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      Someone Peg Berkman For Real!
    Lance Berkman made a huge mistake on Sunday against the Chicago Cubs. He revealed his sexuality. Berkman faked getting pegged in the head by Mike Remlinger and was awarded first base and an RBI. He should be fined and suspended for his actions and the four umpires working the game should also be fined.

    The Cubs are finished with the season series with the Astros so I propose a possible trade of Kyle Farnsworth to whoever the Astros play. Then Kyle can miss the strike zone for another team and take out Berkman. Everyone will be happy.

    On another note, the Cubs really need to acquire bullpen help. I hear the Giants have claimed Mesa from the Pirates. The Cubs need to shore up the pen within the next couple weeks. I am tired of seeing the starters come out with a good lead and have it disappear time and time again.


      Lenny Harris: Pinch hit hero.

    Hero. Lenny Harris. Somehow it just doesn't fit. Lenny F. Harris is a hero only when he writes the title.
    This article, by the good man himself, is a good read. Actually its comedic genious. Observe,
    I've been in the big leagues since 1988. This is 2004. I'm sort of surprised that I'm still playing now....
    Suprised? Well, hell Lenny, I'm suprised too. Your are a career .269/.318/.348 hitter. You've been around for 17 years, been with eight different teams, and none of them have figured out that you can't hit worth the paper and ink used to sign your contract.

    The Mets and Reds have both acquired you twice, which speaks volumes about the intelligence of those two organizations.

    But don't lose track. We're talking about Lenny F. Harris. Lenny "The Champion" Harris.
    As for my World Series ring, I wear it all the time -- all the time. It's what everybody plays for. There's nothing like being a champion and that is something that I will have for the rest of my life now.
    Yeah, as for the World Series ring. I hope you wear it all the time, good for you, and good for the Marlins for giving you 14 AT BATS!!!! I mean even though he never played a postseason inning, he did go 1 for 4 pinch-hitting in the postseason. I'm sure the Marlins are thankful for the presence of Lenny F. Harris on the roster. They surely would have fallen to the mighty Yankees had it not been for Lenny's hitting fielding camaraderie.

    Wear that ring with pride Lenny. I'm sure half the guys on the team were asking: "who the hell is that guy spraying me with champagne?"
    Honestly, Lenny is probablly a nice guy, probablly a fun guy to have around the clubhouse. Or something. Why would I care so much?

    I care, because Lenny F. Harris, a.k.a. Captain Camaraderie, has been taking up a spot on a major league roster for 17 frickin' years, while guys like Calvin Pickering, Brian Daubach, Marcus Thames, Bryant Nelson, Howie Clark, or Adam Hyzdu toil away in the minors until they are 32 and give up on their dreams.

    I'd tell Captain Camaraderie to just go away, but its not his fault. There are still idiotic GMs out there willing to lay $1M on the table for his bat glove sense of humor.

    Why not just pay the minimum for some AAA-lifer to give them exactly the same non-hitting bat off the bench? Who knows.

    The Lenny Harris Fan Club can mailbomb Curt at this address.
      Manny For MVP!
    I'm officially starting the Manny Ramirez-for-MVP push.

    It amazes me that Manny has never finished higher than third in MVP voting. In every year from 1998 until now, you could make a legitimate case for Manny being the MVP. In 1999 and 2003, he probablly should have won it, or at least you could make a VERY strong case. In '99 he split the votes with teammate Robbie Alomar, and in '03 he split the votes with teammate David Ortiz. A lot of those votes for Ortiz came because of some big hits down the stretch, but how does Ortiz get 4 first place MVP votes, despite having an OPS 53 points less than Manny in 170 fewer plate appearances? It looks like Manny will get some more votes stolen (deservedly) by Ortiz again this year. That's too bad, Manny has been "unfortunate" to have played on good teams where he wasn't the only star, and its meant no MVPs.

    These things are just popularity contests anyways so why should I care? The MVP always goes to whoever the media decides to promote that year. Witness Tejada over Arod in '02 and Ichiro over Giambi in '01. There was so much hype surrounding those two that voters had no choice but to vote for them.

    Ichiro will probablly win it this year. Arod proved that you don't need to be on a good team to win it, and there is going to be A TON of hype (mark my words) surrounding Ichiro's phony bid at breaking George Sisler's single-season hits record. Despite this hype, one of either Vlad Guerrero or Manny SHOULD win the MVP. I wouldn't mind if Vlad won it, but like Manny, he's a quiet guy who everybody forgets about until he hits a three-run bomb to beat your favorite team.

    I still care though. Manny is one of my favorite players, and a lot of people take what he has done over the last 10 years for granted. Over the last 10 seasons, Manny Ramirez has been the best hitter in the American League. Arod has come close, but Manny's numbers have been better.

    His career has been remarkable, and remarkably consistent. In his WORST year, he "only" hit .328/.415/.538. At age 32, Manny ranks 43rd all-time with a career BA of .317, 15th all-time with a carerr OBP of .412, 7th all-time with a career SLG% of .599. He's also climbing the home run charts rapidly. His 381 career bombs puts him tied with old teammate Albert Belle for 49th all-time. Manny's on pace for 10 more home runs this year, after which he will pass Jim Rice, Frank Howard, Harold Baines, Dwight Evans, Johnny Bench, and Craig Nettles. Some great company to be in, but really just some borderline Hall of Famers (besides Bench). Its after next season that Manny starts entering the fat part of that list. Nobody with more than 442 home runs (who is eligible) has been held out of the Hall of Fame (poor Dave Kingman). Manny could be there after two more healthy seasons.

    Manny has a chance to go down as one of the best players to never win an MVP award. Although, Honus Wagner, Tony Gwynn, Al Kaline, Dwayne Hosey, Eddie Murray, or Josh Gibson never won an MVP, and I would rather be in that company than in the company of Ken Caminiti, Terry Pendleton, or Thurman Munson.

    Check out Manny visiting Curt. Up there, in the top left corner, that's where I live. Not for long though.

      Building a house out of three 2 X 4's and a bunch of straw......
    I was thinking a little more about what I wrote yesterday about the Braves. They have consistently outperformed their pythag, and one of the reasons that came to me was the strong bullpens they assemble year after year. Having a good bullpen will especially help in the close games, and help a team outperform their runs scored/runs allowed record.

    The Braves have always had a good bullpen, but their pitching staffs, in general, have been great. They've been anchored by All-stars and Hall of Famers, but they've also got plenty of great performances out of average and obscure pitchers.

    Take a look at the following chart. I took any Braves pitcher who pitched for significant time under the Cox & Mazzone reign. I set the cut-off at more than one season, and around 100 IP for relievers and 300 IP for starters. I then got rid of any pitchers who haven't had significant time in any other organization, (Millwood, Smoltz, Glavine, Maddux) and found out everybody else's ERAs with the Braves and without the braves. The last column is the percentage improvement under Cox and Mazzone (121 means 21% better, 87 means 13% worse). The results are staggering.
          Products of the Braves Farm System:
    Played w/ Braves Elsewhere
    IP ERA IP ERA %Impr.
    Mark Wohlers 386.3 3.73 167.0 4.53 121
    Bruce Chen 111.0 4.14 342.3 4.73 114
    Brad Clontz 197.7 4.51 80.0 3.94 87
    John Rocker 195.3 2.63 60.0 6.00 228
    Greg McMichael 334.3 2.69 189.0 4.24 157
    Mike Stanton 258.7 3.86 610.3 3.79 98
    Kent Mercker 480.0 3.36 688.7 4.90 146
    Pedro Borbon 71.0 2.69 189.0 5.13 150

    Came to Braves in their Prime:
    IP ERA IP ERA %Impr.
    Pete Smith 217.7 3.68 808.0 4.78 130
    Denny Neagle 482.3 3.43 1408.0 4.52 132
    Marvin Freeman 136.0 3.64 457.7 4.94 136
    Rudy Seanez 122.7 3.30 164.6 5.47 166
    Mike Remlinger 299.3 2.65 481.0 4.49 170

    Came to Braves at the end of their career
    or out of Obscurity:

    IP ERA IP ERA %Impr.
    Mike Bielecki 242.0 3.09 989.0 4.45 144
    John Burkett 353.7 3.74 2294.7 4.40 118
    Terry Mullholand 217.0 4.52 2173.3 4.35 96
    Steve Bedrosian 123.7 3.27 1067.3 3.39 104
    Charlie Leibrandt 585.0 3.35 1723.0 3.83 114

    Grand Total: 4813.7 3.45 13893.0 4.34 126
    That chart is amazing to me. I went into this intentionally trying to find some examples of pitchers who have performed WORSE under Cox and Mazzone. I really couldn't do it. I separated out the pitchers in their prime because I assumed that these guys would naturally perform better. Pitchers performed better with the Braves even if they only pitched for the Braves at the beggining or end of their career. I even excluded Steve Avery because of injuries. His 1200 innings of excellent pitching for the Braves, coupled with 250 innings with an ERA over 5 elsewhere might have skew the data.

    Skewed the data? I might not have skewed the data if I misplaced a decimal point. Out of all the pitchers with significant innings, only Mike Stanton, Terry Mullholand, and Brad Clontz were worse as Braves, and only Clontz was noticably worse. Stanton and Mullholand were pretty much the same.

    These numbers aren't park adjusted, though I would assume that to not make much difference. After all Fulton County Stadium played as a hitters park, and Turner field has been pretty neutral over the last four years. They still should be taken in context of some reverse park and league adjustment that would make guys like John Burkett (Texas) and Denny Neagle (Colorado) look a little better, but not 26% better.

    Remember back when I talked about the Rick Peterson effect (and beat the national media to the punch, I might add). Well, that initial look suffered from a small sample size, 200 innings, and the gap has since closed somewhat thanks to Barry Zito, Tom Glavine, and Al Leiter's regression to the mean. This Braves data is based on almost 19,000 innings pitched, and it shows no signs of changing from 1991 to 2004!

    The effect Bobby Cox and Leo Mazzone are having on pitchers is very real, and its very positive. On top of the strong work they've done in the above chart, they've also got single seasons way above the established level of guys like Jay Howell, Alan Embree, Russ Springer, Darren Holmes, Jose Cabrera, and who could forget the year Chris Hammond had in 2002 at age 36. Speaking of old guys, they got a decent 91 innings out of a 43 year old Dennis Martinez for crying out loud.

    The one thing that anyone could try and hold against the Braves organization was giving up on some young guys that have turned out to be pretty good. Jason Schmidt, Odalis Perez, and Jason Marquis are all pitching in prominent roles this year.

    Each one of those trades was defensible at the time, and doesn't look outrageously bad even now. They sent Schmidt to Pittsburgh at the trading deadline to pick up the afore-mentioned Denny Neagle who turned in two excellent seasons. Schmidt has since become a star, but it took five years of average pitching in Pittsburgh before he figured it all out. The Braves traded Perez to the Dodgers, but you can hardly blame them since Gary Sheffield came the other way and helped the Braves lead the league in runs scored in 2003. This offseason they traded Marquis to the Cardinals, but that trade worked out for both teams, as the Braves got J.D. Drew in return. So the Braves haven't even given up any of their good pitching prospects without receiving good value in return. They've also "given up" on guys like Rocker, Chen, Wohlers, Borbon, and Damian Moss who have gone on to become nothing in their post-Braves career.

    There is a lot of credit to be dished out for the success of the Braves staffs over the last thirteen years. GM John Schuerholz deserves a ton of credit for not only building one of the best player development systems, but also for being able to recognize major league talent that can help the Braves immediately through trades and free agency.

    Bobby Cox and Leo Mazzone deserve tons of credit for putting each of their pitchers in the situations where they can succeed. Cox and Mazzone recognize the pitchers they need, the pitchers they can make a success, and the coaches are able to communicate those needs up the chain. Schuerholz, Cox, and Mazzone, can communicate so well that Schuerholz always knows what pieces they need, and Cox and Mazzone know exactly how all those pieces will fit together. The result has been THIRTEEN straight division titles.

    That's right, I have officially declared the NL East race OVER. Call the papers.

    Masters of the obvious can email Curt to mention they only have one ring to show for it.

    And by the way: Does anyone know whatever happened to Kevin McGlinchy? I mean, besides giving up the game winning home run to Robin ventura in this game. He disappeared faster than Bill Buckner after that one. Stupid Mets.
      Wait 'till Next Year.....
    I think its about time to give Bobby Cox and Leo Mazzone their due. It amazes me how little credit these two get for putting a Braves team on the field that competes year after year. Any time I hear about the "Good" managers in baseball, Bobby Cox is always mentioned as an afterthought. As in, "oh yeah, that guy down in Atlanta is pretty good too."

    Yeah, I'd say. Pretty good. Bobby Cox took over mid season in 1990 for an Atlanta Braves team that finished the year 65-97, and with the worst record in baseball. The very next year, the first full year under Bobby Cox, the Braves won 94 games and made it to the 7th game of the World Series.

    Granted, Cox did have a young Steve Avery, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine stepping into the rotation, not to mention a young David Justice who would all anchor the lineup for the next several years. But that turnaround is nothing short of spectacular when viewed in the light of the TWELVE straight division titles that followed.

    Under Bobby Cox they've gone 1374-846 including this year. They also look like they're about to wrap up division title #13. Ever since they squeaked out division title #10 in 2000, people have been predicting their demise. Not going to happen. At least not yet.

    Where has it come from? To be completely honest, I didn't see how the Braves would do it this year. After looking at their team I still couldn't figure it out. They don't have a very deep staff, their lineup has holes up and down, and has suffered through injuries to key players. How has this team opened up a 7 1/2 game lead on the rest of the NL East? One reason. Its a simple answer but its the single reason the Braves are heading to the playoffs.

    The Braves have absolutely DEMOLISHED the rest of the NL East this year. I mean really. If you look at the standings, you'll see the Braves at the top, the Expos at the bottom, and three clubs playing .500 ball, but what you see if you look closer is the Braves record against the NL East,
               Record Vs.
    Florida 9-4
    Philadelphia 7-6
    New York 8-3
    Montreal 10-3
    Total 34-16
    The Braves are 37-37 against everybody else. What's wrong with the rest of the NL East? Or what's right about the Braves? It very well could be some freakish occurence. In fact, it pretty much looks like it. Luckily Bobby Cox has been around a while, and we have a lot of data. Since the switch to the three divisions in 1994, the Braves have done the following,
                  Record Vs.
    Florida 79-65
    Philadelphia 86-55
    New York 80-61
    Montreal 92-50
    Total NL East 337-231 .593
    Everyone Else 966-562 .632
    So they actually have done worse against the NL East over the years, and this is just some freak occurence.

    There is something, however, that I hate to admit looks like its not a freak occurence: Bobby Cox' teams consistently outperform their Pythagorean winning percentage. Since 1994, his teams have won 25 games more than their Pythag's would suggest. Compare that to a couple of other managers who've been around for awhile, and also to a few of the all time best,
                 Seasons   Pythag Diff.
    Bobby Cox 10 +25
    Joe Torre 22 +18
    Tony LaRussa 26 -1
    Lou Pineilla 17 +6
    Dusty Baker 11 +16
    Connie Mack 51! +26
    Earl Weaver 16 +12
    Casey Stengel 24 +4
    Sparky Anderson 26 +20
    John McGraw 18 -22
    Now, I hate attributing this to a manager. What it usually tells us is that the teams that over-perform their pythag's are just a lot better winning the close 1-run and 2-run games, for whatever reason. MOST OFTEN its just luck. My question is when does it stops being luck, and starts to be a trend? For Bobby Cox, and also for Joe Torre's Yankees (+21 in 8 years as Yankee's manager) there might be some truth to it.

    Lesson learned: Don't count the Braves out. Don't count the Braves out.
      I am sickened....
    In news that didn't come as too much of a suprise, Enemy #1 and MLB Commissioner Bud Selig's contract was extended through 2009.

    This means we get to see his ugly plate for five more years. I am sickened, but not suprised. After all, he's an owner, he looks after himself and his cronies, so why shouldn't they vote him in. The whole process reeks.

    Bud, always ready to pile on the unintentional sarcasm had this to say,
    "I believe we have made great progress in a number of important fronts in recent years, particularly in the areas of competitive balance, labor, international play and the marketing of the game."
    Lets see,

    Competitive balance: Does he mean the same competitive balance that has produced an $183M Yankee payroll, which is almost SEVEN TIMES as much as his own Milwaukee Brewers? He can't be. So, he must be claiming responsibility for three different World Series winners over the last three years? Well in that case, I would say they won in SPITE of Bud, not BECAUSE of him, but I suppose that's arguable. In that case, Bud also has to claim ownership of only 6 teams winning 11 world series titles under his watch, including four Yankee titles in five years. He can't have it both ways.

    Labor: He can't really be serious here. This has to be a joke. Does he really expect people to have forgotten so quickly that there was no World Series in 1994 because he COULDN'T AVOID A STRIKE? Now, its not all Bud's fault, but if a STRIKE, not to mention a NEAR LOCKOUT last year all happen under his watch, he can't realistically claim to have made "great progress" in that area. This is what sickens me the most. Bud either is so removed from reality that he can't see how stupid this sounds, or he really doesn't care and thinks it's funny to use blatant sarcasm in his public statements.

    International Play: What exactly is he talking about here? Is he saying the Expos playing in Puerto Rico, and the Yankees/Devil Rays series in Japan constitutes anything but a disaster? Is he talking about the Baseball "World Cup" that he has been talking about, but not acting on, for the last several years? He can't be laying claim to the increase in Asian and Latino ballplayers in the majors, which has absolutely nothing to do with Bud. It doesn't suprise me in the least coming from Bud's flapper, but this is incredibly specious logic. Just because something happens while you were in office, doesn't make it a direct result of your actions.

    The marketing of the game: Okay, how broad a statement can he possibly throw out here? What has he done to help market the game. He has been much too busy weaseling money for new ballparks to even notice that its been the PLAYERS who have done the most to market this game. Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Cal Ripken, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Ichiro Suzuki, and Hideki Matsui have all done much much more than Bud to market this game, and that hasn't even been part of their job description.

    So that leads to his claim on all of the new ballparks that have been built since 1992. There have been a lot, but again, at what cost? See the "required reading" link on the left for a small taste. Bud's claim on the dramatically increased value of franchises is all smoke and mirrors when you remember that much of that increase came at the expense of taxpayers. If you get the taxpayers to pay for a shiny new ballpark OF COURSE the value of a franchise is going to increase "dramatically". So if the goal of the commissioner is to put more money in the hands of already wealthy owners, Bud has done an excellent job. Unfortunately for baseball, that is exactly his goal.

    Unfortunately for the game, for the players, and for the fans, the owners have forgotten what has been most important to their success. They claim that "Baseball is a Business", and it is (although the exemption from US anti-trust laws leaves this statement interpretable at the least, and possibly false). But the owners constantly lose sight of aim of their business, which is to provide entertainment to a large and somewhat loyal fanbase.
    Baseball is a business....
    Owners use that trademarked statement when it comes to paying players what they're worth, but ignore that statement when realizing that a business must invest money to increase its value. Baseball owners instead extort public money at the threat of moving franchises, and despite increased revenue sharing and a luxury tax to help smaller market teams, continue to cut payroll and complain about player salaries. MLB claims that,
    Meaningful and significant revenue sharing among the clubs and a competitive balance tax, provided for in the new Basic Agreement, have resulted in the stabilization of players salaries and greater competitive balance on the field of play.
    Meaningful and significant? Well, maybe significant. But all revenue sharing and luxury taxes have caused is the smaller payroll teams slashing salaries, while the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, and any other team willing to invest in their product have continued to spend. If it helped competitive balance then why has the payroll gap done nothing but widen?

    The "stabilization of player salaries" borders on collusion, which may be a strong claim, but not unprecedented considering the owners already lost a collusion suit brought on by the players union. When franchise values are "dramatically increasing" (MLB's words), and player salaries have "stabilized" (MLB's words), we ought to be quick enough to connect the dots. Instead of the money from increased revenues going to the players, who have EARNED it, its landing in the pockets of owners. Since we, the fans, have obviously not seen cheaper tickets or beer prices (outside of Anaheim), how is that good for anybody besides the owners? It's not, but OUR problem is that Bud Selig has done a great job for them, and they vote for him. End of discussion.

    How sick does it make me feel? I can get this worked up about seeing him in office for five more years, and I didn't even have room to mention the entire expansion/contraction fiasco and its subsequent porking the city of Montreal to further fill the pockets of the owners. Well, at least I can take comfort in the fact that Bud is 70 years old, this insanity can't last much longer.

    Hell, I might have to re-think my opinion on this, even Rob Dibble agrees with me.

    Used car salesmen worldwide can email Curt to tell him Bud gives them all a bad name.
      I always do that..
    I spoke too soon. Just when I was getting all excited about the Indians, they go and lose six straight.

    The six straight losses haven't been pretty either. They've been outscored 43-12. Ouch. Even worse, three of those losses came to the Twins. Now down six games, the Indians have their work cut out if they plan on catching the Twins.

    It's definitely not over, as the Indians and Twins still have eight more games, including seven of their last ten to close out the season. If the Indians can close the gap some, maybe to two or three games, that will make for an exciting two weeks.

    I don't think they will do it. The Twins are a better team, but it could happen. None of this, however, changes my opinion on the Indians franchise. They still have a chance to be a great team next year.
    Go ahead and email Curt to make sure he doesn't jinx your favorite team.
    Speaking of another race that isn't quite over yet. The Red Sox have won five straight and are 11-3 over their last 14. They're only 6.5 games behind the Yankees. That race is not over yet. Talk to a Yankee fan and they'll tell you their not worried. And they shouldn't be.


    The Red Sox and Yankees play six more times this year. A series in New York and then a series in Boston on the last two weekends in September. I'm going to be driving back across the country during that last weekend. I'm moving back to Boston, and something tells me it's going to be just in time.
      Injury Insanity.
    Last night, the Red Sox started Doug Mientkiewicz at second base, a position he's played for exactly one inning at the major league level. Talk about being decimated by injuries.

    It's not as strange as one might think, as Doug has played some second coming up in the minors. I would assume he also played some second at Florida State, Legion Ball, or in High School as well. So it's not like he was coming into this cold.

    Still, we at least know he hasn't done this in awhile, so he was bound to be rusty. I doubt he has worked out at second in his seven years in the big leagues. People usually balk at the idea of moving someone the wrong way on the defensive spectrum, especially as far as from first base to second, but how bad is it? To answer that we have to consider the alternatives.

    With Pokey Reese and Mark Bellhorn both on the DL, the Red Sox were already forced to use Bill Mueller out of position at second. With Kevin Youkilis hurt sliding into home the other day, Mueller was forced to move back to third, leaving out-maker extraordinaire Ricky Gutierrez the only option left. Faced with that choice, Terry Francona decided to get a little crazy.

    Doug has excellent range for a first baseman, maybe the best outside of Todd Helton. If his arm was good enough, Doug could certainly play third, but second base is different. It's no longer a "step and a dive", you have to play a little deeper and your range is tested a lot more. Then of course, there are the double plays, which would be the most difficult thing to just "pick up" after not practicing it for seven years. Something tells me its not like riding a bike, although Mientkiewicz would probablly tell you that it was.

    If you watched Sportscenter last night, you probablly saw that he actually made a pretty decent play, ranging to his right on a chopper and turning a double play by himself. He had that one mishap with Delgado on the basebaths (see photo), but from what I heard on the radio, there was only one play that someone like Pokey might have had that Doug didnt make routinely. And even though Derek Lowe was on the mound, he (fortunately) didn't get the opportunity to try his hand at turning the double play.

    So let's assume for now that Doug would make a horrible defensive 2B. What then? To put it in a little bit of context, I'll use UZR for a rough estimate. The worst person at 2B from 2000-2003 was Luis Rivas, who had an UZR value of -25 runs/162 games. First off, let me say thats horrible. Anyway, let's assume Mientkiewicz would be the worst defensive 2B in the league. Thankfully, I haven't had the misfortune of watching Gutierrez every day, but from what I hear, his D was nothing to speak publicly about. But lets assume, just for giggles, that he was merely average, or had an UZR of 0. In this case, he would be about a .15 run/game improvement defensively over Doug. Now factor in the drop from Doug to Millar at 1B (17 --> 4), and last night the Red Sox defense was about .2 runs worse.

    Now, if Gutierrez is in the lineup, Mientkiewicz likely would have been at first, with Kevin Millar working through a pack of Big League Chew in the dugout. Millar has been red hot lately (.424/.495/.776 over the last month, and yes that .776 is his SLG% not OPS) but I'll just use his well-established .300/.360/.500 (~.291 EQA) line and say that he is worth around .15 runs per plate appearance. Ricky Gutierrez, on the other hand, is currently hitting .195 on the season, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. He is a career .266/.339/.351 hitter, and even though at 34, is on the downside of that "career", that works out to around .1 EQR/PA. So given four plate appearances, Millar is around .2 runs better than Gutierrez, and comes pretty close to making up the drop in defense.

    Assuming Mientkiewicz would be at least the worst defensive 2B in the league is fair, but I doubt (from what I've heard) the Gutierrez is an average defensive 2B, and I also doubt he will hit .266 this year. So I have to think that I was being extra generous to the Ricky Gutierrez side of the argument.

    All things considered, Francona got this one right. I don't see why he shouldn't keep Mientkiewicz at 2B at least until Youkilis, Bellhorn, or Pokey gets back. He'll only get better with a few more games to remember how to play second.

    What this says more than anything else is that Ricky Gutierrez is an awful, awful option, no matter how you look at it. If you have to move a first baseman who isn't exactly tearing the cover off the ball (.268/.302/.341) to second base just to keep Ricky's sorry ass out of the lineup, he can't be feeling real good about his roster spot right now.
    Ricky Gutierrez' mother can email Curt to tell him he's wrong.
      Wake up everyone.........
    ......Cleveland is making a run.

    I still like San Diego as the up & coming team, but I also thought it would take another year until we saw Cleveland push forward to the edge of Wild Card contention. Amazingly, they're only 3 1/2 games out of the first place tie between Boston, Anaheim, and Texas.

    Wild card? Hell, they're only 3 games behind Minnesota for the division! With Chicago struggling, and now tanking after losing their two best hitters, Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez, it looks like Cleveland is the legitimate 2nd place team.

    The AL Central is a weak division, no question. After all, Detroit was flirting with .500 for a while with a rotation sporting ERA's of 4.45, 4.47, 4.68, 6.03, and 6.14. Still, the weak division shouldn't take too much away from what Cleveland has accomplished.

    Offensively, they have legitimate stars in Travis Hafner (who leads the AL in RCAA!), Victor Martinez, and the recently called up Grady Sizemore. They also have relatively young, and solid big league talent in Casey Blake, Jody Gerut, and Ben Broussard. Former top prospect Brandon Phillips has started hitting in AAA (.317/.381/.443). He should get a September call-up and look to rebound on his ominous start. SS Johnny Peralta is hitting .339/.393/.518 at AAA. With Matt Lawton around for another year, the team could look something like this in 2005,
    1. LF  Lawton     
    2. 2B Phillips
    3. DH Hafner
    4. C Martinez
    5. CF Sizemore
    6. 1B Broussard
    7. 3B Blake
    8. RF Gerut
    9. SS Peralta
    That would be a very good team, and exciting to watch.

    On the mound, Crooked Cap Sabathia has continued his development into a legitimate ace. Both Jason Davis and Cliff Lee have the stuff to slide in nicely at #2 and #3, and Jake Westbrook, while not nearly as talented, has shown that he can be a solid starter if he improves his control slightly. That has a chance to be a very good (and very cheap) rotation. Which leads me to my next reason to be optimistic.

    Remember the Cleveland of 1999 to 2001? Lofton, Vizquel, Alomar, Ramirez, Belle, Baerga and Thome? Six division championships and two World Series appearances in seven years? The team with no place to play Brian Giles, Jeromy Burnitz, or Richie Sexson? Sold out Jacobs field every single night? Payroll up near the top of the league?

    Yeah, that wasn't too long ago. With the excitement of a much improved ballclub this year, and pushing for the division next year, Cleveland could start filling up Jacobs Field again, and be able to raise their payroll back up.

    And here's the real kicker: the Indians only have $23.5M committed to next season. After a few arbitration raises, that number might be closer to $25-$30M but think about that for a minute. $25M for the team above, and the resources and fan base to probablly spend in the $80-$100M range during a championship push. Wow.

    That tells me two things. Hafner, Martinez, Sizemore, Sabathia, Lee, and Davis won't be leaving any time soon. The Indians not only have the means to pay for their arbitration, but they also have the potential to lock them all up with long term contracts. On top of that, I bet GM Mark Shapiro is making a short shopping list as we speak. With such a young, cheap, and good team, he can afford to go out and drop $8M on a free agent, maybe a starting pitcher. He can also afford to go out and drop $20M on a shiny new bullpen.

    The bullpen for Cleveland has been horrendous. It's been better recently, but they've still blown 24 save opportunities, only saving 23. Now, save numbers don't mean a whole lot (if you count the 43 holds its much different), but that is far and away the worst % in the league. Their bullpen ERA of 5.32 is also far and away the worst in MLB, in case you were wondering.

    A bullpen is the last thing a contender should put together, as reliable bullpen arms are horrible long term investments. Even so, since the return of Bob Wickman and Bobby Howry, combined with better pitching from Rafael Betancourt and David Riske the Indians bullpen has been much better. Not suprisingly, the team has also been winning.

    Since the middle of July, when they were 4 games under .500, the Indians have rattled off a 18-9 record. They now sit 3 1/2 out of the wildcard, and only 3 games behind Minnesota. Can they catch either? I certainly don't think they are good enough to do so right now, but I wouldn't be entirely surpised if they did. It all hinges on the pitching. Davis and Lee aren't ready yet, but if they start pitching now like I think they will next year, the Indians will be a tough team down the stretch.

    Regardless of how the year finishes off, look for the Indians to have a legitimate shot at the playoffs next year. Depending on how the free agent market goes, it wouldnt suprise me to see Shapiro fix the bullpen and pick up a ace-arm to finish off the rotation. Save some money to get a corner outfielder when Lawton is gone after next year, and we could be looking at another powerhouse Cleveland dynasty in the Central. Maybe this one, unlike the last one, will be get their World Series ring.
      Greg Woo! Maddux Woo!
    Maddux got his 300th yesterday. I'm happy, because he is my favorite pitcher after Pedro and Bruce Hurst. So I'm happy for him, and I'm rooting for him to outlast and catch Clemens. Remember, when I said Clemens was the greatest pitcher of this generation? Well Maddux isn't far behind, and if he keeps pitching the way he has the last few weeks, he could certainly catch Clemens in terms of overall value. Maddux' peak value is already higher.

    Here is the new 300 win club:
    1.  Cy Young           511  
    2. Walter Johnson 417
    3. Pete Alexander 373
    Christy Mathewson 373
    5. Pud Galvin 364
    6. Warren Spahn 363
    7. Kid Nichols 361
    8. Tim Keefe 342
    9. Steve Carlton 329
    10. John Clarkson 328
    11. Eddie Plank 326
    12. Nolan Ryan 324
    Don Sutton 324
    14. Roger Clemens 322
    15. Phil Niekro 318
    16. Gaylord Perry 314
    17. Tom Seaver 311
    18. Charley Radbourn 309
    19. Mickey Welch 307
    20. Lefty Grove 300
    Early Wynn 300
    Greg Maddux 300
    Every guy on there except Maddux and Clemens is in the Hall of Fame. Both Maddux and Clemens will be first ballot guys, no suprises there. One of the things I'd like to point out is the common misconception that there will never be another 300 game winner. Some people are fond of saying this, mostly citing the five man rotation and specialized bullpens.

    Well if you look at the list and break it down by the decades each player had their peaks, you get the following:
    Pre-1900  6
    00s-20s 5
    20s-40s 1
    40s-60s 2
    60s-80s 5
    80s-00s 2
    The game has certainly changed, but its not like being a 300 game winner was ever easy. And it isn't supposed to be easy. For all the talk about the five man rotation, people ignore the improvements in medical technology and training routines that can extend the careers of the pitchers of today. Guys might not make 40 starts or pitch 400 innings any more, but they are able to pitch effectively well into their 40s. These things at least offset each other.

    We will see another 300 game winner, but not any time soon. Randy might get there, but I doubt it. Pedro has a legitimate shot at it, he's only 32 and has 178 wins. Maddux had 202 at age 32. Pedro would have to stay healthy though, and thats a big question mark moving forward.

    Young guys like Mark Prior, C.C. Sabathia, Mark Mulder, and Tim Hudson all have shots, but its way too early in their careers to even think about that. Especially with injuries, a big ass, injuries, and a late career start standing in their ways, respectively.

    But the problem with projecting these young kids--aside from injuries--is that in order to get to 300 wins, they still have to spend most of their careers on good teams. If the Cubs go back to where they stood in the 80s & 90s, Prior won't even get close, until the Yankees trade failed prospects for him. Both Maddux and Clemens had the luxury of always playing on great teams. Of course, their teams were great largely because they had Maddux and Clemens at the top of the rotation, but they were never the only star in town.

    Now that we have access to box scores for most games in history, there should be a better measure available than wins. We could take a pitchers game log, and figure out how many wins they should have got based on league average run support and league average bullpen support. That list would be much more impressive to me. I'm not sure it would change very much from the one above, but there would be a few suprise pitchers sneaking up the list.
    John Olerud signed with the Yankees, after being DFA'ed last week by Seattle. Doug Mientkiewicz came over to Boston as part of the trade that sent Nomar to Chicago. Wanna see the difference?
    Olerud:        261 ABs  .245/.354/.360 
    Mientkiewicz: 284 ABs .246/.340/.363
    Big difference isn't it. Defensive minded first baseman who cant hit. Olerud is six years older, so the comparison isn't perfect, but I really only point it out to bring up the insanity of making Mientkiewicz one of the key members in trading away Nomar.

    Doug M. is a solid player, and will help the infield defense, but he was worth at most, a B-level prospect. In his urgency to make a deal, any deal, Theo rushed this one and came away with lesser value than he traded away.

    I understand he was scared to stay put with the Red Sox so drastically under-acheiving. But staying put is exactly what Theo should have done if this was the best offer he could come up with. Oh, but I can't forget the other key piece to this trade: a shortstop in defensive free-fall, who is also "hitting" .246/.298/.336. Yet, we have Pokey Reese on the roster. He hits about that and he wont cost a thing.

    Great deal Theo. Way to screw up the team while at the same time alienating thousands of young fans who worshipped Nomar.
      In the aftermath....
    One thing still amazes me in the aftermath of the whirlwind of deadline deals last weekend. I still don’t quite understand why every mainstream media source universally declares the Marlins as the big winners, and the Dodgers as the big losers. Lets look again:
    Dodgers get:    Marlins get:
    Brad Penny Paul LoDuca
    Hee Seop Choi Guillermo Mota
    Bill Murphy Juan Encarnacion
    At the very least, this trade is a pure wash. The Marlins biggest strengths was starting pitching and they had holes at catcher and in the bullpen. Likewise, the Dodgers strength was in the bullpen, and they had holes in the rotation and offensively at 1B/LF/RF. So at the very least, both teams addressed their needs.

    What I hear out of all the popular columnists and analysts is nowhere near that. There is almost unilateral support for the Marlins side of the deal. I'm starting to understand at least why, though. The mainstream media completely under-values Penny and Choi. I've seen Penny referred to as only a 8-8 pitcher, a fifth starter, or most complimentary of all, a decent starting pitcher.

    All this for the guy with the 8th best ERA (2.97) in MLB? His ERA will improve moving to the most extreme pitcher's park in baseball. This guy is a legitimate ace. Playoff teams don’t just give up number one starters in the middle of a pennant race, yet nobody notices. The Marlins are replacing Penny with Ismael Valdez, which ought to at least cancel out any improvement from [insert random bum here] to Mota in the pen.

    Not to mention the grievous omission of Choi from any analysis. I am still fascinated with the lack of respect Choi gets from everyone. This is a guy who has absolutely crushed every level of pitching he has faced, and nobody gives him any credit. I'm hoping that in LA he'll finally get the respect he deserves, but it appears unlikely that the fans will welcome him.

    Unfortunately, the fans won't welcome Choi because he is replacing LoDuca, the adopted son of Captain Intangibles. If I have to hear one more time how LoDuca was the "heart and soul" of the Dodgers I might puke. What does that even mean? The Dodgers haven't won anything with him, so maybe its about time for the Dodgers to get a new heart and soul.

    Choi has to come in and replace the Dodgers' "heart and soul", so he will probablly continue getting ill-deserved flak from media and fans. That’s a shame because Choi is better than LoDuca right now and he will be better in the future as well.

    The reason I see this trade benefitting the Dodgers is clear:

  • Choi is more valuable offensively than LoDuca, even after adjusting for position scarcity.
  • Penny is more valuable than Mota, even after adjusting for high leverage appearances.
  • Encarnacion is worthless, there are better right fielders in AAA.

  • I'll be willing to concede that since LoDuca provides blood and spiritual guidance to the Dodgers, he may be more valuable than his numbers suggest. I just don’t think its that much, and I don’t think anyone outside of the Dodgers clubhouse knows what he means to that club. With that in mind, using the only evidence I have, it sure seems like they have moved on without him.

    I'd also be willing to concede that I don’t know if Mota's high leverage appearances are valuable enough to make up the difference in innings between him and Penny. What I do know is that even if Penny and Mota were equal in value, once they get to the playoffs, having Penny at the top of the rotation is going to help the Dodgers more than having Mota riding the pine out in right field. The Dodgers are a better team because of this trade, and the Marlins are worse. I just can't see it any other way, but feel free to try and convince me.

    Unfortunately, the only way to seal this trade is after all the playoff tickets have been printed. Even then, however, I don’t think it will end in fairness. I get the feeling that if the Marlins win the division, everyone will be praising the genious of Larry Beinfest. On the other hand, if the Dodgers win the division, everyone will say they got lucky and/or beat up on bad teams in the West.

    Thank god I've learned not to listen to what the establishment tells me to think, or I might be parrotting the cartel right now.

    Marlins in '04, yay!
    Fair weather Marlin fans and ESPN parrots can email Curt to tell him he's wrong.
      The dust settles........
    Can anyone remember a trading deadline where so many big names were involved? Can anyone remember a deadline where so many contending teams dealt with each other? Usually deadline deals involve a contender swapping prospects with a non-contender for a major leaguer to fill a need. There were a few deals like that this time around, but there were also deals between the Dodgers and Marlins; Dodgers and Red Sox; Phillies and Giants; Red Sox, Cubs and Twins; and the White Sox and Yankees. All those teams have a legitimate shot at a title and they all traded with each other.

    I also can't remember a deadline with so many lopsided deals. After watching in shock for the last two days, I have just begun to sort out all of the moves, and I've split them up into "winners", "neutral", and "losers". Enjoy.
      The winners.
    Los Angeles Dodgers
    Give up:            Get:
    Paul LoDuca Brad Penny
    Guillermo Mota Hee Seop Choi
    Juan Encarnacion Matt Merricks
    Tom Martin Steve Finley
    Koyie Hill Brett Mayne
    Reggie Abercrombie Henri Stanley
    Dave Roberts
    The Dodgers were the busiest team at the trading deadline. They made four deals that shipped off five of their current regulars. In their blockbuster, the Dodgers sent LoDuca, Mota, and Encarnacion to the Marlins for Penny, Choi, and prospect Bill Murphy. The Dodgers not only improved this year, but they also got younger and cheaper, so this trade improves them down the road. How can any rational person think this trade benefits the Marlins?

    Unfortunately, that is exactly what the mainstream media is telling everybody, check here, here, and here. All those articles seem to forget that Choi was even involved in the deal. At best they casually mention that Choi is hitting .270/.388/.495, and Jayson Stark doesn't even mention Choi as part of the deal!

    Are they serious? This guy has the 10th best OPS in MLB for a first baseman, plays great defense, and oh, not to mention, is 25, cheap, and only will get better. In the minors he showed the ability to hit lefties, and I don’t see why with regular at-bats he won't be able to hit major league lefties. I already wrote about the apparent bias against Choi and I am amazed to see it still exists, given his development in 2004.

    Brad Penny adds a legitimate ace that the Dodgers needed after Kevin Brown left. A front three of Penny, Odalis Perez, and Kaz Ishii is at least talented enough to take them deep in the playoffs. Before this trade, no chance.

    With Choi to play first base, Shawn Green moves back to right field. Newly acquired Steve Finley plays center (although he ought to play right, letting Bradley play CF). On the offensive side, the Dodgers essentially replaced LoDuca's at-bats with Dave Ross/Brett Mayne. Ross and Mayne are pretty much the definition of replacement, and LoDuca has a VORP (Value Over Rreplacement Player) of 22.3 this year. Finley (23.7) and Choi (27.9) step into the lineup replacing the at-bats of Encarnacion and Ventura who are both replacement level, and Roberts (11.3). The Dodgers offense has improved by somewhere around 10 runs.

    The pitching improves as well, with Penny replacing Wilson Alvarez in the rotation. Alvarez goes back to the pen, where he was much more effective, to replace the departed Mota. Only five relievers have been better than Mota, but 20 innings of lights out relief is a lot less than the 90 or so you will get out of Brad Penny, even after adjusting for leverage. Penny has a VORP of 33.3 so far, while Mota is at 24.4, so the Dodgers got better in their pitching staff as well.

    Choi is almost certainly a better defensive 1B than Shawn Green. If Finley plays CF, the outfield defense will not be as good, but if he moves to right (or left) it will be comparable. Even if Finley plays center, the defensive drop won't be anywhere near 10-20 runs, so even at a slight hit to the outfield defense, overall the Dodgers are a better team today.

    The one part that puzzles me is why the Dodgers traded Tom Martin for lefty pitching prospect Matt Merricks. Martin is no stud, and he won't be hard to replace, but he's been decent. Why would a GM want to even bother finding someone to replace him at this time of the year? Merricks is nothing to get all excited about, so this part puzzles me. I have to assume the Dodgers know something about Martin they aren't letting out.

    Usually, in deadline deals a team has to give up prospects to improve. Paul DePodesta's strategy at his first deadline was to throw a clusterbomb of deals out there, confuse the hell out of everybody, and when the smoke clears, the Dodgers have an improved offense and pitching staff.

    The net cost of these improvement is the two prospects they gave up. The Dodgers got semi-prospect Henri Stanley from the Red Sox for Roberts, which helps offset that. Stanley could be a decent OF, much like Roberts, with more power and less steals.

    The Dodgers also gave up Reggie Abercrombie, a prototypical five-tool prospect who has never shown the actual ability to hit a baseball. I would call him a non-prospect at this time, and I bet DePodesta was looking to swing him in a deal ever since he first looked over the organizational depth charts.

    Koyie Hill is the better out of the two. A pretty solid hitter for a catcher, Hill was having his best year, hitting .286/.339/.471 in AAA. He is also said to play great defense despite originally being a third baseman. At worst Hill is a backup big-league catcher. At best he's that in 2005, and blossoms into a solid regular down the road. Definitely an expendable part for playoff team.

    Summary: Dodgers improved both offense and defense with marginal hits to their defense and bullpen. Is it enough to overcome the loss of leadership from fan-favorite Paul LoDuca? The cost in prospects is small, but the Tom Martin mystery raises an interesting question.
    Grade: B+

    Tampa Bay Devil Rays
    Give up:             Get:
    Victor Zambrano Scott Kazmir
    Bartolome Fortunato Jose Diaz
    Tampa Bay wasn't expected to active at the deadline. It doesn't make sense for them to trade Victor Zambrano. He's reasonably cheap for three more years, and he has been reasonably effective. On the other hand, as soon as the Mets started calling and offering top prospects for him, Chuck LaMar must have crapped his pants with excitement.

    Jose Diaz is only a mid-level prospect. Most likely he'll be switched to relief, and if he ever learns to throw strikes with any consistency, he'll probablly be a good one, but he looks like a throw-in, albeit with potential.

    Then there is Scott Kazmir. I don’t know whats not to like. He's a 20 year-old lefty who throws in the mid-90s with nasty breaking pitches. Twenty years old, already in AA, and he has dominated every place he's been, showing excellent control and the ability to strike out anybody he faces. Injuries are all that stand in the way of Kazmir, and he is one of only a few pitchers in the minors who have the potential to be a Cy Young contender for many years to come.

    With Kazmir on board, the Devil Rays could seriously be a contender in a couple years. I'm serious. No, really, I'm not kidding about this. They have so much talent at all levels of their organization that if things come together, they could have a three or four year run of October baseball in Tampa. Chuck LaMar hasn’t yet convinced me of the ability to not screw up, but this trade is a start. If he continues the trend, we could be looking at a Devil Ray team in 2006 or 2007 something like this:

    C Toby Hall
    1B Aubrey Huff
    SS B.J. Upton
    LF Carl Crawford
    CF Rocco Baldelli
    RF Delmon Young

    SP Scott Kazmir
    SP Chad Gaudin
    SP Doug Waechter
    SP Seth McClung

    Now if they could have only gotten a top 2B or 3B prospect for Tino Martinez, they would be in business. That team has a chance to be pretty damn good. Check back in two years, maybe I'll be telling you guys, "I told you so".

    Summary:Devil Rays get great return on a pitcher who never developed, look to build a strong young team for the future.
    Grade: A

    Kansas City Royals
    Give up:        Get:
    Jose Bautista Justin Huber
    Rudy Seanez Abraham Nunez
    I have to imagine the conversation between Mets GM Jim "worse than Dan" Duquette and Royals GM Allan Baird went something like this:

    Duquette: Hey Allan, how's the season going?
    Baird: Not too good, how's that Vlad signing worked out for you?
    Duquette: Aw, we lost out in that one, but we do have the chance to get Kris Benson and maybe be a .500 team again. Which reminds me…..
    Baird: Yes?
    Duquette: The Pirates want that guy Jose Bautista back, I need to make a deal for him.
    Baird: Didn’t they give him up in the Rule 5 draft?
    Duquette: Yeah, but they want him back. Don’t ask me Allan, Littlefield is an idiot. So what's it going to take?
    Baird: Uh, well….I've just been informed by my coaching staff that Alberto Castillo sucks and apparently Benito Santiago is a fossil, so we're a little short at catcher. How bout that Huber kid?
    Duquette: Sure, done deal.
    Baird: Uh, ok.

    At which point Allan Baird hangs up in shock, wondering if it was true that he just turned a waiver wire pickup into one of the best catching prospects in baseball.

    Maybe Huber will never turn into a good player, and maybe his defense will force the Royals to move him from behind the plate, but Huber is a 22 year-old catcher who hit .271/.414/.487 at AA this year, and is a hell of a lot more valuable than Jose Bautista.

    While the Nunez for Seanez swap with the Royals is simply a decent deal, the Huber trade is trade is a steal for the Royals (or should we say a gift). It is the polar opposite of the Neifi Perez for Jermaine Dye trade in 2001. Those two cancel each other out and Allan Baird is starting to inch his way closer to respectability in my book.

    Summary:With an absolute steal of a trade, Royals turn a waiver wire pick into one of the best catching prospects in baseball. It doesn't get better than that for a team looking to build for the future.
    Grade: A+

    Chicagao Cubs
    Give up:         Get:
    Alex Gonzalez Nomar Garciaparra
    Brendan Harris Matt Murton
    Francis Beltran
    Justin Jones
    The Cubs fixed their biggest hole on the offensive side. I mean that enormous, gaping, black hole of outs at shortstop. Nomar, in all likelihood, will be about 10-20 runs better than the trifecta from hell. That is an absolutely huge improvement. It's not quite a Barry Bonds for Desi Relaford improvement, but its pretty close.

    The cost to do this? Not much, suprisingly. Someone call the Mets!

    The Cubs gave up Gonzalez, who was expendable anyways. They also gave up three decent prospects, but were they worth Nomar? They will almost certainly be worth Nomar if they can ink him to a reasonable contract, but even if they can't, they dealt from their strength.

    The loss of Harris is partly offset by the gain of Matt Murton from the Red Sox. Murton is a pretty decent hitter, albeit much lower in his development. Harris can hit, and he's the closest to big league ready out of the group, but he's much more likely to be a solid utility player than anywhere near the talent of Nomar.

    Francis Beltran has pretty nasty stuff, but hasn’t learned to control it yet. Maybe he will, but with the near-excess of Cubs pitching prospects, he is expendable.

    Much like Beltran, Justin Jones is expendable considering the incredible number of live arms in the Cubs system. Jones is also still only 19 and in A-ball, and there is still a long way to go before he is major league ready.

    I don’t know how anyone can look at this and say this isn't a great trade for the Cubs. Even if Nomar gets hurt tommorrow and all three prospects turn into decent major leaguers, nobody will legitimately be able to fault the Cubs for making this deal.

    Summary:Did what the Mets failed to do: kept their top prospects off the block and still fixed their biggest hole. Could have used a decent 4th outfielder or another arm in the pen, but they have a couple options once all their starters get healthy.
    Grade: A-

    As always, email Curt to tell him he's wrong.
      Treading water...
    Pittsburgh Pirates
    Give up:        Get:
    Kris Benson Ty Wigginton
    Jeff Keppinger Matt Peterson
    Jose Bautista
    The Pirates went into the trading deadline with one intention: get prospects for Kris Benson. They actually did all-right considering the relative lack of interest in Benson.

    Matt Peterson is a pretty good prospect. If not for Kazmir, he would be the top pitching prospect in the Mets system. Peterson is 22 years old and has great stuff. Between A and AA, he's got a 430/193 K/BB ratio in 470 1/3 innings. Any slight improvement in his control and he would probablly bump up to an A-level prospect and possibly a top-of-the-rotation starter.

    The path of Jose Bautista is an interesting one. To start the year, he was picked by the Orioles from the Pirates in the Rule 5 draft. He was then designated for assignment, and claimed by the Devil Rays. He wasn’t good enough for the soon-to-be-mighty Devil Rays, who waived him for the second time. Bautista was finally claimed by the worst-record-in-baseball Kansas City Royals. Now that's a trip down the waiver wire priority if I ever saw one.

    Now Bautista is involved in a trade that brings him right back to the Pirates who oringally left him off the 40-man roster and eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Why the Pirates just didn’t ask for the better prospect, Justin Huber, instead of Jose Bautista is beyond me. Actually the more I think about it the more I have to think Dave Littlefield should be drug tested. Why didn’t he just protect Bautista in the first place?

    Summary:The Pirates continue to confuse the hell out of people with their obvious lack of prudent decision making ability. They did get a decent prospect back for Benson, so all is not lost. It would be funny if the Pirates finished ahead of the Mets, and that is not as unlikely as you might think.
    Grade: C+

    New York Yankees
    Give up:         Get:
    Jose Contreras Esteban Loaiza
    Nobody knows quite what to make of this trade. One team could end up way ahead, or it could make absolutely no difference down the stretch. I vote for the latter.

    Esteban Loaiza was runner-up to the Cy Young last year. I hear this statement repeated constantly from those who think the Yankees got the better end of this deal. Well, Derek Lowe was runner-up to the Cy Young the year before, why didn’t the Yankees go after him? The difference is that Lowe had some precedence for being good, Loaiza truly came out of failed prospect-dom obscurity to put together an excellent season.

    Loaiza has been pretty bad this year. He's walking more people, striking out less, giving up more hits, and giving up more home runs. I don’t know what else to say about the guy other than that his 2003 season will go down as one of the greatest fluke seasons of all time, right up there with Brady Anderson's 1996 season. At least Loaiza is a free agent after the year, so the Yankees will be able to go out and pay Matt Morris $15M to be their 2005 5th starter.

    Summary:Yankees traded an enigma for a fluke and are no better off for it. They shaved some salary off the 2005 payroll so unless Contreras remembers how to pitch in the next two years, they come out ahead.
    Grade: C

    Chicago White Sox
    Give up:         Get:
    Esteban Loaiza Jose Contreras
    The White Sox traded an ineffective starter for an ineffective starter with potential. Jose Contreras can be a dominant pitcher, he definitely has the stuff. He hasn’t yet shown he can do it consistently and against the better teams, he usually does the opposite.

    Trading a bad starter for a bad starter with potential is usually a good move, but don’t forget that Contreras is owed $17M over the next two years. If someone can fix this enigma, Kenny Williams looks like a genius. If not, Kenny Williams will look like.......Kenny Williams.

    Summary:Oh well, whats $17M to the White Sox? Might as well give Contreras a tryout.
    Grade: C

    Minnesota Twins
    Give up:           Get:
    Doug Mientkiewicz Justin Jones
    The Twins needed a starting pitcher, which they didn’t get. The Twins also have a glut of corner outfielders, which they didn’t give up. The last obvious thing about the Twins is that they have this Doug Mientkiewicz character playing first base. Curiously, the Twins gave Minky a 2yr/$7M deal even though they had Justin Morneau ready and waiting to tear up the major leagues.

    The Twins fix this problem by getting involved in a four team deal and trading Mientkiewicz for prospect Justin Jones. Jones is only 19 and he's had arm problems so he's a risky pick, but he has looked great so far, striking out 148 in 135 1/3 innings in A-ball. He's got the potential to be a very good starter if he can stay healthy. Realistically, the Twins weren't going to get more value for Mientkiewicz than this, so it looks like a decent trade for them.

    Summary:Didn't get a much needed starting pitcher, but Terry Ryan redeemed himslef by trading an expensive, redundant part for a solid pitching prospect.
    Grade: B-

    As always, email Curt to tell him he's wrong.
      And now, the losers.....
    Florida Marlins
    Give up:        Get:
    Brad Penny Paul LoDuca
    Hee Seop Choi Guillermo Mota
    Bill Murphy Juan Encarnacion
    Abraham Nunez Rudy Seanez
    Travis Chick Ismael Valdez
    In their big trade with the Dodgers, the Marlins helped to patch their weakest spots, but at what cost?

    With LoDuca on board, their catching will improve by as much as the Dodgers has weakened, but I'm not sure the mainstream media and Marlin fans understand how big of a loss Penny and Choi will be.

    Choi's will be replaced at first by Jeff Conine, but essentially Choi's production is going to be "replaced" by Encarnacion's .235/.289/.417 line. The Marlins got anywhere from 5-10 runs worse on offense, but got that veteran leadership from LoDuca and the playoff experience from Encarnacion that they were sorely missing.

    No doubt, Mota will shore up a bullpen that was struggling, and will help even more than Urbina helped last year, but without Penny, their rotation is now filled with a number of question marks. Josh Beckett has had blister problems all year, A.J. Burnett hasn’t yet returned all the way from Tommy John surgery, Dontrelle Willis has been maddeningly inconsistent all year long, and their most consistent starter after Penny, Carl Pavano has a long history of serious arm injuries. After watching last years playoffs, one might think they only need a healthy Beckett to win the World Series, but for the Fish to even make the playoffs they need all four of these guys healthy and effective.

    On top of making their big league roster worse, the Marlins also threw in a good left-handed pitching prospect in 23 year-old Bill Murphy, who has a 113/59 K/BB in 103 2/3 AA innings this year. Murphy only needs to refine his control and he could be a solid major league pitcher.

    Summary:Marlins fixed their most gaping holes, but turned relative strengths into weaknesses. All the talk of the Marlins coming out on top has me incredibly confused, and at best they treaded water.
    Grade: C-

    New York Mets
    Give up:        Get:
    Ty Wigginton Kris Benson
    Scott Kazmir Victor Zambrano
    Justin Huber Bartolome Fortunado
    Matt Peterson Jeff Keppinger
    Jose Diaz
    Jayson Stark likes these deals. So does this wacko, and apparently this king of all nutjobs does as well. Maybe that should tell me all I need to know.

    Before going any further, I would like to point out that the Mets are in fourth place in the NL East. They sit 8 games behind Atlanta for the division and 8 ½ games behind San Diego for the wild card. There are 9! teams ahead of them in the wild card race and three in the division. To make the playoffs, not only will the Mets need to play "Amazin" baseball, but they will need no less than three teams ahead of them to help out the cause by not playing well. Why are the Mets making a playoff push at 49-54 and the Pirates are in wholesale mode at 49-53? In fact, why is a team with the fourth WORST record in the NL trading away their three top prospects? Did they not read about my (among others) enthusiasm for their future?

    I would say for sure, with my confidence in Rick Peterson that Zambrano will be a better pitcher with the Mets. He is going to have to be real, real good, however, to offset the loss of one of the best pitching prospects in baseball.

    How good is Kazmir? I've heard plenty of people say that if the Mets brought him up right now, at the age of 20, he could be as good as Zambrano. I'm not ready to go that far, but he'd certainly walk less batters.

    The deal essentially boils down to one thing: It doesn't matter if Kazmir blows out his arm tommorrow and Zambrano magically learns to control his pitches, its still a bad deal. You don’t trade elite prospects for mediocre major leaguers, no matter how talented they are. You don’t trade a guy like Scott Kazmir unless someone like Randy Johnson is coming the other way.

    Kris Benson is another guy with great stuff. Depending on who you ask, that great stuff is either gone forever, or has started to return over the last two weeks. All I know is that the Mets just pawned off their #2 & #3 prospects for two months of Benson. Lets say he turns into a 3.50 ERA type pitcher, is it even worth that. The Mets obviously want to re-sign Benson after the year is out. Then why give up the prospects? Why not just wait until he is a free agent and go after him heavily. Then, the worst case is that you miss out on Benson and have to settle for someone like Matt Morris, whose performance level is already established well above that of Benson.

    Even if you believe they will re-sign Benson. Even if you believe Peterson will be able to make a Clement-like transformation with Zambrano. Even if you think Kazmir, Peterson, and Huber will all flame out. Even if all that comes true, you still have to understand that this Mets team will not make the playoffs in 2004. These trades represent a clear shift in an organizational philosophy that seemed sound only 48 hours ago. The Amazin' Mess is back! Witness the return of Jeff D'Amico and Shawn Estes Mets fans, and enjoy the climb back to .500. I also heard Mo Vaughn is looking for a new contract and has lost a lot of weight.

    Summary:The Mets give up way too much to get two mediocre pitchers, and will be counting their prospects in October rather than playing. Randy Johnson might not have been able to take this team to the playoffs.
    Grade: F

    Boston Red Sox
    Give up:            Get:
    Nomar Garciaparra Orlando Cabrera
    Matt Murton Doug Mientkiewicz
    Henri Stanley Dave Roberts

    Ah, yes, the Red Sox. How could I forget this travesty. I can honestly say that the only good thing about Saturday for Red Sox fans is that these two trades make David McCarty redundant, and he will no longer be leading the team in pinch hit at-bats.

    I can understand the trade for Dave Roberts. Trot Nixon might be out for the season, Stanley is not ever going to be a star, and at worst Roberts gives you depth off the bench, and a pinch runner.

    What I fail to understand is dealing away Nomar Garciaparra and not getting back more than Cabrera and Mientkiewicz. The trade was obviously done to improve the defense. Undoubtedly, it worsened the offfense, but by how much? Take a look at some numbers:
                      2004      BEST
    Cabrera -2.2 425 40.3
    Mientkiewicz 3.0 371 47.2
    Total: 0.8 796
    Garciaparra 15.9 169 59.6
    Cabrera and Mientkiewicz have been two of the worst major league regulars this season. Despite being hurt for the first half of the year, Nomar has already far surpassed their production levels in 625 less plate appearances! Even the career years of both players have fallen well short of the worst full-season of Nomar's.

    If the Red Sox are gambling that Cabrera and Mientkiewicz will rebound from here on out, I'd say that is a pretty big gamble to make with a team that is already good enough to win the World Series. At best Cabrera returns to form and you have David Eckstein, but more likely he keeps hitting like Pokey and makes himself incredibly redundant on this team.

    I don’t even see how the defense is all that much better. Sure both have won Gold Gloves, but Cabrera has never really been the same since he hurt his back in 2001, and Doug is 30 years old with a range factor that dropped each of the past three years. If you go by UZR, Cabrera is only marginally better than a healthy Nomar, and while Mientkiewicz is 10 or so runs better than Millar at first, putting Doug at first moves Millar to right. Millar in right is a worse experience than having Manny in right. Any gains in the infield are offset by the comedy of errors in the outfield.

    And why Dave Roberts then? Where is Millar supposed to play? Does he become a pinch hitter and platoon partner for Ortiz against lefties? That completely wastes his bat. I would assume he gets regular playing time, but split between RF/1B/DH. In that case, Doug won't even be playing everyday, and in all likelihood, he shouldn’t be considering the way Millar has been hitting lately.

    In that case, you just gave up one of the best SS in the game for a Pokey Reese clone and a part-time defensive first baseman. How does this make the team better?

    It doesn't even make the team better in the future. Obviously the Red Sox weren't going to re-sign Nomar, but Cabrera is also a free agent, and won't be cheap as he already turned down a 4 year/$30M contract offer from the Expos. Doug is signed next year for a little over $4M and his baseball skills appear to be deteriorating rapidly. What a waste.

    This trade makes absolutely no sense. The upside is for Cabrera and Mientkiewicz to miraciously return to their career year production levels and the Red Sox improve. The downside is they maintain their current level of performance and the Red Sox are a much worse team offensively and only marginally better defensively.

    Incredibly, and maybe with the sole intention of pissing me off, the Red Sox felt the need to send a good hitting OF prospect in Matt Murton and cash to the Cubs. What? As if you didn’t already give enough up? That part of the deal is like letting someone sleep with your girlfriend and then giving them a six-pack and a handshake when they were all done. It's inexcusable.

    Theo should have said: "No Clement, no Nomar." and left it at that. If he couldn’t work out a deal, fine. Leave the team as it is and move on. Instead, Theo undersold himself, got less than fair value for Nomar and will forever be remembered for this trade.

    Someone better inform Theo that his grace period in Boston is over. People give you the benefit of the doubt for awhile, but when you screw up, they don’t let you off the hook until years after you leave. I have liked almost all of Theo's moves, so I was apt to defend him when he traded Freddy Sanchez for Jeff Suppan, or when he failed miserably getting arms for the bullpen in 2003. At least those times he learned from his mistakes. This time, he can't go back, and he needs to be held accountable. This is an awful move no matter how you look at it and there is no excuse.

    Summary:Only the Mets look like bigger idiots right now, and as a Red Sox fan, I am embarrassed by that fact.
    Grade: D-

    As always, email Curt to tell him he's wrong, but don't mention the Red Sox or you're liable to get hurt.