level, the manager’s enthusiasm, the talk radio tenor and so on. These things are multiplied in New York. And basically, in the case of Mariano, one guy has more or less eliminated that negativity from the equation.

Yep, Mo is still #1. Sure K-Rod got more opportunities and is ridiculously expressive/silly-looking. Papelbon’s an animal and, to me, the heir apparent to Mo’s throne. But Mo still holds court. For that, I am thankful! Continue reading Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Trade bait for bait?

Lemme try to understand this rumor and peel it a different direction: Yanks deal Melky and Kennedy for Mike Cameron*. Cameron’s a 1 year stopgap until Austin Jackson is ready (maybe). But really, is Mike Cameron just bait to help persuade Sabathia to come to NY?

The Yankees are indeed speaking with the Brewers about acquiring Mike Cameron, a source confirmed, as first reported by The New York Post. Melky Cabrera and Ian Kennedy have been discussed, although the Yankees are not inclined to give up
Kennedy in this package.

The trade makes sense because the Yankees need a one-year stopgap in centerfield. They hope that youngster Austin Jackson is ready to play a significant role at the big-league level in 2009.

Jon Heyman reported that the Brewers can’t deal Cameron until they know for sure that they’re not re-signing CC Sabathia. Cameron and Sabathia became good friends during Sabathia’s time in Milwaukee.

Trading trade bait to acquire bait to lure a free agent? Huh?

*While I’m not the biggest fan of Cameron (the K’s bother me!), it’d be nice to see a legit CF patrolling CF in Yankee Stadium once again. Continue reading Trade bait for bait?

Cuban embargo

Our friend Bud Selig, ever the Consensus Man, never the dynamic leader, has effectively put Mark Cuban’s bid on ice. No matter that he might be the high bidder. No matter that he might be able to complete the transaction most expeditiously. No, Bud & Co. don’t want the high profile, opinionated, progressive-thinking Cuban as part of their fraternity.

Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks’ owner, was the fan favorite, the guy who liked to drink beer, watch the game from the bleachers and spend money. He was the most appealing bidder to Zell’s group, who knew Cuban could swing the quickest transaction for a team and ballpark that at one time figured to fetch $1 billion.
Global financial crisis or not, baseball’s old guard plans to stand firm against letting Cuban into the club.
”There’s no way Bud and the owners are going to let that happen,” a Major League Baseball source said this week. ”Zero chance.”

Absurd and lame. And not surprising. Cubbies fans, I feel for ya. This is gonna take a while. It smells like a higher rent holdup than what Selig & Co. did with the Expos/Nationals. Kept them in limbo for years.

On Opening Day 2007, the Cubs officially went on the market. Zell’s group was hoping for a quick transaction, certainly before Opening Day 2008. That same MLB source promised a deal won’t be done by Opening Day 2009.

We’ll be standing here at next year’s GM meetings,” the source said, ”and this will still be unresolved.

Now, if Bud had a visionary bone in his body, he’d welcome Cuban. But that’s not Bud. Never has been, never will be.

Continue reading Cuban embargo

Peavy wonders aloud

Gotta say, it’s interesting (and strange) to hear this level of detail surrounding such a high profile potential trade:

The subject of Escobar came up Thursday morning between Peavy and his agent, Barry Axelrod. Less than 12 hours earlier, Axelrod had met with Padres General Manager Kevin Towers to get an update on trade talks that had taken place the previous three days at the GM meetings in Dana Point.

Escobar’s a pretty good player,” Axelrod said. “To be honest, Jake and I have said, ‘If that kind of trade gets made, who plays short for them?'”
Escobar is a Braves pitcher’s best friend. When Red Sox analyst Bill James and friends evaluated major leaguers for
The Fielding Bible – a publication devoted to defensive analysis – determined that Escobar’s plus-minus score of plus-21 ranked second among all shortstops last season. [Khalil] Greene, meantime, had a minus-4 score that placed him 24th.

Interesting that they are sharing that Peavy’s evaluating the trade from a personnel standpoint, not just location and compensation. Good to see that he’s considering what the team he’d be joining would be missing as a result of the transaction and in the Braves case, it’d be a lockdown shortstop.

Yet, he seemingly would consider the Yanks (Jeter ranked 22nd by Bill James), so who really knows? Continue reading Peavy wonders aloud

The end is near

Local beat writer extraordinaire Pete Abraham is making the call: Peavy’s a goner and it’s not to the Yanks.

[San Diego GM Kevin Towers] said that the Jake Peavy trade talks have progressed to a point where the pitcher has been told he’s going to be traded, it’s just a matter of when a deal is struck.

That train has left the station,” Towers said.

Towers also revealed that he is dealing with three teams, all in the National League. He mentioned the possibility of Peavy moving as part of a multi-team trade.

The Padres are known to be dealing with the Braves and Cubs. The third team could be the Cardinals or Astros. The Yankees are not in the mix.

While there’s a big part of me that’d be disappointed when Peavy lands somewhere else, there is still a smaller part that will be relieved due to the concerns I have about his transition to NY, the AL East, his elbow, etc.

I’ll hazard a guess: Braves Cubbies in a shocker. Big Z, Harden, Peavy, Lilly and Marquis. Dat be a nice rotation.

Continue reading The end is near

Collision inevitable; assume crash positions

With the NL targets for Peavy seemingly dwindling (Braves seem the leader), the natural collision between the Yanks and the Padres now appears inevitable. I’ve been saying this for some time: Don’t count out the Yanks until the ink is signed on a trade landing Peavy somewhere else.

The Yankees could put together a package built around Phil Hughes and Austin Jackson, according to a source, although they would likely have to include two or three more players, one of which could be Ian Kennedy. The Padres, according to the source, have no interest in Robinson Cano. Hughes was the closest thing the Yankees had to untouchable last year during the Johan Santana saga, but after the righthander’s subpar 2008 season, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Yankees would move the 22-year-old.
Peavy identified the Braves, Cubs, Astros, Cardinals and Dodgers as the five teams he would want to play for if the Padres dealt him, while San Diego GM Kevin Towers said the pitcher has added the Yankees and Angels to that list. Chicago, Houston and St. Louis don’t seem to match up well with San Diego, and Towers appears to have no interest in dealing Peavy to another NL West team, which would take the Dodgers out of the mix. Peavy, who has four years and roughly $60 million left on his contract, would apparently accept a deal to the Yankees or Angels if no deal with an NL team works out.

UPDATE (11/6/08, 10:28am): Ken Davidoff calls this rumor/collision not likely:

So…no on this. The Yankees know they’re not getting Jake Peavy. He doesn’t want to come to New York, despite whether his agent did or didn’t include the Yankees in that informal list. The Braves and Cubs are the clear leaders for Peavy’s services. Seems like a good chance that a trade will be completed before full free agency begins on Nov. 14th.

UPDATE (11/6/08, 12:55pm): Joel Sherman craps all over the Peavy-to-the-Yanks talk. He also repeats my fears about Peavy in the AL East and the fact that the more Peavy wants to accept a deal makes it more and more likely that he returns to SD.

As for Peavy, I reported two days ago that the Braves and Cubs had broken free of the pack. San Diego GM Kevin Towers – one of the most accessible GMs in the sport – has been open that this almost certainly will be an NL trade. Barry Axelrod – one of the most accessible agents in the sport – has made it clear that Peavy has not given approval to be dealt to the Yankees and that his client badly wants to stay in the NL. If you have any sources with the Yankees, they will tell you that it is a pipedream that the Yanks get Peavy. There are many reasons for this, but let me tell you an important one: The Yanks know that even if Peavy said, yes, he would agree to go to the Yanks, it would only be with the stipulation that his contract be re-worked. A key element in making Peavy so attractive right now is that he has a contract for four years at $68 million already in place. He would probably want that adjusted toward Johan Santana money to OK a deal, a year after the Yanks wouldn’t give up the prospects and pay the dollars for Santana. And Peavy is not as good or dependable as Santana, or as projectable to be good in New York/the AL

So there. Continue reading Collision inevitable; assume crash positions