Weekly Links for 2/22/11

Time for some more links from around the baseball blogosphere…

Joe Guzzardi over at Baseball Past and Present wrote up about how he is turned off by the talk surrounding Albert Pujols and his next contract. I think that the topic is interesting, but it is hard to feel a lot of sympathy for anyone when you start arguing about the difference between $20 million and $30 million in annual salary.

Arne over at Misc. Baseball had a couple of great posts again, this time about the minor league career of Felix Hernandez, and a great post about Ronald Reagan and his link to baseball.

As we get closer to the first games of the season, Twinsgirl197 over at Twinkie Town, the SBNation blog for the Twins, breaks down 50 reasons to love baseball. Just a further reminder of what is so great about this sport.

I’ve also finished a couple of great baseball books recently, and can highly recommend these titles:

The End of Baseball as We Knew It by Charles Korr – This is a great read about the evolution and growth of the MLBPA from its infancy in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s until 1981.

The Bullpen Gospels by Dirk Hayhurst – Follow Dirk through the trials and tribulations of a year in the minors, and the many facets of the game that aren’t always so visible. A very well written, well thought out book that I would say that any baseball fan should read.

The Eastern Stars:  How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macoris by Mark Kurlansky – Another excellent read, this one talks about the evolution of the most famous town in the Dominican Republic, home to many professional baseball players over the span of the last 50+ years.

Who are the Faces of the Franchise? NL Central Edition

Only two divisions left to look at for the Faces of the Franchise, but there’s some definite notable ones here .

  • Cubs – At the moment, the player who is most known for being a Cub has to be Carlos Zambrano. Whether or not that is a good thing or not remains to be seen, but the team seems like it is more associated with him than some of the more famous position players like Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez. Continue reading

The Next Contract for Albert Pujols

With the self-imposed deadline come and gone, it appears that for now, Albert Pujols will play out his contract, and have the option to test free agency come November. The potential suitors who could vie for his services if he actually reaches free agency have been written about ad nauseum, but I think it’s important to look at the actual impact Pujols will have on the game itself.

If He Returns to the Cardinals

If Albert returns to the Cardinals, two things stand out potentially for him. He could be the next great lifetime Cardinal, in the ilk of Stan Musial and Bob Gibson, as famous for being a Cardinal as a great ballplayer. His numbers to this point clearly indicate that he is already a great player, one of the greats of all time in just 10 seasons. But he could also make a run at some of the great Cardinal records, many of which are held by Musial.

Continue reading

Who Are the Faces of the Franchise? NL East Edition

Time to start looking at the Senior Circuit, beginning with the 5 teams in the East…

  • Braves – This one has to be Chipper Jones as of right now. He’s easily the longest tenured Brave, has been with the team his entire career, and has been an excellent player throughout. I could see this role going to either Brian McCann or Jason Heyward when Chipper finally decides to hang them up.
  • Marlins – For better or worse, it’s definitely Hanley Ramirez for the Marlins. The largest contract in the history of the team was given to Hanley, and was well deserved based on his performance. The only thing I can remember even remotely being negative around him was when his previous manager called him out for a lack of hustle.
  • Mets – David Wright and Jose Reyes really stand out to me for the Mets. I’d be more inclined to give the nod to Wright since he has not been injured nearly as often as Reyes in recent years, and it could continue that way with Reyes potentially being a free agent after this season.
  • Phillies – This one’s actually a lot more difficult than I would have thought it would be. There are so many big name players on the Phillies now that picking one by themselves is very difficult. Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Roy Halladay could all vie for this role, but I think for now it has to be Ryan Howard. The former MVP seems to be out front for the organization more than any other player, including Halladay.
  • Nationals – Last year, I would have said it had to be Stephen Strasburg. But with his injury, and the gigantic contract given to Jayson Werth, Werth has to be the de facto face of the franchise. It remains to be seen whether or not he can live up to the expectations that come with a contract that size, but for now it’s definitely on him to try.

What Value Would the Trading of Draft Picks Add?

Over at Minor League Ball, John Sickels interviewed Athletics GM Billy Beane, and this little nugget really caught my eye:

SICKELS: With the basic agreement up for negotiation as we approach 2012, what do you think of the idea of trading draft picks?

BEANE: I think it would be a great idea. I have always been in favor of that, it would create more interest in the draft for the fans, and as a GM anything that improves my flexibility is a good thing.
SICKELS: Will it happen? It always gets talked about but it never gets implemented.

BEANE: Well, I can’t say for sure obviously, we’ll have to see what gets negotiated. I would say that it is a better than 50/50 chance, but it is not guaranteed. We’ll just have to see.

This really caught my attention, as it is something that happens in both the NFL and NBA right now, and is another asset that allows for the movement of players. When you think about it, amateur draft picks are the only commodity in baseball that cannot be traded for something else.

The example I heard mentioned on the Baseball Prospectus Podcast was this: What if the Nationals had decided that they did not want to meet the demands of Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg in either of the last two years? Undoubtedly, there would have been a team that would have been willing to meet those demands if the Nationals had not, and as such this pick has trade value. Would the Nationals have been better if they had, say, traded the rights to the #1 overall pick (Bryce Harper) to the Yankees for a package of Jesus Montero and another top-10 prospect? I’m inclined to believe that both teams would have benefitted from this.

I could see using future draft picks as another commodity in the same way that the minor leagues are used now. Would the Mariners have wanted instead of some of the secondary players in the Cliff Lee trade, instead they received Justin Smoak and the Rangers’ 1st round pick in 2011?

The biggest concern to me would be that there probably would need to be a limitation on how far into the draft (rounds deep) and how many years in advance a team could trade, but I think that this bears consideration. Even if the owners are able to get a hard slotting system for the draft, there could still be a lot of value in the ability to trade picks, as teams may not want to take players at certain picks and “move down” like seems to happen in the NFL a lot.

Who are the Faces of the Franchise? AL West Edition

Continuing on with my look at each organization and their Face of the Franchise, the AL West…

  • Angels – I think that at this point, Torii Hunter has taken the mantle of the face of the franchise. He has even shown leadership (whether or not it was his choice remains to be seen) by switching positions last year for a younger player in Peter Bourjos, and likely to remain the same for Vernon Wells this year. Continue reading

Who are the Faces of their Franchise? AL Central Edition

Next up in my look at each organization’s Face of the Franchise is the AL Central…

  • White Sox – I think that at this point it has to either be Paul Konerko or Mark Buehrle. Both players have been with the team a long time, and both are known for being with the team as well. Buehrle may have gotten himself into a little bit of hot water earlier in the week regarding his comments about Michael Vick, but I think either would fit this title. Continue reading

Who are the Faces of their Franchise? AL East Edition

The recent signing of Eric Chavez by the Yankees and trade request by Michael Young got me thinking: which players are truly the face of their franchise right now?

Generally, this is most likely someone who is among the highest paid players on the team, and usually one of the best players on the team as well. It generally seems to be a position player, but some teams may have a pitcher as the face of the team. And of course, there’s always the possibility that a team simply doesn’t have one player who stands out from the rest. With that, here’s my thoughts on each franchise:

Continue reading

Expansion and Relocation Discussion, Part 1

One of my favorite topics, which I actually haven’t really discussed to this point, is the potential for either new expansion teams in the majors, or teams relocating to new markets. Having grown up in the Bay Area, I watched as the Giants nearly left for Tampa back in the early 1990s, and now as the Athletics appear poised to relocate either to San Jose, or possibly elsewhere even. As we have now seen the Expos move as well, it is clear that both are always a possibility. But what are the realistic chances for some of the markets out there?

Since division play started in 1969, MLB has expanded from 22 teams up to 30, adding teams in Milwaukee, Montreal/Washington, Toronto, Seattle, Phoenix, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Denver, and Miami.  According to Wikipedia, cities which placed bids during the most recent expansion, but were not selected, were:

  • Buffalo, NY
  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • Monterrey, Mexico
  • Nashville, TN
  • Northern Virginia
  • Orlando, FL
  • Vancouver, Canada

In my opinion, a city/metro area probably needs at least the following to have a reasonable chance of success in a market:

  1. Large population in the metro area – According to Wikipedia, MLB is in 25 of the top 40 largest metropolitan areas in the US. In Canada, MLB is in 1 of the top 3 largest metropolitan areas (only 3 are larger than the #40 in the US). As a result, any team placed in a market is going to need to be a decent size to draw fans’ revenue. I am not going to look into any of the cities in Latin America at this time, simply because I do not have the knowledge to speak about their viability due to differences in culture, economy, and language, among other things. So who does this criteria leave us with as at least possibilities?
  • Riverside/San Bernardino/Ontario, CA
  • Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Orlando, FL
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • San Jose, CA
  • Columbus, OH
  • Charlotte, NC
  • Indianapolis, IN
  • Austin, TX
  • Virginia Beach, VA
  • Providence, RI
  • Nashville, TN
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • Montreal, Canada
  • Vancouver, Canada

To this list, I am going to add a couple of markets that I think have at least a slight possibility of sustaining a MLB franchise:

  • Memphis, TN
  • New Orleans, LA
  • New York City, NY

2. The next thing I would be looking for out of a market for a MLB franchise would be whether or not there has been a history of organized baseball. Here’s how the cities break down with regard to this:

Current Cities:

  • MLB: New York City
  • AAA: Sacramento, CA; Las Vegas, NV; Columbus, OH; Nashville, TN; Memphis, TN; New Orleans, LA; Indianapolis, IN; Charlotte, NC; Providence, RI (Pawtucket); Virginia Beach, VA (Norfolk); Austin, TX (Round Rock);
  • AA: San Antonio, TX; Jacksonville, FL
  • High-A: Riverside/San Bernardino/Ontario, CA (Lake Elsinore/Inland Empire/Rancho Cucamonga); San Jose, CA
  • Short Season: Vancouver, Canada
  • Rookie League: Orlando, FL (GCL Braves in Kissimmee)

Previous Cities:

  • MLB: Montreal, Canada
  • AAA: Portland, OR

There are more criteria that should be addressed to be sure, but I’m going to open it up to discussion here. What do you think about this list of sites, and is there somewhere that should be included on this list that I haven’t mentioned? Do you think some of these should be eliminated immediately? Leave some comments with your thoughts on what else a market should have in order to support a Major League franchise.

Weekly Links for February 9th, 2011

Time for another set of links from around the blogosphere…

Joshua Maciel had a great post over at Fangraphs about potentially reworking the visual form of the standings page, and it’s pretty good. I’m not sure how it would translate exactly, but I like the idea a lot.

Larry Granillo, previously of Wezen-Ball, is now writing over at Baseball Prospectus, and researched exactly which game it was that Ferris Bueller and friends attended in the movie.

Nick Scott over at Royals Authority wrote up one potential reason for the Year of the Pitcher: Smaller bats by rule of MLB. A very well done piece, and although it was found to be not really involved by Rob Neyer over at SBNation, it’s still a very well done piece.

Dave Gershman has been doing a lot of great writing in a bunch of different locations, and his post about the career path of Eric Chavez over at Beyond the Box Score was excellent. Having seen him play when he was in his prime (and healthy), it’s really sad to see what could have been.

David over at Marlins Diehards wrote up that the Marlins are apparently holding open tryouts for the organization on February 16th. I’m kind of with him, but from the Marlins perspective, it’s not a bad move. If they find one player who is even remotely worth having in the organization, it will be more than worth the minimal cost they have to spend for it.

As for the blog here itself, I’ve decided to make a couple of minor changes going forward. First, the prospect reviews are at least on hold, and I may not get to the remaining group of them any time soon. I enjoy learning about the prospects, but I don’t want to do any of the write ups half way, and I’m not sure I can commit to the time needed to research them to the standards I want. Second, I will be doing more current event type posts and more stream of thought type ideas. Basically, it just means that I’m hoping to write more about things as they are happening and as they interest me. I’m not sure whether or not that really ends up being a particular difference in what gets posted, but I’m going to give it a try. Thanks again to all the readers and commenters as always.