Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Another Year, Another Hall Of Fame Ballot Post

Anything to delay discussing either of the current Cardinals teams right now. Like last year, I'll start with the returning candidates, and then look at the newbies.

Roberto Alomar: Yes. Did everything you could ask of a second baseman.

Harold Baines: My distaste for DHs means he's still a No.

Bert Blyleven: Yes. I voted for him last year, he still has over 5,000 innings and 3700 Ks. Still was worth 87.6 wins above replacement.

Barry Larkin: Still Yes. I'm not sure if he was as good a SS as Alomar was a 2nd baseman (he does have a higher WAR than Alomar, higher than any returning candidate except Blyleven actually), but he was more than good enough to be inducted.

Edgar Martinez: I'm not sure it's fair that I supported Edgar last year, but not Baines. They're both basically DHs, and neither was particularly good when they did play in the field. Edgar wins in the rate stats (.933 OPS to Baines' .820), while Baines has the counting stats (HRs, RBIs, hits), and played a lot longer (800 more games). But Edgar was a really top notch hitter while he played.

Don Mattingly: Still not impressed. No.

Fred McGriff: He's never been linked to steroids, if you care about that. Was a pretty good hitter, but I don't think of the Hall of Fame in conjunction with him. No.

Mark McGwire: Yes. Still feel like for his impact on the game alone, he needs to be in. By all means slap a mention of his PED use on his plaque if you want to.

Jack Morris: I still say No. Jon Heyman would argue I can't just look at his stats, but Heyman also used the "Morris pitched to the scoreboard" argument to try and excuse some of Morris' less than impressive numbers, which I think Posnanski already debunked as garbage. I wouldn't be ticked if Morris got in, but Bert should go first.

Dale Murphy: Well, I was in support of him and Andre Dawson last year. Dawson's in, so Yes to Murphy.

Dave Parker: He has Dale Murphy's offensive numbers, but not the defensive ones. I don't the hitting stats alone are enough. No.

Tim Raines: I feel like the Hall, these days anyway, doesn't appreciate the guys who changed games with their speed enough. Yes.

Lee Smith: He was good for awhile, but I feel like closers, considering how few innings they pitch, need to be really outstanding to be elected. Good for a long time doesn't work. No.

Alan Trammell: Still think his numbers on the whole are good enough. Yes.

OK, that covers 7 so far. I may have to go back and change some votes if there are more deserving candidates in the new crop.

Carlos Baerga: Um, No. He had a few good seasons early, then his numbers fell off a cliff.

Jeff Bagwell: Put up better rate stats than Palmerio, playing in the Astrodome for part of his career. Had some speed, generally underrated player. Not hugely underrated, but a least a little. Yes.

Bret Boone: No.

Kevin Brown: He was really good when he was healthy, but I don't think he was healthy enough. No.

John Franco: He's uin the same boat as Lee Smith, good, not great closer. No.

Juan Gonzalez: No. Injured too much, not much of a fielder, played in Arlington, which didn't hurt his offensive numbers any, I'm sure.

Marquis Grissom: His numbers are better than I'd have expected, though he did play forever. Considering that, they really aren't as good as they need to be. No.

Lenny Harris: I don't believe I'll be voting for a guy with a negative career WAR (-0.9). No.

Bobby Higginson: No.

Charles Johnson: I'll get to Benito Santiago farther down, but Charles Johnson has the rate stat and defensive numbers over Benito, but not the counting stats. That's because Charles' career ended abruptly in his early 30s, while Benito was able to hold on to 40. I don't think Charles has the numbers. No.

Al Leiter: No.

Tino Martinez: I'm sure there'll be some Yankee-loving types who'll try to argue for him because of his "clutch" postseason contributions or some such bullcrap. But if I'm not voting for Mattingly (and Im not) I'm definitely not voting for Tino. No.

Raul Mondesi: No.

John Olerud: I liked Olerud as a player, but No.

Rafael Palmerio: Hmm, over 3,000 hits and 500 HRs. Good hitter, decent first baseman, but spent a lot of time at DH, too. I'm going to say No, for now at least.

Kirk Reuter: Killed the Cardinals with his junkballing lefthandedness, but No.

Benito Santiago: He has the counting stats edge over Charles Johnson, but the numbers don't add up to a vote. No.

B.J. Surhoff: No. Hey, it's an honor just to be nominated, right? Probably should have used that line on Higginson.

Larry Walker: I honestly don't know how to weigh his playing a lot of games in the Coors Field launching pad. His numbers look good, both with the bat and the glove, but I don't know. I'll say Yes, because I wound up with fewer viable candidates than I expected.

I thought there would be more new nominees I'd want to vote for than that, but it's just Bagwell and Walker to go with my 7 selections from the returning options.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Arizona Wins Football Game, Arizona Fan Is Surprised

Yep, Arizona defeated Denver because Jay Feely decided to be awesome. And because the Broncos suck. And because John Skelton did not shoot the team in the foot with stupid turnovers. Which is sort of an improvement over Anderson, and definitely an step up from Max Hall.

For some reason, Arizona still chose to pass more than they threw, even with a rookie QB they had declared a couple of seasons away from being ready to start at the beginning of this season. Which is a strategic decision that doesn't make any sense, but it's the Arizona Cardinals, so I'm fairly accustomed to that. Hightower even had a good day running the ball, except that he lost another fumble. Good thing for him Beanie Wells can't stay healthy, or he'd be out of a job.

It's a little maddening, because the Cardinals are actually running successfully this year (games against the Vikings and 49ers notwithstanding). . . when they remember to run. The team is averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Hightower is at 5.2 yards per carry, but the team is 28th in the NFL in rushing yards because they either fall behind too much, or they refuse to run the ball when they can.

The upshot is the remainder of the schedule isn't terrible. They have to go to Carolina, host Dallas, then travel to San Francisco. Considering how Cowboy fans usually fill the stadium, they don't really have a home game left. Fortunately, they don't have a game against a team with a winning record left, either. So hopefully they can stay in the games, run it well, and maybe Skelton can make a few plays.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Cardinals Trade Brendan Ryan

I'm in a strange headspace over this Brendan Ryan trade. Intellectually, I know that starting Ryan Theriot at shortstop over Ryan probably doesn't make much difference in how the Cardinals finish. Yeah, Theriot's a worse player. In 2009, Brendan was wroth 3.4 wins above replacement, while Theriot was worth 1. Last year, Boog was worth 0.9, while Tally Ho* was worth -0.8 WAR. That suggests 1.5-2.5 wins difference. The Cardinals already finished 5 games behind the Reds last year, so who cares if they finish 6 or 7 games back this year?

So that's intellectually. Emotionally, I liked Brendan Ryan. He seemed to be having fun, not taking things overly seriously. He was quirky, in a way that didn't seem detrimental to the team from my perspective. It wasn't like he was Milton Bradley, flipping out and attacking fans or umpires. And he was the best defensive shortstop the Cardinals have had since Ozzie. He made the team more entertaining, so his departure makes them less so. That it happened, not because the Cards thought they could get something to improve the team, but because Tony LaRussa is a humorless jackass, makes it worse. And they're replacing with a clearly worse defensive player, so it's a good thing they don't have a pitching coach who preaches getting groundball outs. Oh wait, that's exactly what they have, so this'll be swell.

And don't try and sell me on the idea that Maikel Cleto is some great haul. The guy has been in A-ball for three years. There's at least 6 or 7 righthanded relief pitchers ahead of him in the Cardinals' farm system alone, to say nothing of the three in the major league bullpen (Motte, Boggs, McClellan). I have zero confidence he will ever be of any use to the major league squad whatsoever.

So I've been deprived of watching a player I enjoy play for a team I root for because of LaRussa. Because Bill DeWitt has basically said the managerial job is Tony's for as long as he wants it, which leaves the GM in a situation where Tony clearly seems to have more clout. Certainly, DeWitt hasn't made any similar statements about Mozeliak's job security. Nor should he, since I can't say I love the job he's done. But I think it's stolen any spine he might have had to look at Tony and say "No, I will not trade this player. He's better than the guys you want, so he stays. Period." Tony might not like that, but he's a big boy, so he ought to be able to work with it. I have this vision now of the Cardinals clubhouse as a Dickensian orphanage, or an Industrial Revolution-era coal mine. Gray, glum, bleak, joyless. Anyone who exhibits a spark of cheerful personality must be banished, in favor of raging assholes like Chris Carpenter. Hey, I'm glad Carp's a good pitcher, but he still behaves like an asshole on the field screaming at his temamates, the other team, so on and so on.

Here's the options I'm weighing right now. One, the Cardinals resign Aaron Miles, because Tony must have 3 undersized, scrappy white middle infielders, none of which will have any actual skill. At that point, I renounce the St. Louis Cardinals as my team, at least until Tony LaRussa is gone. I can become a baseball vagabond, in the same way I am with the NBA. Second possible outcome: The Cardinals stink up the joint like it's 2007. They're so bad it drives Tony away. Where he goes, I don't care. Could be back to Oakland, to Baltimore, Acapulco, Luxembourg. Hell would be fine, just so long as he's gone.

Now, the team crashing and burning, and TLR leaving probably also signals the end of Albert Pujols' days with the team. But you know what, in my current mindset, I don't give a shit. They probably can't afford to resign him anyway, and if they do, it's gonna cripple the team's payroll more than likely, and guarantee LaRussa's continued presence. Which would mean the Cardinals would constantly be scraping the bottom of the free agent barrel to fill the roster, since Tony would want his veterans, rather than rely on prospects, and they won't have any money for good free agents. And the whole thing will be a joyless and miserable experience for a fan, so who wants to go through that? So screw it. Let them stink, part of me says, drive the manager and Hall of Fame first basemen and off, and start over.

At this point, I have no excitement for this team. I don't think they'll be fun to watch, whether they win or lose. I'm sick of Tony. I'm sick of his stupid sunglasses, of his bullpen manipulations, of his aversion to younger players in favor of shitty veterans. I'm sick of his crap about keeping things in house, except when it suits him to blast them publicly, thus turning public opinion against them and in his favor. I'm sick of his personality clashes that always end with the player losing. By my count, he's feuded with Ozzie Smith, Ron Gant, Garrett Stephenson, J.D. Drew, Steve Kline, Scott Rolen, Anthony Reyes, Jim Edmonds, Colby Rasmus, and Brendan Ryan. Those are just the ones I know of. These are widely disparate players, and all they have in common - besides bilateral symmetry - is they fought with Tony LaRussa, or were the subject of his ire. Yet he remains, and they go, Colby being the exception. Thus far, and that may only be due to his trying to become a Skip Schumaker-like slap hitter. I hope that's a joke, because if the Cardinals are really trying to make their third best hitter (.859 OPS) hit more like Skip Schumaker (.667 OPS), I may not wait for the Miles' signing to say "Fuck it".

In conclusion, I hate this trade, I'll miss Brendan Ryan, I think Mozeliak's a gutless worm, and I despise Tony LaRussa more than I have since the '96 season when he was at odds with Ozzie. Perhaps he'll be pulled over for another driving while intoxicated, and that can be used as pretext to fire him. It won't work that way, I know; Tony's job would survive it, unfortunately.

* I've been thinking about why the nickname works for me. The British believed their intangibles would carry the day. The spirit, or love for the Queen and the Empire would overcome the fact they were a bunch of dudes on horses charging entrenched Maxim guns emplacements. And the Cardinals somehow believe Theriot's intangibles will overcome the fact he is not a good professional baseball player.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Ryan Theriot? Sheesh

The St. Louis Cardinals traded Blake Hawksworth to the Dodgers for Ryan Theriot. Which perhaps means they won't be bringing Aaron Miles back, now that they have a younger, equally lousy version of him.

I'm not happy about the trade, though. Not because Hawksworth is gone, more because the Cardinals apparently envision Theriot as a shortstop. If not the starter, then someone to challenge Brendan Ryan for the position. Which sucks, because it means I once again have to realize that I root for a team that doesn't value the same things I do in players.

I agree with the Cardinals that upgrading the middle infield is a good idea. I just think they should be doing it at second base (where they have Skip Schumaker), not shortstop. And if they're going to upgrade, Theriot isn't it. I was looking at the three players' value over the last two years, since that's how long Ryan and Skip have been starters for the team at those spots. In 2009, by Baseball Reference, Theriot was worth 1 WAR (win above replacement), Skip 1.5, and Ryan 3.4. To break it down further, Theriot was +0.9 offensively, +0.1 with the glove (netirely at SS). Skip was +2.5 with the bat, -1.0 with the glove (which is ugly, a win worse than a replacement level - not average, replacement level - 2nd baseman). Brendan was 1.6 hitting, 1.8 fielding.

In 2010, Theriot played for both the Cubs and the Dodgers. With Chicago, he was -0.7 (-0.4 hitting, -0.3 fielding). In L.A., it was -0.1 WAR (-0.1 hitting, exactly replacement level fielding). Schumaker was +0.4 (+0.6 hitting, -0.2 fielding). Ryan was worth 0.9 (1.6 fielding, -0.7 hitting). So even in a year where his offense was abominable, Brendan Ryan was still a more useful player than either of the other two. But I don't know, Ryan's kind of silly, and Carp yelled at him once, and LaRussa seems to barely tolerate him, while Tony loves Skip, I assume because Skip was willing to try a different position, so he's a gritty gamer. Of course he tried another position, it gave him a shot to extend his career, and Skip Schumaker is hardly a big enough name to refuse to do so.

I get that Ryan looked helpless offensively last year. A .573 OPS is bad (the year before it was .740). But it was only his second year as starter. In Yadier Molina's second year as starting catcher (2006), he put up a .595 OPS*. He was actually worth -0.2 WAR that year (-1.6 bat, +1.4 glove), and the Cards didn't go shopping for a new catcher in the offseason. Gary Bennett was their weak hitting backup catcher in '06, and he held the same roster spot in 2007. Ryan plays the only other position on the field where defense is as valuable as it is at catcher, so why is he in danger of losing his job? Especially to Ryan Theriot? I would hope the Cardinals noticed that Theriot was less of a disaster in Los Angeles, where he exclusively played second base (small samples warnings apply, of course). Theriot's already 30, same as Skip. Depending on whose conventional wisdom you subscribe to, they've either just ended their prime (if you think that's 26-30), or they have a couple years left (if you think it's 28-32). Brendan Ryan's 2 years younger than both of them, so however you slice it, he has more of his peak years left.

At this point, I don't believe Schumaker can improve much. He has to hit a lot, probably more than he's able, to provide serious value because of his defense. Ryan just has to hit a little to make himself valuable, because he's already a top notch gloveman. It's not like the Cardinals haven't had weak hitting, slick fielding shortstops before. Ryan's not in Ozzie Smith's class, offensively or defensively**, but they got by with Cesar Izturis for a year, and his 2008 wasn't anything spectacular. He was worth +0.6 with the bat, and +0.9 with the glove (which is less than I expected, honestly). The trick is to find good hitters for the rest of the positions to compensate, then hope Ryan can rebound some. If he could post a .657 OPS, which is about halfway between his 2009 and 2010 numbers, and keep making plays in the field, he should be fine. The question is whether he'll get the chance.

Personally, I'd like to see the Cards go for Adam Dunn. I know he's a butcher in left field (and Holliday said he'd move to RF if it'll help), but the guy can hit, and again, Cardinals can lived through Chris Duncan lumbering around in left like a drunk hippo with a bad foot, I think we could live with Dunn and his 35+ home runs. As it stands, I guess they're banking on Craig and Jay being a productive platoon, and Freese actually staying healthy, which would help considerably, assuming his first two months this year weren't a mirage.

About Theriot, since he's a Cardinal now. When he was good, some Cubs' fans nicknamed him The Riot. I suppose I could change it The (Laugh) Riot, as in "it's a laugh riot they think he can play shortstop!", but considering his name is pronounced "Tarry O", I'm considering calling him "Tally Ho!" It brings to mind, for me, some British officer from the 19th Century, blindly leading his men in a doomed cavalry charge in some faraway land, because he thinks it will be ever so much fun, eh, old chap?

* Because it was a more offense heavy year, that translates to a 53 OPS+, while Brendan's 2010 was a 57. So Boog was slightly closer to league average than Yadi.

** From 1982 thru 1994, the 13 seasons Ozzie was the Cards' starting SS, his lowest WAR (by Baseball-Reference at least) was 1.9, in 1994. His highest was 6.3 in 1989, when he was worth 3,1 wins by glove alone. In those 13 seasons, he had 9 seasons with a WAR better than Ryan's 2009 total, including in his age-36 and 37 seasons.