Thursday, February 15, 2018

You know you are getting old when...

...your favorite baseball player dies.

You know, it was a couple of years before I would bring myself to call Terry Francona by his father's nickname.

You see, Tito Francona was and probably still is my favorite baseball player.  He was around when I was old enough to realize that I would probably be a lifelong Indians fan.  I latched on to him.  I don't even know why.   Maybe it was because he was left-handed and played the outfield like I tried to do.  Maybe it was because he hit .363 when I was 6 years old, the first memory I have of being an Indians fan.  I don't really know why.

It's weird that you don't realize how close you are in age to these guys.  He was only 19 years older than me.  He could have been a really older brother or maybe an uncle instead of this guy I put on a pedestal.

I don't know what kind of a person Francona was but, in the dark ages of Indians' baseball, he was my light that kept me going.   When he moved on to St. Louis I would listen to Jack Buck and Harry Caray broadcasting over KMOX in St. Louis with my transistor radio under my pillow so that my parents didn't know I was still awake and so I wouldn't disturb my brothers who were trying to sleep.   I did the same thing when he moved on to Atlanta.

He was my favorite player and you follow your favorite player wherever he goes.   As I was cleaning out some stuff the other day I noticed that I still had an article cut out from a paper the day after Tito had a 5 hit day for the Oakland A's when he was 35 years old and was mostly just a pinch hitter towards the end of his career.   I remember that, for luck, I would carry that article around in my wallet...for years.   It was just a little article but, when it is a highlight in the career of your favorite player you save it.  I saw the title of an article that said he was the oldest living Oakland A.   Seems odd to me but just another thing that made him special, I guess.  Maybe I will tape it to a condolence card and send it to our manager, the new Tito Francona.

I will never forget the effect Tito Francona just playing the game he loved had on me.   It made me a lifelong Indians fan.   His son managing the Indians to more success than Tito's Indians ever had makes it even more special.   Tito Francona was a ballplayer when ballplayers were larger than life.  He was a ballplayer when little kids looked up to ballplayers for all the right reasons.   I don't know how many other people considered him their favorite baseball player but I hope he now knows that he had a least one person who thought that the baseball world, and a little kid's world, revolved around him.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Thoughts on a Sunday - The clock is ticking

Spring training is around the corner and I am getting antsy.

No, not for baseball to start.  After watching the Cavs and Indians the last two years the regular season is only the prelude with both teams having enough talent to easily make the playoffs.   Doesn't mean it will happen but the Indians have enough talent if they stay healthy and productive.

I am getting antsy because the Indians have done essentially NOTHING to fix their two problems: the losses caused by losing hitters (Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce) and relief pitchers (Bryan Shaw, Joe Smith and Shawn Armstrong).

Let's start with the hitters.   I woke up yesterday with a great idea:  what if we sign JD Martinez to an outrageous one year deal, say $30 million, to bridge him through this year where he can't seem to get the multiyear deal he wants.  Yes, it blows our budget for this year but there is no long term commitment there.   Then I read the same thing on the internet.   Great minds think alike, I guess.   But, yes, that appears to be a novel and unique way to get the superstar you want without the long term commitment.  Martinez gets more money than any player probably deserves in a year and we get a guy who is a great hitter without having to pay him through his declining years.  I know this is just monopoly money to me but REAL money to the owners of the Indians but it is a way to make this team instantly better, better to the point where it might be able to suffer an injury to our big 3 (Ramirez, Lindor, Encarnacion) and still not be devastated.  Right now, if one of those guys go down we are screwed as we have no guys in the minors or majors who are likely to be able to take up the slack for such an injury.

So, likely this won't happen but it is a way to make this team instantly better and not destroy the long term budget or set us up with untradeable superstars if we want to blow it up next year.

Now the relievers.  Look, fans, we are in a desperate situation here! We need relievers.  Here is the projected Indians pitching staff in 2018:

Corey Kluber SP
Carlos Carrasco SP
Trevor Bauer SP

Mike Clevinger SP/RP
Josh Tomlin SP/RP
Danny Salazar SP/RP
Ryan Merritt SP/RP

Cody Allen RP
Andrew Miller RP
Dan Otero RP
Nick Goody RP
Tyler Olsen RP
Zach McAllister RP

That's 13 guys.   That's 5 starters and a Francona bullpen (8 guys).  And, to even make this happen, two of the starters would have to take on full-time bullpen roles, something they have NEVER done in their life and NO ONE could get hurt!

There is no margin for error here and, frankly, I am already pretty sure there is something wrong with Corey Kluber.

After those 13 guys we have Adam Plutko, Julian Merryweather and Shawn Morimando on the 40 man roster and NONE of the pitchers we signed to minor league deals has ANY success in the majors as a reliever.

We have lots of relief arms in the minors but none of them look like they are ready now for the majors and, given the nascent stuff that those guys have, it is questionable if they will ever be ready to take over a significant role in the majors, let alone this year.

Basically, we're screwed if ANYONE in the top 13 gets hurt.   Plus, even if everyone stays healthy we are still looking at having to add a reliever or two at the deadline to help us down the stretch and into the playoffs.   Given what we had to give up for Joe Smith last year (Pannone and Taylor) our farm system can't really afford to make many, if any, more trades like that for relievers who we could have had for pennies in free agency.  

And this is where I get ticked off.   Even if you eliminate relievers who have gotten multiple year deals, the following relievers (with what they signed for) seem like the type we could have easily fit in our payroll.

Jeff Manship - minor league deal
Sergion Romo - $2 million
Dustin McGowan - minors
Frankie Rodriguez - minors
Seung Hwan Oh - $2.75 million
Blaine Boyer - minors
Bruce Rondon - minors
Jeanmar Gomez - minors
Tom Koehler - $2 million
Travis Wood - minors

Given what these guys signed for, we could have signed a couple or three as insurance.  Now, you can say that given our roster, these guys might have seen the Indians as not needing anyone. However, these are all seasoned major leaguers with agents. They, even more than us fans, know that with injuries you need more than 8 relievers to get through a season.  In fact, I would say that the Indians, as a winning team, would have been attractive to a number of these guys, if they saw that our depth in the bullpen was non-existent, if not a real weakness of this team.  Maybe I could be wrong, don't know.

So, where does that leave us?   There are still plenty of guys out there but, frankly, I would rather have 2 or three of the guys above rather than any one of them.

Matt Belisle
Trevor Cahill
Tyler Clippard
Jason Grilli
Greg Holland
Francisco Liriano
Jason Motte
Eric O'Flarherty
Oliver Perez
Zach Putnam
Robbie Ross
Trevor Rosenthal
Kevin Segrist
Koji Uehara
Tony Watson

There is still time but a lot of these guys above will take more money than we can spend and the rest may be done as far as being effective major league relievers either due to age or injury.   Still, we need to do something because we are flirting with disaster that could make us lose our almost guaranteed playoff spot just because we wouldn't invest a couple of million dollars and a couple of minor league invites to help out our $100+ million payroll achieve what it should achieve.

I am telling you, we are screwed if we don't sign a reliever or two from this list as we will soon be putting out on the mound guys cut after spring training or minor leaguers of questionable talent if we don't do something.  That is not what the preemptive favorite in the AL Central should be doing.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

A case study in 'blowing it up' for a rebuild

This is a Cleveland (insert new nickname) baseball blog.  But sometimes we have to talk about other things to get back to baseball.

In this case, I want to talk about doing an extreme makeover on the Cavaliers.  Also, this could serve as a blueprint for what we might want to do with the Indians in 2020 if that season is not going well.

Now, I am not the biggest Cavs fan in the world, to be sure.   But they are my hometown team and I do follow them pretty closely.  Anyone who has seen them play this year has one hope:  they are just coasting through the season and will turn it on when it counts.  Well, what if the likelihood of this happening is very small?  Then you have to consider tearing it down and starting again.

 Right now the Cavs have one mega trading chip and some questionable other ones. It's not a great situation for a quick re-tool or even a less than quick rebuild.

The point here is that the Cavs have built this roster to win now.  They signed guys to extensions to keep the nucleus together.  Those extensions, in and of themselves, were made based on the perceived value of those players to the Cavaliers winning the NBA championship (e.g., Thompson, JR Smith, Kyle Korver).   However, those contracts make it harder to do a complete tear down as these players were overvalued by their home team compared to what their production would indicate.  Plus I don't know if the veterans they have on veteran minimum contracts are tradeable and, if they are, how much would they bring back.  So the Cavs really SHOULD tear it down at this point as it appears more and more each day that LeBron is gone after this year.   However, the Cavs really can't, unless their GM is a genius and the players on their roster have much more value to other teams than I think they do.  So they may have to go for it again this year and that likely will send them deeper into the hole by trading picks and young assets to get veterans they need, which, in turn, will make a rebuild even harder.  It becomes a never-ending cycle when LeBron leaving looks more and more like a certainty every moment.  So you might have to sell REALLY low and look for a horrible and long rebuild.   Frightening for any long-time Cleveland sports fan, I am sure as you might have TWO major franchises in your city that no one cares about.

By 2019 or 2020 the Indians might be in the same position, depending on the luck that they have.  The good news is that I don't see a single bloated contract on the Indians.  At this point, except for Kipnis, all their marquee players are VERY tradeable.  Plus, we are not going out and signing compensation free agents and losing draft picks.   All that is good for the Indians.   But we need not to follow the Cavs example.  If we do, by next year, we might be needing a rebuild or a re-tool and we night not be able to make that happen.

Let's hope the Indians long term plan continues to allow flexibility for a complete rebuild, if necessary.  I don't ever want to be in the position the Cavs find themselves right now...let alone in the position the Browns find themselves.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Mr. Jeff Pearlman - You missed the mark as completely as possible on this one

Reading through Cleveland Indians stuff on the internet today I came across this article:

https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/29/opinions/dropping-cleveland-indians-logo-doesnt-solve-this-pearlman/index.html

Now the URL has "opinion" in it so realize this is just someone's personal thoughts on an issue and, as I was told since I was a kid, opinions are like buttholes, everyone has one.   Keep this analogy in mind as we go forward with this blog post.

So the Cleveland Indians are removing Chief Wahoo as their logo.   My thoughts on this are simple:

I can see the points made.  If this logo is offensive to American Indians then it should be replaced with another logo.   Just like the Atlanta Braves, Washington Redskins, Florida State Seminoles or the other 2000+ (https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-2128-native-american-mascots-people-arent-talking-about/) school sports teams with American Indian-linked nicknames/logos should be done away with.

So, if these are offensive to American Indians then all of them should be changed, right?  Trump likes to tout how many laws he has passed so why not get the Republicans to pass a law outlawing team nicknames that are offensive to ethic minorities.  I am sure that Notre Dame should change their nickname to another one that doesn't portray men of Irish descent as being violent individuals who brawl rather than settle their disputes in a reasonable, civil manner.  Oh, and it is probably that they were drunk when they were fighting, as everyone knows that Irish men drink to excess (sorry, I will take my tongue out of my cheek now).

We could go on for days discussing which nicknames should go.  Heck, I grew up in a predominantly Catholic, Italian community whose high school's nickname was the Blue Devils!   Blasphemy!  Last I heard, there was no movement to remove this nickname that clearly elevates the devil to a high position and convinces young, impressionable teens that being a devil is a good thing to be!

So, while I support Mr. Pearlman's opposition to the use of Indians as a nickname and logo, that is all I support in his article.  Excerpts from his "opinion" include:
  • He rips on Paul Dolan for financially supporting the political campaigns of John Kasich.  While I don't like Kasich and would never support him, I don't hold it against any person about who they want to support politically.   Life and politics is not a one-issue existence.  As someone who grew up as a Catholic, I have seen and heard firsthand how the church will tell you things that will lead to vote for some idiot just because they are against abortion.  While I am against abortion I will NEVER vote an unqualified or unprincipled candidate just because they support one issue. BTW, the Catholic church doesn't like same sex marriage, if you want something else to write about, Jeff.  
  • Pearlman rips on the Indians for not transitioning until 2019.  Well, this is a business, Jeff.  You don't just throw away inventory.  Bleeding money is a nice, altruistic position...in a vacuum.   However, if you told Indians fans that the team could not sign Edwin Encarnacion because they didn't have the resources because the team had to take a financial loss on millions of dollars of inventory they had to trash to make a political statement,  I am pretty sure you would have been run out of town on a rail.  Also, I suppose that you would support a law making it illegal to wear already purchased gear that bears such logos, right?   Because you know, Jeff, that at baseball games next year and in the future there will be fans of the Indians wearing gear purchased pre-2019.  Or should those fans trash all that gear and buy new gear without the logo?   But wait, that would give Dolan more money to support Kasich and such candidates in the future!  It literally makes the head explode thinking about it!
  • In reading his "opinion" it appears to me that Pearlman rips on every person who wants to make a buck in a democratic society.   He tries to use the most base arguments about how the rich are bad and how poor people are subjugated by the rich, all to support an argument about a freaking team logo.  Hey Jeff, I am not rich, I am middle class and grew up very low middle class in the 60s and 70s and so I am all about civil rights for all but I don't get your arguments here. Unfortunately, we have seen these arguments before.   I think Hitler used the same tactics to dehumanize the Jews who were depicted as rich, unfeeling individuals, responsible for all the things wrong in Germany at that time.   Interestingly, the Holocaust organizations feel it is important to keep those issues in the forefront to make sure they don't happen again instead of sweeping them under the rug with trashed logos.  Removing the logos, Jeff, doesn't remove the problem.  In fact, it helps hide that those problems every existed.   However, if the American Indians feel it helps them, then I support in principle, not using such logos.
I will end by saying this.   IF it is offensive to American Indians, don't use the name or the logo.   However, simply removing these nicknames does not remove the injustices that American Indians faced in the settling of the US.  In fact, a case could be made to LEAVE the nicknames alone.  They represent American Indians as proud and fierce and a group not to be messed with, which is a compliment to the spirit of the American Indian heritage.   Leaving them alone also keeps American Indians in mind and reminds us of the injustices that can occur if one group is subjugated by another.  These nicknames don't represent Indians as suffering from a high incidence of alcoholism and low self worth and also don't represent them as the oppressed, less-worthy-than-the-rest-of-us group that they became after being put on reservations.  However, HAVING these logos/nicknames does remind us that these things did occur and are still occurring.   Maybe reminding us of that isn't such a bad thing. Maybe Jeff should write an article about how we can continue to highlight that.  There is a new movie coming out that addresses that situation, Jeff.   Maybe it's time to fire up the computer for something important.

 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

How much should international stats count towards a MLB career?

As any of you who read this blog regularly may know, I think Julio Franco should be considered for the Hall of Fame.

If you count his 3 years of international ball he has over 3000 hits and, for a number of years, did that as a SS.   But somewhere in his career he decided to go for the money and played overseas, presumably because he couldn't get a MLB contract or, at least, one that he thought was reasonable.   I don't actually know as I don't know the man but, for whatever reason, he spent 3 years playing in the Far East.

While he had only 2586 MLB hits, if you add the 442 he had in Korea and Japan he totals out to 3028 hits in individual country's idea of what major league baseball is.

So, in the days when recent players (Alan Trammell) who failed to get enough votes anytime in their eligibility to elected to the HOF are actually still getting in, I think it is time to consider Franco.

In thinking about Franco the case of Ichiro Suzuki comes up.  Hey, the guy is a HOFer for sure as he got to 3000 hits even though he spent some of his productive 20s years in Japan.   So, the question with him is not whether he makes the HOF, it is  (a) is he a first time HOFer and (b)whether he holds the record for most hits in a career.

Right now Suzuki has 4514 hits between his time in the US and Japanese major leagues with 3080 of those coming in US major league.   By contrast, Pete Rose had 4256 hits, all in the US major leagues.  even if you discount the quality of play in Japan to some degree, it is very possible that if Suzuki had played his entire career in the US that he could have and probably would have eclipsed 4256.

The question is, is there any multiplier we can incorporate into OUS stats to determine what that player would have had based on his age, ability, history of MLB  performance and state of baseball at the time when he played abroad?  In this age of advanced statistics I think this has to be possible.  Also, maybe all of our stats records should have a series of records for career stats for guys who have combined US and international careers.

Why is this important to me?

(a) I think Julio Franco deserves to be in the HOF

and

(b) Ichiro Suzuki deserves to be a first ballot HOFer.


Friday, January 12, 2018

Five Questions About The New Tax Law and Baseball Revenue

Let's begin by saying I am not a tax expert and don't have all the answers about the new tax law.   In fact, I have no answers but I do have a lot of questions about how baseball will be impacted by it.  Here are just some of them:

1. Will the cut in corporate tax rate help or hurt in terms of companies buying luxury boxes or blocks of seats this coming season?  I could see this going either way.  If the tax rate does give them more profit, why would they cut back on something like corporate seat purchases?  At the same time, maybe they gained some tax advantage by writing these seats off as a business expense that they don't really need anymore given the lower tax rate.

2. Will individual tax rate cuts give people more disposable income that they can use to go to Indians' games more than they do now?  I think this has to do with the product and the audience.   I feel that the people who will get the biggest tax cuts may already go to games but it is possible that even lower income families might go to a game.   Again, where people spend their disposable income is based mainly on what they like and can afford.   If they can afford more they will go to where they like more.  So, in Cleveland, I don't see this changing the Indians' attendance very much, if at all.

3.  Will the lower corporate tax rate help the Indians by giving them more money to operate their business?   Well, let's hope so and let's hope they put that money toward signing free agents and uber-talented foreign players, with heavy emphasis on the latter.

4. Will the cut in personal tax rate help salaries come down a bit?  I don't think so but you never know.   If your accountant says that $2 million will actually be worth $2.2 million in 2018 dollars maybe teams may get a small discount on free agents still unsigned around the start of spring training....but don't count on it...ever.

5.  Does this mean that beer will cost less at a game now since the beer companies are generally large corporations?  Yeah, big corporations always funnel their windfalls back to consumers (ROFLMAO).

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Dos and Dont's of this offseason

Don't trade Danny Salazar.  When discussions about a guy include the phrase "...if he can only reach his potential" it means that his trade value is not spectacular.   Plus, even if he never reaches his potential he provides a great 5th starter.   If you trade him you are in the same boat as with him underperforming, your 5th starter has to slide up to #4.  When you consider that Ryan Merritt would slot in as the 5th starter and compare him to Salazar knowing Josh Tomlin would be that new #4, you don't trade Salazar.

Do sign relievers.   Look, we are at January 4th.   Borderline guys like Dillon Gee are running for Japan for $1 or $2 million deals.   Looking at the list of free agent relievers, if all these guys are truly still available, you have the following:

Addison Reed, Chad Qualls, Glenn Perkins, Seung-hwan Oh, Dustin McGowen, Greg Holland, Sergio Romo, Matt Albers, Matt Belisle, Trevor Cahill, Tyler Clippard, Jason Grilli, Drew Storen, Huston Street, Tony Watson, Koji Uehara, Travis Wood, Neftali Feliz, Bruen Duensing, Kevin Siegrist, Bruce Rondon, Blaine Boyer, Craig Breslow, Eric O'Flaherty, Oliver Perez, Zach Putnam, Bud Norris, Jason Motte, Francisco Liriano, David Hernandez, Ian Krol, Al Alburquerque, Josh Collmentor, Jorge De La Rosa, Jeanmar Gomez, Francisco Rodriguez, Fernando Salas and a few others.

If Dillon Gee is going to another country we should be able to sign 3 of these guys, at least, without breaking the budget.  Instead we bring in guys I have never heard of including Robert Zarate, who hasn't even pitched in two years.    Guys, you have a great team, don't blow it by leaving the end of the bullpen to Louis Head, Josh Martin and Cameron Hill.   While I would LOVE for those guys to get a chance this year, I don't want them as our first option...with no one backing them up if they fail.  

The relievers are out there and at this point they should be attainable at bargain basement prices.   Time to go get some!

Don't sign or trade for hitters - We have enough hitting, enough guys who can play various positions, etc.  If you add more hitters through free agency you stand the chance to lose guys like Gonzalez and Urshela on waivers.   Plus, you trade for a hitter and you lose tradeable assets you may need in July.  

We have enough hitters.   Leave this area alone.

Don't panic -  There is enough that can be done cheaply that we should not panic.   I love the way this team is constructed.   You need to plan for next year and the year after that while winning this year.  If you do the three things above and don't panic you will be fine.