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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

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When you a core that consists of players that are either the best or near the top at their respective positions (Utley, Rollins, Howard, Hamels, Lidge) along with great complimentary pieces (Moyer, Vic, Werth) you're the real deal.

The Phillies probably peaked in 08 but they didn't exactly drop off during the off-season. They theoretically could get even better if the rotation stays strong and Utley is healthy and Howard bounces back from an off-year.

NEPP: In 2000, Castillo had 22 extra base hits in more than 600 PAs. Even more pathetic by the way you value a player.

J~

I hope you're right in your comments. I would love to see them be dominant. The Howard situation has got them in a funk right now. They don't seem closer to getting him signed. avoid arb. and that's preventing them from completing other moves.

That's ridiculously bad for someone who makes his living as a "speed" player. He should have at least some doubles in that equation. He has to bat well over .300 to be worthwhile as an everyday guy...he doens't really do that anymore.

Although, after looking at his career stats on BR, I'm not terribly impressed by him at any point in his career. He's never really been a great player.

NEPP: Yeah, I think anyone would've taken Feliz over him during his career.

JW - Dominant? I hope so but I highly doubt it. A "dominant" team in my book gets close to 100 wins during the regular season.

Phils were "dominant" at brief stretches last year including the most important times (last 2 weeks of the season and the playoffs) but a pretty good team for most of the rest of the year.

Just like '08 and the previous few seasons, I bet the Phils are going to be a very good team that will push close to 90 games, that will start slow in April, and likely need a push again in Sept to make the playoffs.

****NEPP: Yeah, I think anyone would've taken Feliz over him during his career****

What are you talking about? I never once mentioned that or even argued that.

I'm just talking about Castillo in general...not comparing him to our 3B.

The one thing I wonder about this year - are the Phils going to be able to actually play well in April. For whatever reason, this core of players team has struggled to play .500 ball in April during Cholly's tenure. Generally get spotty starting, shaky INF defense (especially the past 2 Aprils), and a dormant Howard until well into May.

Guess we have to see how the injury situation shakes out with Feliz/Utley but I would be more than happy if this team even comes out of April 1 or 2 games above .500 this year.

Reposted from the last thread:


LF, great Phillies' fans stories.

As far as your "predictions" are concerned, I don't share your optimism about the Mets rotation.

Santana will be Santana. He really can't pitch much better than last season, when the BP blew several wins for him.

Pelfrey may improve, or he could regress if hitters develop a 'book' on him. We'll see.

Maine is coming off of surgery. He's a question mark for that reason, though he has poster good periferals in the past.

Ollie Perez has the stuff to be dominant, but has been terribly inconsistent. Sound like any Phillies pitchers you've heard of? We'll see which Ollie shows up.

Redding? He's pitched well against the Phillies in the past, which is why I suspect the mets went after him. But, the Phillies hammered him a couple of times late last season. We'll see. He could easily be replaced if he falters.


The Phillies pitchers:

Hamels will be Hamels. the only question mark is his health coming off of all the IP last season. He, like Santana, pitched better than his W-L record last season.

Myers has the stuff to be a number one on some MLB teams, and is a solid number 2 on most when his head is screwed on straight. He could have a big year for one reason: he's piching for his next contract. The Myers that showed up after his minor league stint last season is, IMO, better than anyone in the Mets rotation except Santana.

Blanton vs. Maine/OPerez?: I think I'd take Blanton over Maine because of the injury question. Perez could be the key to the Mets season IF Good Ollie shows up. Who knows?

Moyer vs. Maine/Perez? Well, I don't expect the same knid of year from Moyer as last season, but he's capable of being better than either of the 2 Mets. Toss up?

Happ/Park vs. Redding/Niese? Definite toss up, as neither tema knows what it's getting.

Bullpens: Edge to Phillies.

Lidge was better than KRod last year, who depite his "tecord setting" season blew 8 - yes 8 - saves last season. Toss up.

Set up: If the Mad Dog of Aug - Oct shows up, this is a toss up too. Unless you're right and Putz's head blows up.

I give the Phillies a slight edge in the rest of the pen, especially when Romero returns.


You said if all of them pitch to their full potential. As that almost never happens, it will be interesting to see what happens this season.

The Myers that showed up after his minor league stint last season is, IMO, better than anyone in the Mets rotation except Santana.


The midseason Mike Pelfrey during his run of dominance was better than Myers was too...and most of the NL (he won more games than any NL pitcher during june and july).
It's too subjective to talk about "potential."

The Mets starters ERA was lower than the Phils starters last year. With no substanial changes to either staff and the Mets having a younger staff, on paper that advantage belongs to the Mets.

The determining factor on the Phils success this year lies with the health and consistency of the pitching staff. As mentioned in a previous thread, Hamels and Moyer were the only constants in the rotation last year. If Myers can put together a consistent season and Blanton goes back to his playoff form that would be huge. In my opinion the bullpen is still a huge question mark. Does Madson pitch like he did at the end of the season? Does Durbin pitch like he did at the beginning of the season? Can the pen survive without JC for 50 games? The only guy I'm not worried about in the pen is Lidge. This is the biggest reason I've brought up Juan Cruz about 231 times this offseason.

Also- how is a 46 year old capable of being better than two 27 year olds with better stuff?

That's an argument about knowing how to pitch versus "stuff." It's an arguement that vacilates from day to day depending on if Moyer can locate his stuff or if Ollie/ Maine have command.

***Also- how is a 46 year old capable of being better than two 27 year olds with better stuff? ***

Stuff is great...knowing how to pitch is also a bit important. Greg Maddux is the best right handed pitcher of his generation...does that mean no other RHP had better stuff than him?

JW, agree - I think some "last minute touches" are needed.

"Stuff is great...knowing how to pitch is also a bit important. Greg Maddux is the best right handed pitcher of his generation...does that mean no other RHP had better stuff than him?"


I don't disagree. That was Maddux in his late 20s- 30s though. He was still effective in his late 30s- early 40s, but not dominant. You're more likely to see a dominating effort out of a pitcher in his prime with good stuff than you are with a guy at 46 getting by on guile.

I'm a met fan, as of this moment, I like my staff...but I think the Phillies' staff is comparable in that at the top, there is an ace (I prefer Santana). More upside in the Mets staff, but, more consistency in the Phillies staff.

jlwells, you could have asked the same question at the beginning of last season but changed the ages:


"Also- how is a 45 year old capable of being better than two 26 year olds with better stuff?"


Fact: Moyer was better last season.

Next question.

Can Nomar play 3rd base? If he signed here, what would keep him from taking over for Feliz at any point during the season other than stubborness on the coaching staff?

I don't know much about Nomar other than he used to be pretty good and he plays the infield. Educate me.

I agree with Beerleaguer in most aspects. The Phillies are in a good position to defend the title for not only this year, but several years to come. They have all of the key players locked up through 2011 and just have to keep pace filling around them. The minor league system is probably better stocked than any time in my memory. The team is looking good. However, I think that in this market there is ample opportunity to make short term acquisitions of impact players for little money. I think that Ben Sheets is looking more and more like a good gamble. He is drawing little interest from other clubs and will likely end up inking a one year deal. The Phillies would be a great fit. He would complement Hamels and bring depth to the rotation. It is always about striving to improve and this is an easy choice.

Nomar can play 3B but he's below average defensively there...he played 3B for the Dodgers a bit last year and the year before.

Ahh well that would be a tough sell for 3b then. Charlie loves his defense at 3rd.

The last time Nomar played close to a full season offensively he was worse than Feliz was (78 OPS+). He's been bouncing up and down the past few years so maybe he still has something left, but its far from a guarantee that he could walk in and be better with both offense and defense considered.

The Phillies best candidate for 3B may be sitting in AAA this season.

If Nomar went through some science-fiction rejuvenation process he could certainly play 3rd. Otherwise his body just can't handle it. Think of him like a Baldelli and you'll have the right picture.

More like a Faberge egg for Nomar...and about as useful in the field.

jwells, I like Santana at the top too. I rate him a slightly better than Hamels.

However, as I indicated in my post, the rest of BOTH team's rotations carry question marks.

To suggest otherwise is to engage in wishful thinking.

Honestly the best thing that happened this offseason for the Phils wasn't so much the moves they made (which largely kept them at status quo remarkably and is really odd that a championship team comes with nearly the entirely same roster to start the next season) but that nobody in this division remarkably improved.

Yeah Braves are clearly better with the starting pitching acquisitions they made this offseason but they still a very mediocre offense club. Still a big bat short in the middle of the lineup and they need everything and I mean everything to break right (e.g., Franceour big rebound, healthy/effective Soriano, Gonzalez, and Jones, etc). More likely a 84 or 85 win max team that won't be an also-ran they largely were in the 2nd half last year.

Same with the Fish. Don't know if the players they moved were huge losses but hard to believe they will be able to win the division/WC given that they have even less depth than last year.

Only thing of interest in the Nats' season will just how low their attendance figures will be (I am betting there are nights of 10k announced come mid-season with about 4 or 5k in the stands) and if they avoid losing 90+ games again. Feel bad for Manny Acta whose is a manager I like but can only do so with just a threadbare team.

Even the Mets didn't make all of the big splashes that the baseball pundits were predicting them too. Sure they signed KRod and brought in Putz via trade to shore up the pen. More likely though that the success of the pen will largely hang on the likes of some holdovers (Sanchez, Feliciano, Stokes) though. Green is also overlooked but he is going to be counted on to play a big role too since Schoewnweis was moved.

Still Mets have largely the same issues they did last year (hole in LF, 2nd base, average C, questions about Delgado can repeat his numbers, and questions about the back-end of the rotation).

Looks more and more likely that the winner of the NL East will likely clinch the division again at around 89 or 90 wins although I could see it be an interesting race this entire summer as all the teams in the East are likely to finish at/above. 500 except the Nats.

The Mets ownership losing both the Madoff money and possibly (well likely it seems) the money off their naming rights for "Citi" Field) seems to have left them in a precarious financial situation. They simply might not have the money to spend.

jwells, one other point:

I'm not sure there is more consistency in the Phillies staff.

I think many BeerLeaguers would agree with me.

Reading some of this Manny talk, I am completely confused how players like Abreu and Dunn are just sitting out there.

The Dodgers offered Manny $25mil for 1 year but haven't offered a 1-2yr deal for booby or dunn for 7-8mil? Yes Manny is arguably the best hitter on the planet right now, but i dont think he is $17-18 mil better.

For the $25mil, the market suggests you could get Abreu($8?) in the field, Sheets($8?) in rotation, Juan Cruz in the pen ($5?) and have another couple million left over for some bench roles. I just can't imagine a team would rather spend $25mil on 1 player and ignore all the others.

Theres gotta be something else going on. Either Dunn,Abreu,Sheets are still holding out for big $$, or GMs have agreed to keep free agency down.

Has anyone here figured out for sure yet whether we owe Thome the money for this year or not? I've heard both sides.

Ya I am pretty interested to see who gets signed for what, it's getting kind of late here for these guys to still be out there.

phaithful - I kind of wondered that too. Manny is a great hitter but is kind of ridiculous to assume he will be able to duplicate his 2nd half numbers with the Dodgers over the course of an entire season given his age/playing in Chavez Ravine for a whole year.

Is is better to acquire 3 players who would give you a better chance to win the NL West or pay Manny $20M+ a year or two to capture media attention/fan interest in a fickle LA sports market.

BTY - Colletti is arguably the worst GM right now in the NL. About the only thing he hasn't yet managed to do is trade even more of the Dodgers young talent although he apparently has tried. He definitely has had his share of terrible FA signings and trades though.

Re: Mets and Phils Rotations

I think the head to head match-ups really depend on how each team constructs their staff. For example - is Perez or Pelfrey the 2 for the Mets? Is Moyer or Blanton the 3 for the Phils?

I'd take Myers over Perez, but not always over Pelfrey. And, I'd take Pelfrey and Perez over Moyer or Blanton, but not Maine over either of those two.

I believe his option was picked up totally by the WS based on a vesting option invoving plate appearances from last year. I don't think the Phils owe him anything but I've heard both sides too.

Jason- Love the optimism of your article.
Howard's arbitration will be history in a couple of weeks and with all the Free Agents around and all the comings and goings from rosters I think the final pieces will fall into place.
Even Romero's suspension has the silver lining of him being a fresh arm come early summer.

I know people are going to laugh at this but I really want to see how Garcia looks in camp for the Mets. If he has decent stuff (and can stay healthy), I could see him winning 10 or 11 games for the Mets and being one of Minaya's best bargain FA signings during his tenure.

Re: Thome from Cotts Baseball contracts:

03:$9.5M, 04:$10.5M, 05:$11.5M, 06:$12.5M, 07:$14M, 08:$14M, 09:$13M club option ($3M buyout)
2009 option guaranteed with 600 PAs in 2007 or 1,100 PAs in 2007-08 (vested 2008)

Do the Phils or Mets get better numbers of their 5th starters this year? Any numbers on the production the Mets got vs. the Phils (calling Sophist)?

****Has anyone here figured out for sure yet whether we owe Thome the money for this year or not? I've heard both sides****

Both Phillies beat writers said we owe around $3 million and Cots has us as free and clear. Who do you want to believe. My guess is that we do owe money.

Has Boras/Manny revealed what they are looking for at any time during this offseason? years/money? If so, what was it?

4 or 5 years at $25 million per is what Boras has been asking for.

He's never gonna come close to that.

My prediction: At least 6 pitchers on both the Mets and Phils have 10+ starts.

Skeeter - that sounds right. Santana, Perez, Pelfrey, Maine make about 120 (and assuming Maine stays healthy), leaving the other 40 to Redding, Garcia, Niese.

Hamels, Myers, Moyer, Blanton do the same, leaving the rest to Happ, Kendrick, Park, etc. I could be missing someone.

If that's the case, I like the Mets #5 starters based on nothing but looking at the names.

Figures one of the few years the Phils go out and get who they want on the market early, it ends up being the year that a semi-all star team is just sitting out there unemployeed.

All those semi-contenders out there should be snatching these guys up like crazy on 1 year deals. Giants and Braves come to mind.

Boras/Manny are looking for years first (and by default money). This is Manny's last big payday so I guess he wants to cash in but I find it absurd (and utterly greedy) on Manny's part that he just doesn't take the Dodgers money for 2 yrs/$20M. He has already made well over $100M in his career and on his way to over $150M.

Enjoy being the media/fan darling and the warm weather in LA. Instead, Manny is just chasing the dollars. People yell about Boras but they act as if Manny is some kind of mindless puppet.

Manny is an a-hole. He doesn't get as bad a reputation because of his production (especially in the postseason), supposed hard work in the batting cage before the game, and his playful antics on the field at times. Nevermind the fact that Manny acts like an immature child and has had numerous conflicts/problems with managers, FO personnel, clubhouse staff, and players.

Besides the media stories that are well evidenced, my friend's father was involved with the Indians organization in the late 1990s and was in a key position of dealing with the players. Just as with every team, there are difficult players to some degree. Manny was a 100% pain in the ass to deal with. When he wasn't being completely irresponsible and literally making people in the Indians' organization clean up all kind of small messes he made, he was very fickle to deal.

There were plenty of times that when Manny would tip incredibly but there were alot more times where he would leave a pitiful amount. Contrary to this being "Manny being Manny" this was Manny being a cheap SOB and expecting his teammates or someone on the club to pick it up even if the tab was well beyond his daily per diem for food/booze.

Personal stuff aside, I always was amazed at how every season Manny would commit at least one or two huge gaffes or incidents annually on the field. Sometimes he wouldn't feel like running out a GB or hustling to catch a flyball. Other times it was much worse.

Manny is a great player and a first ballet HOF but is an a-hole personally and professionally and is someone I hope that people don't hope to emulate.

Dominant? No way. This is largely the same team as last year. On the plus side, they have the World Series experience behind them. On the minus side, they will be without two or three key players to start the season, and the Mets and Braves have slightly improved.

I still think they can win the division and compete for another WS, but I think it will be a nailbiter just like the previous two seasons.

NEPP~

Thome reached his PA appearance vesting option. His salary for '09 is guaranteed by the WS. There is no 3 million buyout. See my posts above.

"Theres gotta be something else going on. Either Dunn,Abreu,Sheets are still holding out for big $$, or GMs have agreed to keep free agency down."


phaithful, nice post. Another question might be: Does the presence of a superstar HOF player (Manny) trump the other parts they could sign for the same money. Does his being there, the intimidation it causes for other pitching staffs, and the confidence it gives the rest of the lineup make more of a difference than adding more but smaller parts?

I don't know, but there are cases where the player who is capable of carrying a team for an extended period (Manny, Pujols, Schmidt, RJackson, RHoward, etc.) could have a greater impact than the sum of the smaller parts.

To address your comment above specifically, I'm not sure there is collusion as much as a collective understanding by management, that based on the number of roster spots still available they definitely have the upper hand.

Also, there is a tend now in MLB to bring up younger, less expensive talent.

I can't necessarily explain Abreu/Dunn/Sheets, but Manny is a special case.

If Boston had simply declined his option and made him an FA (meaning he finished the season there with no "issues") he would probably be signed already to the kind of deal he was looking for.

But the way he left Boston must have created such a bad feeling in FO's that they just don't feel he's worth the risk of causing a major distraction and blowing up any chance a team has of winning.

He's so fickle and self-centered, that even if he got 4/100, there is no guarantee he wouldn't cause problems anyway.

That's got to be what the concern is. He's not worth risking more than 2 years, because he would have a contract that made him untradable, and therefore, virtually unmanageable.

As I've posted before, he may have gotten out of the option years in his contract (I think he would have "stayed happy" in Beantown if they had just told him they weren't going to exercise his option and were letting him go to FA), but he didn't do himself any favors with the way he behaved.

I can hear the conversation now:

Boras: "But Manny isn't a bad guy, last year was an aberration, he just did what he had to in order to get out of his contract. You can trust him to behave."

GM: "But Scott, what if he decides that he's got to "do what he has to do" while still under contract with us? How can we be sure it won't happen again?"

Boras: "Trust me."

GM: "Sure, Scott, sure."

I hear about all those bad things about Manny but then you have people come out in support of him and how great of a guy he is. Pujols in an article the other day said how he is great friends with him and wants him to play for the Cardinals and gave Mannys phone number to LaRussa.

And Charlie always seems to say something good about him too.

timr: i'm with you. Even after a WFC, you just gotta know that the Phils are going to have you in cardiac arrest until the last weekend of the year, for better or worse.

****NEPP~

Thome reached his PA appearance vesting option. His salary for '09 is guaranteed by the WS. There is no 3 million buyout. See my posts above
****

Both Zolecki and Murphy seem to think we're on the hook for $3 million of his 09 salary...that is when they were posting articles on projected payroll last month...right after talking to the FO about it. I'm guessing their info is more accurate than Cots (which is a 2nd hand info site, no matter how good it truly is usually)

I think after years of salary inflation, the market is really just correcting itself, coinciding with a real-life recession which will probably hit most main revenue streams for MLB teams. Also, the current movement in sabermetrics is more and more towards elevating the value of defense, as opposed to earlier when defense was thought to be generally unimportant. Combine this with the fact that more and more teams are using up-to-date statistics to evaluate players and suddenly guys like Dunn or Abreu aren't in line for the Carlos Lee type contracts that they think they deserve.

NEPP is correct: Both beat writers say the Phils owe $3M. I think the problem is a misreading of Cot's. Cot's simply says that Thome had a $3M buyout, which obviously wasn't exercised. But the Phils agreement might still require the payment, exercised or not.

Reposted from the end of the last thread, responding to AWH, also reposted in this thread.

AWH, thanks for the nice comment. I disagree that K-Rod with 8 blown saves is a toss up vs. Lidge. I suspect that Lidge's persona will continue into 2009, where his nasty slider that ends up in the dirt will continue to fool the hitters. K-Rod's in a new league for a new team. He'll have to earn his respect. Didn't the National League make him look like a patsy a few All Star games ago? Advantage: Lidge

The rest of your analysis is perfectly reasonable.

Dave, you could be right.

After all, we've all assumed that players' salary INCREASES were recession proof. The agents sure have.

Also, your point about using updated stats is well taken. Even many of the holdout teams, including the Phillies, now reportedly have a statistician.

If I recall, some of the more SABR oriented posters here have talked about it, most notably the plus/minus calculation.

It's possible that Abreu and Dunn don't look that good in relation to their peers if that calculation is completed.

Sophist? clout? A little help. Anyone?

I browse through the "Stat of the Day" on baseball-reference.com once inawhile and I just saw this stat:

Player with the most Ks before their 2000 PA in MLB history:

Jayon Werth is #10th on the list, and only has 1600PAs. Wily Mo,Rickie Weeks, and john Buck are other active players ahead of him, but both have more PAs. If trensd continue it looks like he'll be closer to #1-3.

off the wall stat, but just shows that he is striking out at all time levels for his career so far.

But Werth walks at a really high rate too. Fascination with K's (especially with high power guys who walk at a great clip and maintain a respectable average) is ridiculous circa the criticism of Howard during much of 2007. I could care less if he Ks 200 times if he hits 40+ HRs, .260-.270 AVG, and walks close to 120 BBs a year.

Dave X: Right about the stats, wrong about defense. Defense has ALWAYS been emphasized. 9 out of 10 managers will tell you that pitching and defense wins games. The tricky part is getting the right balance with offense.

MG - What information are you looking for exactly? Which team's 4/5 will be better next year?

I'm worried about Freddy Garcia. If healthy, it wouldn't surprise me if he's as productive as Myers. Obviously their concern is all the other IFs in the rotation. i.e., even if Garcia is healthy and a ~110 ERA+ pitcher, John Maine may be ineffective. I honestly wouldn't be shocked if the Mets had 5 SP with above league average ERAs.

It is funny that if you just step back and look at Howard's first 3 full-time season and just take a look at his raw power numbers - they really are spectacular numbers especially when it is now clear that hitting 40 HRs+ a season is statistically very meaningful again as only a handful of players each season will accomplish that feat.

AWH: The sabrmetricians themselves say that defensive metrics are weak compared to offensive metrics. Anyone who builds a team using plus/minus defnsive stats is asking for big trouble.

Everyone wants to layer their own predjudices onto what's happening right now, but it's really pretty simple: Power hitters make the most money and with baseball trying to slow down out-of-control salaries, they are taking the heat. Whether it's collusion or not, I don't know, although it smells like it.

Sophist - stats last year the Phils got our of their 4th/5th starters vs. the Mets. I guess it depends on who you classify as the 4th/5th starters from both teams.

Though it would be interesting to see how the 4th/5th starters played out because the biggest difference between the Phils and Mets rotation was the quality of the 4th starter. Until Myers came back and they acquired Blanton, it was generally the likes of Kendrick vs. Perez (or Pelfrey) for the Mets.

This year is shaping up a bit the same although I do like a Moyer vs. Perez a bit more but you have to take the potential of a Garcia/Redding 5th starter vs. the likes of Happ/Park a bit more.

Mets may have a marginal edge again in their starting rotation to start the season but it isn't as bad as last season.

MG: good point on the 40+ HR stat. Adam Dunn is coming off his 5th consectutive year, at the age of 29.

He'd give anything in the world to be able to go to arbritration right now, instead he's on the free agent market.

Hopefully the deals that Burrell took, and that Dunn may be forced to take is noticed by the arb. hearing for Howard, adn they understand that hitting for a low average while piling up the HRs isnt worth $18mil year anymore, or at least not this year.

clout, point taken.

To add to it, if execs think salaries have been out of control, they may be projecting that growth into the future and don't see a clear way they can stay competitive (except for the bug revenue teams) going forward.

What better time than now to put a damper on salary growth.


Which makes it all the better for Ryan Howard that he's going to be arbitrating the next couple od seasons, rather than testing FA waters.

If the Braves got Dunn to plug the huge hole in LF for next year, I would consider them a much more likely contender in the NL East.

I think there's some level of collusion going on but that it doesnt meet the legal threshold required. I doubt there's a database of offers or any other official policy in place througout baseball. I think collectively the owners/GMs are all not willing to spend money and now have access to enough info to know what their rivals are doing without directly talking about it with them (collusion).

Defensive stats are weak compared to offensive states and Utley is a weak hitter compared to Barry Bonds.

i wonder at what point some rich finance guy living in NYC says, "maybe i can use federal bailout money to get Manny (LF), Edmonds (CF), Abreu (RF), Dunn (1B), Hudson (2B), Cabrera (SS), Crede (3B), Pudge (C), Griffey Jr. (Bench), Sexson (Bench) Thomas (DH), Pedro (SP), Benson (more for the prospect of Anna doing her thing, not Kris), Mulder, Sheets, Schilling, Isringhausen, Cruz, Foulke, Gagne, Ohman, and Timlin for my Sunday baseball beer league team." How many rich dudes would pay exorbitant fees to play against/with those guys?

Hagen's article was interesting today but kind of misses the point a bit on Coste. The reason the Phils don't consider him a true backup catcher is that he has notably wore down considerably the past seasons when he caught a number of games early on because Chooch struggled offensively in '07 and '08.

I like Coste as a bench option but he really doesn't have a position on this team since he can't play any position besides 1B. Unless Paulino/Ruiz gets hurt or Paulino shows up to camp ridiculously out of shape, I would be surprised if Coste is on the opening day roster.

Still, I bet that Ruiz gets out to another slow start this year and that by mid-May or so is reduce to more of a platoon situation with Paulino staring 3 or 4 games a week vs. 5 or 6.

Proving collusion though in a court of law is much more difficult though on the part of the owners but if there are still a ton of veteran players who aren't signed by the time camp opens in 2 weeks, I think there is a real chance the MLBPA will bring a suit this year against the owners to try and protect the veterans.

MG - Not sure what kind of case the MLBPA would have. If Twombly is the standard, I'm not sure you'll survive summary judgement if which case settlement is a no go. I'd be interesting to take a look at previous MLBPA brought actions. Haven't the players won/reached a settlement on this matter previously? You'll have to excuse my age, but I thought there was one in the mid-80s, yeah?

MG, Coste has as much as said he's at his best only catching one or two days a week. Apparently it has to do with his unorthodox swing.

At least that's what I remember.

Anyway, the battle for the backup catcher spot is going to be interesting.

5th starter spot is far and away the most important battle in camp but the catcher is the most interesting because this team has tried to repeatedly find an alternative to Coste as their backup catcher.

It nice to be a week and a half away from the start of ST and to only be worried about our backup catcher and 5th starter spots...

Sophist, I have to commend you for finding a natural way to introduce a SCOTUS decision into Beerleaguer discussion.

As for the Mets pitching, we will have to see how Bailout Field plays. I've read 'experts' saying it will be more of a pitcher's park than Shea and other 'experts' who think it will be a HR haven.

Santana was more human on the road last year, and Pelfry was pretty 5th starter-ish on the road. Be interesting to see how they deal with it if it turns out to be more hitter friendly. At least our guys know what their park is like.

I also remember reading stats about how teams that move into new parks see their homefield advantage go down that first year. Of course, the Mets of 07/08 have proven they can lose to anybody at home if the pressure's high enough.

I believe the general consensus among analysts is that defensive metrics known publicly (RF, Zone Rating, +/-) are improving but by no means as effective as offensive measures. However, I think most believe that the advanced front offices (Red Sox, Indians, A's,) have proprietary analytics available which are far beyond what most amatuer analysts have access to. I believe those teams are able to much more accurately value defense than people think.

No team would use just +/-, or just any stat on its own to build a team. What you would do is combine scouting reports with a bunch of different measures to try and rech a general consensus on a player's skill set and value on the defensive side, just as you would with a young player on offense. It doesn't take +/- to realize that Manny or Dunn lose some of their value by playing in LF every day.

Of course, at this point, a guy like Dunn will be had at a severe value because the market has fallen below what it should be, given his overall value, including defense.

Clout~

If the 3mil "buyout" of Thome's contract doesn't exist, how can the Phils be respsonbilble paying it. He reached his vesting clause and it's my understanding that his contract is completely gauranteed. bt Chicago. I could be wrong. I'll see what else I can dig up.

Wigginton would have made perfect sense because of the positions he can play and that he bats righthanded, but the O's offer way more playing time for him than the Phils can.

Even with the Mets retaining Ollie and a revamped bullpen, I still see the Phils in the thick of the NL East contention and therefore Wild Card too.

tarheelphan - although i guess Twombly is more about the motion to dismiss than it is about SJ. In any case, I'm not sure how the MLBPA could show agreement absent parallel conduct. it would be interesting to find out how these cases work both procedurally and (if i'm remembering this correctly) how the owners were caught the first time. were they even caught colluding once before? i mean, i don't know where evidence of agreement would arise (absent parallel conduct) and there seem to be enough evidence that the market is simply dry (we are in a depression, aren't we?)

Per phillybaseballnews.com:

Thome, Jim December 2002 – signed 6 year / $85.0 million contract.
Traded to Chicago White Sox on November 23, 2005. Phillies will pay approximately $5.5 million of his contract in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Thome's team option for 2009 vested. The Phillies are responsible for $1.5 million of his contract for 2009.


Now it's clear that they could owe something. If that's the case, I'd fprget about anybody else coming in. Their payroll will be ~128 mil. if Howard and the Phils settle at 16. Add to that the possible payment for Thome and the player contracts that will be renewed (Kendrick, Ruiz, Paulino, Coste) and they're over 130. No one else is coming in. The'll fill the RH bat and LH reliever role from within.

DPatrone: "Clout~ If the 3mil "buyout" of Thome's contract doesn't exist, how can the Phils be respsonbilble paying it."

Because they agreed to pay it no matter whether it vested or not.

Let's review the facts:
1. Both writers who cover the ball club say the Phils owe $3M this year.
2. Cot's language on his contract does not directly contradict that, although you could certainly assume the obligation disappeared when he vested.
3. Assume makes an ass out of u and me.

sophist: "there seem to be enough evidence that the market is simply dry (we are in a depression, aren't we?)"

And baseball revenues did what this past season? And what do the TV contracts and other revenue streams project for 2009? And how are off-season ticket sales going?

In the initial collusion case in 1986 there was no direct evidence of the owners agreeing not to bid against each other on free agnts. But the fact that free agent salaries declined 16% and that 3/4ths of the free agents were forced to sign 1-year contracts was considered by the arbitrator to be prima facie evidence of collusion.

clout, you're right that the buyout clause may be irrelevant. The Phils and Sox could easily have structured the deal so that the Phils owed them $3mm this year (no more, no less) whether it was for a buy out or a portion of salary.

clout - thanks for the info on '86 (and revenues for teams were up 15% in 1986 as well. It seems that entire Collusion II case was decided on those figures.) i hadn't known, though i should have guessed, that the labor agreement has an arbitration agreement. I'm digging around for that Collusion II ruling.

the owners settled those early 80s cases, as well as the case brought in 2002/3 (with no admission of guilt in the latter).

re the Collusion II ruling it looks like it was held that the conduct was not "perfect collusion standing alone" but, in conjunction with the prior year’s practices (the Collusion I ruling in '86 where there was clear agreement: I believe Reinsdorf called Steinbrenner after the Yankees offered Carlton Fisk a contract, at which time the Yankees promptly removed the offer), there was a “common scheme.” There were 79 free agents in this Collusion II action and none had received a higher offer from another club.

I'm not sure if the MLBPA can win absent an information bank or signs of agreement. but i'm also still not sure what exactly restrains the arbiter.

"the catcher is the most interesting because this team has tried to repeatedly find an alternative to Coste as their backup catcher."

MG, how true. They've been running people at Coste for a couple of years now. Either they don't think he's that good, or he must have rubbed someone in the org the wrong way at some point.

That said, the FO still has an obligation to itself and the fans to put the best team on the field, and competition at certain positions is certainly appropriate.

Sophist, if both sides have agreed to binding arbitration, then it's likely that there is no restraint on the arbitrator except potential review by a Court.

The only way any arb award would get tossed is if the court deemed it so out of line as to be egregious.

The only time you generally see Courts set awards aside are when juries are involved.

It may have happened, but I have never heard of a Court overturning an arbitration award, as arbitrators are usually lawyers and practice greater self-restraint than juries.

AWH - Yeah, courts show deference to arbiters (generally not reviewing on the merits but in terms of contract law/the conscionability of the agreement to arbitrate itself); an arbitration processes fiddling with substantive law is usu. only a concern where there's a power asymmetry w/r/t the parties. doesn't seem to be the case in the CBA.

I meant less the restraint of appellate review and more the restraint of substantive doctrine on the arbiter's decision-making. What is required to show collusion under the CBA? I mostly asked this because I was surprised by clout's revelation that the arbiter held the '86 actions to be collusion seemingly without evidence of agreement besides parallel action. As I mentioned earlier, Justice Souter threw out a claim of collusion in the '07 term because, in pleading agreement, the party failed to provide plausible ground over and above parallel action and the bare assertion of conspiracy. The '86 action not only didn't get quickly dismissed, it was decided (from clout's initial description) in favor of the MLBPA without *any* ground for agreement above parallel action. A quick search of the ruling seems to send the message that the arbiter was swayed by (a) the no. clout gave above and (b) the Collusion I case a year earlier (in which there was independent evidence of agreement). All of which leads me to wonder what procedural constraints are on the arbiter since this sort of analysis wouldn't fly in the courts.

Sophist, thanks.

I'll say this much: I will be very interested to see how this all ends up.

I often feel smarter just having read Beerleaguer on any given day...

AWH - I'm now wondering how I want it to end up.

You'd have to know the terms of the arbitration agreement to drill into the scope of judicial review of an arbitration provision. I'm not familiar with the clause in the CBA for baseball. Generally speaking, in a purely common law arbitration, arbitrators are the final judges of both the law and the facts. Their decisions are not reviewable based upon an error in either role.

Are we sure the competition is only for No. 2 catcher? Is it possible that Paulino could win the No. 1 job with a good spring and a poor one by Ruiz?

On Thome: I searched "Phillies trade Thome". Sure enough Beerleaguer is the first thing listed. Jason said he was owed $24 mil, but the espn article he linked to says $22mil. So we probably agreed to pay them 6, 6, 7, and 3 mil over 4 years. That's my guess, so I'm thinking we owe 3 mil for this year.

I don't see Ruiz losing the starting role in the Spring no matter how bad it is for him. He earned it with his handling of the staff in the 2nd half and playoffs.

UC wouldn't do that to him...not for Ronny Paulino at least.

I'm interested in hearing opinions on this from BL'ers:

If the Dodgers were to take the money they have set aside in pursuing Manny and sign Dunn, Wolf and Cabrera instead...

(a) Would the Dodgers be in a better position to win the NL West than they would be with Manny?

(b) Would Manny find work elsewhere for 2009, or would he become Barry Bonds?

(c) Would other teams be empowered to lowball Manny, offering nowhere near the 25m/yr offered by the Dodgers, placing him in the 12/m - 15/m range for a 1-2 yr deal with either San Fransisco or Washington?

I can't help but to think back on the comment made during the regular season: "Gas is up, and so is Manny Ramirez". It seems that unemployment is also up, and with his history in the clubhouse, his age and his ridiculous demands coming from Boras, could it be that the owners simply don't feel that he's worth the money?

The Dodgers would be MUCH BETTER off if they invested that $25 million elsewhere. Fill 3 holes instead of 1.

Manny will sign with someone if he doesn't go to the Dodgers...unless he voluntarily retires on his own. He won't be a Bonds type situation.

Nepp: I agree with you. I can't belive people are worried about bending over backwards for him. If he doesn't want 1 year at 25 million then upgrade your team and clubhouse in 3 other areas.

I think he will end up in SF if LA doesn't cave to him and puts 2 yrs at 45 or 50 back on the table.

Mac: Do you think you could sign Dunn, Wolf and Cabrera for $25M? Maybe if this really is a collusion year, you could.

Thing about Manny is he's high risk/high reward. The Dodgers got the high reward last season, but who knows this season?

What makes him tempting: BB-Ref list of 3 most comprarable players thru age 36
Ken Griffey Jr.
Jimmie Foxx
Frank Robinson

Double X is a bit misleading because he'd been out of baseball for nearly 2 seasons before playing at age 37. Griffey's age 37 year was quite good (119 OPS+). Robby reeled off years of 150, 141 and 153 (altho as a backup) starting at age 37. On a contender like LA I might be tempted to give Manny $25M for one year. I wouldn't give him 3 years, though.

Anyone notice our old friend Alredo Simon was the winning pitcher in the Caribbean series tonight?

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