Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Archive for the ‘Major League Baseball’ Category

Thought Exercise: 2011 Expansion Draft

Posted by JD on June 27, 2011

Bill and The Common Man from The Platoon Advantage came up with an interesting idea: operating on the premise that MLB should expand to 32 teams, they decided to hold a mock-expansion draft using the rules from the 1997 expansion draft, the results of which you can find here. Seeing as how I love theoretical roster-tinkering, I practically leapt at the chance to be involved. And promptly screwed it up. We’ll get to that part soon enough, but first here’s a quick refresher on the ’97 draft courtesy of the Wikipedia:

1. The draft has three rounds.
2. Each drafting team selects 14 players in round one, 14 players in round two, and 7 players in round three (35 players per team).
3. Each existing major league team can only lose one player in each round.
4. All players throughout the organization are eligible for drafting with the exception of players drafted in either 2010 or 2011, players signed as international free agents in 2009 (who were under the age of 18 at the time), and players entering free agency at the end of this season.
5. Existing teams can protect up to 15 players in the first round. Three additional players can be protected after round one and after round two, bringing the total number of protected players to 21.

The last two rules are the most important because they take a whole bunch of important players off the table. Potential free agents Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Chris Young, Chris Capuano, and Francisco Rodriguez (among others), were off limits and didn’t need to be protected, as were prospects like Matt Harvey, Cory Vaughn, Juan Urbina, and Aderlin Rodriguez. With that being said, here are the 15 players I opted to protect in the first round:

1.   David Wright
2.   Ike Davis
3.   Angel Pagan
4.   Jon Niese
5.   Josh Thole
6.   Jenrry Mejia
7.   Jeurys Familia
8.   Wilmer Flores
9.   Kirk Nieuwenhuis
10. Fernando Martinez
11. Cesar Puello
12. R.A. Dickey
13. Pedro Beato
14. Justin Turner
15. Mike Pelfrey

I really struggled with the final three spots. I added Beato because of his early success out of the bullpen, Turner due to his fast start, and Pelfrey because, well, I still can’t bring myself to believe that he can’t be useful. I thought a young, arbitration eligible pitcher would be appealing to an expansion team and, while I’m still not sure I’d want to pay his arbitration award I’d rather have him as a trade chip then lose him for nothing. As for the other two, I know full well that one was acquired off waivers and the other was a Rule 5 draftee, but I like what I’ve seen from them so far. You can argue, fairly, that I over-valued their small sample of work, but I didn’t want to lose either of them without compensation.

And so it came to pass that Lucas Duda became an ex-Met. I’m torn by it. On one hand it’s not really the biggest loss: Duda is a nice player who, given his defensive limitations, is probably better suited to an American League club. On the other, his one true skill (the ability to hit for power) is more valuable than anything Beato, Turner, and maybe even Pelfrey bring to the table. If a club offered me Duda straight up for any of one those three players I’d probably do the deal, which unfortunately didn’t occur to me until after he was selected.

With round one finished, I opted to protect Dillon Gee, Daniel Murphy, and Ruben Tejada got the call. No regrets here. Each of these players is experiencing success in the short term, and each has enough future value to justify their on-going presence on the roster.

The price for this decision was lefty prospect Mark Cohoon. I don’t think there’s a single player among the 18 that I’d protected until this point that I would trade for him, but I realize that he is a prospect that some evaluators might value more highly. I’m very interested to hear from anyone who would have protected Cohoon in this scenario, particularly because I’d love to hear who you’d take off the list (and why). I just don’t know enough about him to consider him a big loss and would love to know why that isn’t the case.

After round two I chose to protect Josh Satin, Zach Lutz, and Darrell Ceciliani, and I lost Reese Havens. This was a mistake. I should have protected Havens instead of Lutz or Ceciliani, but I thought his injury history would be enough to scare the expansion teams away. I gambled and lost.

While the losses of Duda and Havens sting (I really can’t get worked up about Cohoon: after all, somebody was going to get picked), the bigger disappointment was in who didn’t get picked. You may have noticed that I didn’t protect Jason Bay or Johan Santana. This was intentional: I was hoping one of the expansion teams would bite and take at least one of their contracts off my hands. It’s tempting to say that I would have protected them under different circumstances (if Bay were performing better or if Santana were healthy), but the truth is I would have left them unprotected either way. Their contracts are just too large to justify, especially when you factor in their current financial situation.

To sum it all up, I lost two players that I should have found a way to keep and didn’t lose the two players who I wanted to see selected the most. Not exactly what I was hoping for when I signed up, but I’m still very appreciative (and honored) that Bill and The Common Man asked me to participate.

Posted in Major League Baseball, Mets | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Opening Day*

Posted by JD on April 4, 2010

I’m a baseball fan. I love the Mets, first and foremost, but I love watching Major League Baseball. Prior to getting my season tickets, I would camp out on Opening Day and watch as many games as I could. I watch as many games as I can during the season and listen to almost as many on my Sirius-XM radio, particularly Kansas City and Colorado games (not sure how that happened, but it did).

But Opening Day became more than a little devalued to me when MLB decided to move away from having Cincinnati open the season. That was a piece of tradition that I loved and the Sunday night openers don’t have the same impact to me as a result. This year pushed me over the edge: I can’t bring myself to watch the Yankees and Red Sox. They happen to be two of my least favorite teams and I just don’t want to watch. That being said, I can’t avoid the Twitter updates. I’ve been watching the ebb and flow of the game via Twitter and couldn’t help noticing that Terry Francona opted to use Scott Schoeneweis in the fifth and sixth innings.

I think I’ve made my thoughts on Schoeneweis clear here and here, but I’ll say it again: I’m rooting for the guy. It was encouraging to look at the box score and see that he struck out Curtis Granderson (after throwing a wild pitch to start the inning) to end the fifth and record two outs in the sixth. I want him to succeed and that was a crucial debut performance for the Sawx.

Now, I realize that he’s not the most popular ex-Met. As I mentioned in my previous post, our last memory of him was surrendering the game-winning home run in the final game at Shea Stadium. And, as @tippingpitches pointed out, he didn’t endear himself to fans in Milwaukee (again, I’m not even going to try to analyze those comments). That doesn’t change my stance: he was misused and under-appreciated in New York, and never really got a fair chance to shine. Call me stubborn, call me misinformed, but I’m going to root for the guy. His success tonight is the only thing I’m going to take away from the first official ballgame of 2010.

Tomorrow is another story. I can’t wait for the gun to go off. I’m excited about our Mets, and I look forward to following their ups and downs throughout the next six months (and over-analyzing them along the way). It will probably be a long season, but it can’t start soon enough for me.

Posted in Major League Baseball | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Crow: I Eats It

Posted by JD on April 2, 2010

So, me being me, I retweeted a link from Bill Simmons today with an off the cuff comment:

The day we’ve all been waiting for! #sarcasm RT @sportsguy33: The sabermetric revolution finally wins me over

While I typically enjoy all of Simmons’ work, he (by his own admission) has been a tad unfair to the sabermetric community over the years. So, I jumped on his tweet before actually reading the article. Which, you know, was not entirely fair in and of itself.

After reading it I’ve found that it’s an excellent primer. Not only for his summations, but for the links he provides (and the links within the links). I know that I rely too heavily on OPS+ in my own (limited) analysis and while I try to learn the new statistics and incorporate them here, I often take the lazy way out. In explaining his own conversion, Simmons clearly did not.

I wanted to post this here as a way to both atone for my own snark and to keep his article for my own future use. Kudos to Simmons for seeing the light and providing an easy-to-use guide to “average fans” like me to expand our knowledge. It’s far better to come late to the party than not to come at all, and Simmons deserves some praise for bringing a well-written guide with him.

Posted in Major League Baseball | Tagged: , | 7 Comments »

Idle Thoughts – Realignment

Posted by JD on March 20, 2010

A few weeks ago, Tom Verducci of reported on a new development from Bud Selig’s “special committee for on-field matters”. According to Verducci, the committee is discussing the merits of a concept they call “floating realignment”, a scheme that would allow teams to elect to switch divisions based on their aspirations for the coming season. The example given centered around the Indians swapping with the Rays. The Rays would get the benefit of moving into the easier AL Central and, theoretically, the easier road to a division championship. The Indians would sacrifice playing in an easier division but benefit from the additional gate receipts that would come from more home games against the AL leviathans, the Yankees and Red Sox.

There are hidden costs in this plan, most particularly in lost gate receipts. Using the same example, how many Cleveland fans would be happy to see their club give up and take the gate receipts instead of the easier path to the postseason? Probably not that many, and I suspect that the Indians would think twice about alienating their fan base before the season started. So, while I’m not ready to write it off, I think this proposal needs a little more work.

That being said, it made me think. Is there any way Major League Baseball could address the log jam created by the Twin Titans in the AL East without radically changing the salary structure of baseball? I’m no expert, but one idea struck me as sound: eliminate the divisions altogether and have one pennant winner and three Wild Cards in each league.

As you know, baseball currently has two leagues, the American and National, that are split into three geographically-oriented divisions. The three division winners make the playoffs along with the Wild Card, the non-division winner with the best record. My question is this: why do we need divisions at all? Why can’t we have one pennant winner and three Wild Cards?

Here’s some context: playoffs were a foreign concept for most of professional baseball’s history: the pennant went to the team that won the most games. Post-season baseball was born after the American League debuted in 1903 and the World Series was created but was limited to the two pennant winners. for 66 years (the term “second division” was coined to identify teams that finished fifth or lower). Actual divisions weren’t used until 1969 and there were only two in each league until 1994, when the current format was installed.

What I’m proposing is a bit of a return to baseball’s roots. Get rid of the three divisions and restore balanced schedules within the leagues. The club with the best record wins the pennant and has the first seed in the playoffs. The next three highest finishers fill out the bracket, regardless of geographic location. It wouldn’t have changed anything last year but it would have changed things in 2008: the Yankees would have made the playoffs (not exactly a selling point for the small market clubs, I admit). But it’s easier than realigning the divisions each year and it’s positively enticing for an ugly inevitability: playoff expansion.

I already think the season is too long, but I can read the writing on the wall: the playoffs are a cash cow and extending them is too profitable to ignore. My “One Division” solution facilitates expansion while still keeping an emphasis on the regular season with one simple tweak: byes. Let the pennant winner and the second place finisher sit out the first round. Then, let the pennant winner select who they want to play after the first round . Those two caveats should give clubs plenty of incentive to finish first and might (especially in the AL) create an interesting phenomenon: the two top clubs (read: Yankees and Red Sox) battling down to the wire for the right to pick the easiest path to the World Series.

Hey, it’s not perfect. For one, there are only 14 teams in the AL (vs. 16 in the NL). That needs to be rectified, preferably without expansion. Perhaps Houston could be convinced to switch over. Maybe Pittsburgh would be interested (Detroit and especially Cleveland are close geographic rivals) or maybe San Diego. That being said, the most likely (and ugliest) alternative is expansion. The market for Major League cities is tight, though I can see eight plausible alternatives. Here they are, as I see it (in descending order of likelihood): Portland, OR, Charlotte, NC, San Antonio, TX, San Juan, PR, Mexico City, MX, Las Vegas, NV, Vancouver, BC, and Montreal QC.

In my mind, adding two teams would totally suck. It would dilute the overall talent level and exaggerate the competitive imbalance enjoyed by large market teams even further…unless they dropped a team in Hartford (take that Yankees and Red Sox!). Regardless, I think the “One Division” model makes way more sense than “floating realignment”. For that matter, I think it makes more sense than our current arrangement. I’m sure that the folks in Selig’s committee have thought of it by now. I just hope they don’t ignore it’s benefits in the hopes of “making their mark on history” by selecting a more radical change. Only time will tell.

Posted in Idle Thoughts, Major League Baseball | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Dubious Anniversary

Posted by JD on March 17, 2010

It’s after 11PM as I write this. I suppose some of you are in the process of squeezing the most out of a Happy St. Patrick’s Day while the rest of you are readying for bed. I wouldn’t normally bother trying to squeeze in a post at this hour, but today I feel obligated: March 17th is the anniversary of one of my least favorite baseball memories: the Committee on Government Reform’s hearing into steroid/performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. And this year it’s the fifth anniversary, no less. I had to put down some of my thoughts on the event.

Good lord, what a shit-show it was. I remember sitting there in stunned silence as Mark McGwire repeatedly stated that “he was not there to talk about the past.” I remember staring in disbelief as Curt Schilling failed to back up his years of tough talk about what he would do if he were in a position to address steroid abuse. Most of all, I vividly remember the vague, nagging feeling I had when Rafael Palmeiro jabbed his finger in the air and said: “I have never used steroids. Period”.

I admired Palmeiro at the time. He seemed to me to be one of the most underrated, under-hyped superstars in the history of the game (there are only three other members of the 3,000 hit, 500 home-run club). I also admired how his family escaped from Cuba and made a life for themselves in the US. But something about his vehement denials struck a false chord with me. He was just a bit too insistent, a bit too urgent, to be entirely believable. It seemed as thought he stole the show that day with his assertive declarations, but in reality he was only digging a grave for his reputation (and, most likely, his shot at being enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame).

I may not have wanted to admit it at the time but I think I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. As we know now, it didn’t take long: Palmeiro was suspended for a positive steroid test in August 2005. It was all but the end of his career: although he has never filed for retirement (even though he’ll be 46 in September and hasn’t picked up a bat in five years),no franchise has come close to signing him since. A sad ending, indeed.

So, today is anything but a happy anniversary for Major League Baseball, McGwire, Palmeiro, and really, all of us who’ve been fans throughout the Steroid Era (or Selig Error, as I sometimes like to call it). It was a dark day for baseball, but try as I might to move on, it keeps coming back. I suppose it will forever be part of the fabric of the game, for better or worse.

UPDATE: I just re-read the post and realized it’s not quite what I was aiming for. Sure, I felt at the time that Palmeiro was not quite telling the truth and I am disappointed that I was proven right, but I didn’t want the post to focus only on him. For me, his was only the most shining example of failure. Everyone (with, knock on wood, one exception*) who was involved in the events of the day contributed to the horror show: Palmeiro was only the most egregious.

* That would be Frank Thomas. History awaits, but to this day it appears that his good name is still intact.

Elected members of our nation’s government wasted their time with an issue that ranked (and still ranks) far, far down on the list of priorities in what appeared (to me, at least) to be a shameful grab for the spotlight. Some of the biggest names in the sport produced one of the most pathetic performances in its history. It was the exact opposite of a banner day. What was a day that should have lived in sports-infamy morphed into a car-crash that a lot of us would like nothing more than to forget. Unfortunately, it became a day that will always lurk in the background for baseball fans of a certain age, casting a shadow on some of their favorite memories. And that’s the part of the “Dubious Anniversary” that I really wanted to focus on.

Posted in Major League Baseball, Performance Enhancing Drugs | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »