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Post  RedMagma on Fri Jan 25, 2008 11:22 am

Friday filberts
http://insider.espn.go.com/espn/blog/index?name=neyer_rob

News, notes and whatnot while wondering why a bunch of baseball writers don't get together and bribe Jose Canseco to not publish his book at all ...

• Joe Posnanski writes the story that should warm the hearts of small-market fans everywhere: The Royals have a shot at Johan Santana. (Also, Joe's book about Buck O'Neil just won the Casey Award. You know what's scary? His next book, about the Big Red Machine, is going to be even better.)

• No matter what anybody says, John Sickels is sticking with his A- grade for Red Sox prospect Jed Lowrie. I agree with John. Yes, Lowrie's almost 24. He's also a middle infielder with mid-range power and a .386 career on-base percentage in the minors. Right now, the only thing holding Lowrie back is Julio Lugo's $36 million contract.

• Yeah, Keith Hernandez comes off sometimes as your typical crotchety old ballplayer who knows only enough Bill James to get himself in trouble. But he's still, you know, Keith Hernandez. He was in Game 6 (and if you're wearing this T-shirt, I apologize).

• As the Jim Rice Show continues, an interesting fact: Rice walked exactly as often whether there were runners in scoring position or the bases were empty. Does that mean anything? Depends on your perspective, I suppose.

• Speaking of perspective, MGL wants to up the stakes in the challenge to identify clutch hitters. There might actually be real money involved. So if you 1) think clutch hitters really exist, and 2) are willing to bet on your ability to identify them, your big chance has finally arrived.

• Home Run Derby's wondering if the Cubs ripped him off. Three things: 1) I voted NO; 2) either way it doesn't matter; and 3) if bloggers worry about only things that matter we'll be out of business before sundown. (Meanwhile, the Cubs' ad campaign, of which they're apparently quite proud, isn't universally admired. I love history, but 1945 was a long, long time ago. And it's not like we didn't exact plenty of revenge at the time.)

• As I admitted last week, eight years ago I predicted that Nick Johnson would become the best first baseman of this decade. He didn't. But man, he sure has been hurt a lot. And this piece reminds me that he was, in 2006, one of the best first basemen in the National League. Maybe he's been pacing himself. Maybe he'll be the best first baseman in the next decade.

• Happy 63rd to Wally Bunker. As a 19-year-old Orioles rookie in 1964, Bunker pitched 214 innings and won 19 games. He never won more than 10 games in a season again.

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Post  RedMagma on Fri Jan 25, 2008 11:24 am

Royals leading Santana Race?


http://joeposnanski.com/JoeBlog/2008/01/24/royals-leading-santana-race/
January 24th, 2008 · 58 Comments

OK, so here’s the rub: I’m flat sick and tired of going on Baseball Think Factory or one of the other baseball Web sites every other day and reading some headline that says: “Red Sox Back in Santana Derby,” or “Don’t Count Out Yankees In Race For Santana” or “Mets Take Santana Lead.” First off, you can’t take a “lead” when it comes to a trade. This isn’t NASCAR. You don’t get points for leading a lap. Some team may trade for Santana, or maybe not, but one thing is certain: There won’t be a second place. And no team will get even one scoreless inning because they “led” the Santana race in December.

But that’s not my real problem here. No, my real problem is that whenever there’s something enormous like this going on in baseball — some gigantic free agency deal or some monster trade involving the best pitcher in baseball — the Kansas City Royals might as well be playing Major League Soccer. I’m not just saying that the Royals are not involved. I’m saying they are a MILLION MILES AWAY from being involved. I’m saying they are more likely to pick up Carlos Santana or Johann Sebastian Bach or some other play off the guy’s name. I’m saying Royals fans — and probably from from 10 or 15 other teams out there — realize that they are playing a different game.

And no, I’m not trying to rehash the whole big market, small market, luxury tax, where does the revenue sharing money go mess — no. The smartest teams can compete with the big guys — that whole discussion is so 1997. No, I’m simply talking plain fan emotion. Offseasons have become more and more depressing. The other day, Bud Selig was talking about how on September 1 of last year, fans could look at the standings and see that 19 out of 30 teams were in contention for a playoff spot of some kind. It should be noted that the claim is pretty suspect — the 19 counts Cincinnati, Houston and Minnesota who were sort of, vaguely, mathematically clinging for dear life in the Wildcard Race, even though the teams themselves were quite aware than they were dead. Plus, as mentioned here, the Wildcard sucks.

But the point the Commissioner was trying to make was that competitive balance is stronger now than it has been in years. I don’t really see it — in the American League, it still looks like an awful lot of Yankees, Angels and Red Sox with Detroit now stockpiling weapons — but maybe he’s right. Maybe the season is somewhat more competitive. The offseason is not. Pretty much the best you can hope to do if you are Kansas City, Cincinnati, Tampa, Milwaukee and a bunch of other places, it seems to me, is vastly overpay for the Yankees and Red Sox rejected pile of applicants. Then hope for the best.

For instance: Everyone here knows I didn’t like the Jose Guillen signing, mostly because I just have this hunch that his numbers will fall pretty rapidly. But I also am fully aware that the Royals first tried to vastly overpay Torii Hunter and Andruw Jones, who were (I guess) the valedictorians of the free agent outfield class. The Royals came very close to signing Hunter, but then the Angels simply did their Thurston B. Howell, “No, I’ll offer you a hundred billion for the last coconut” bit, and Hunter was gone. Andruw Jones had a different situation, but he’s similar in that the Royals offered a lot of money and could not land him.

And so, in that context, yeah, Jose Guillen was the next-best thing out there. He has been a pretty good hitter, after all. So that’s the deal in Kansas City: You are left hoping that the third-best free outfield free agent — the one you just gave $12 million to after his previous team let him go rather than pick up a $9 million option — will turn out well. He might. And he is better than anything the Royals had before.

But that’s not exactly as much fun as wondering where you stand in the flurry to pick up Johan Santana. Come to think of it, that’s really not much fun at all. Like I said before, it’s not that the Royals are not able to trade for Santa. It’s NOT EVEN THE SLIGHTEST POSSIBILITY. It’s like playing in a crooked fantasy baseball league or something.

So you know what? Forget all that. Royals fans deserve to be in the discussion — hey, Kansas City is a major league town too. So I decided to write my own, “Hey, now the Royals are in the Santana chase,” story. I got to Royals general manager Dayton Moore and asked, “Hey, why can’t you guys go get Johan Santana?”

He responded, basically, by suggesting that was not exactly one of the world’s great questions.

But you will notice … that’s not a denial. Am I right or am I right?

So here’s my story:

KANSAS CITY — Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore on Wednesday did not deny that his team is very close to completing a trade for Minnesota Twins ace Johan Santana.

“That’s a ridiculous question,” he said, when asked why his team just didn’t go out and trade for Santana.

Santana won Cy Young Awards in 2004 and 2006 and is widely regarded as the best pitcher in the game. His presence in the Royals rotation would give them their first true ace since Kevin Appier in the 1990s. it is widely believed among baseball sources that if the Royals had a rotation featuring Johan Santana, Gil Meche, Brian Bannister and Zack Greinke, they would be better than they have been the last few years.

Over the last few weeks, several teams — in particular the New York Yankees, Mets and Boston Red Sox — have been rumored to be close to acquiring Santana, so it would be quite a coup for the “small-market” Royals to beat them to the bunch. As one scout who would prefer to remain anonymous said on Tuesday when first told about this potential Santana-to-the-Royals trade, “Are you drinking and taking medication at the same time?”

Santana would be a very likely candidate to break a few somewhat disheartening trends for Royals starters:

1. The Royals have not had an 18-game winner in 15 years. Santana has won more than 18 twice.
2. The Royals have not had a pitcher strike out 160 batters in a season since 1997. Santana has struck out more than 200 batters each of the last four seasons.
3. He would not suck, as many Royals starters have over the last decade-plus.

Commissioner Bud Selig was not available for comment about this potential trade, but two days earlier, when speaking to the St. Louis Baseball Writers Dinner, he did say that competitive balance in baseball was at an all-time high and that he expected the game to only get more balanced. This would prove that point, wouldn’t it? Selig also announced publicly, without any prodding at all, that baseball is popular.

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Post  RedMagma on Fri Jan 25, 2008 11:25 am

Clutch (and other) project(s) redux

I don’t know if Tango has officially launched his clutch project or not, or will in the near future (obviously well before the season starts), but, I would really like to see this thing happen. However, I want to up the ante a little and expand the project. I want to get sportwriters (and TV and radio commentators) and possibly some baseball insiders, like coaches, managers, and even players, involved, as well as the fans.

We will need to enlist the help of someone like Rob Neyer and/or any other “insiders” that we know or can get a hold of (Bill James, Peter Palmer, Gary Gillette, etc.). And get some exposure on the other blogs and sites of course.

I would also like to extend it to at least one other thing and possibly more. Pitcher/batter matchups, as I explained in another post, should be easy. Each participant, like with the clutch and choke players, would choose X (maybe 5) good and X bad pitcher/batter matchups. As I said before, is there any fan or commentator/sportswriter/player/manager/coach that does NOT think that some batter/pitcher matchups are better than others (besides the platoon advantage of course)?

I would also love (since this is the thing that commentators talk about - incessantly - most during game broadcasts, and this is the thing that people claim they can “see") to see something done with hot and cold players. The only way I can think of to do that would be to have a website where any participant can log in, input their “user id” and classify someone as hot or cold until further notice. That should be easy enough for all those pundits who think they can tell when someone is “pressing” or “seeing the ball well” or “locked in” or whatever you want to call it. Again, is there anyone but an analyst or saber person who does NOT believe in players being hot or cold?

Here is the kicker. I am willing to donate a substantial sum of money to a charity chosen by one side of the debate - the “non-sabermetric” side of course, if they win. We would have to define “winning” - maybe best of 3, if we do 3 things, like clutch, batter/pitchers, and hot/cold. Or we can do each one separately.

If the sabermetric side wins, I will also donate money, but that will be to a charity of our choice and it will be less money.

I’m not sure how much, but it would be on the order of $10,000 for them and $5,000 for us. What the heck. Anything to make a point. If this flies, let none of my/our detractors/naysayers EVER say that I won’t put my money where my mouth is! This should generate some good publicity and might encourage the media and perhaps some insiders to participate.

Any other ideas?

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Post  RedMagma on Fri Jan 25, 2008 11:29 am

Young Josh Beckett pitches to Kosuke Fukudome - in 1997


http://homerderby.com/archives/1776

Josh Beckett pitched to Kosuke Fukudome in 1997Even though the Cubs play the American League East this season, for some reason the Chicago Cubs don’t play the Boston Red Sox. Or the New York Yankees. Do you think MLB wants the Cubs to make the playoffs again this season, or what?

So that means we’ll have to wait until the 2008 All Star Game (maybe) or the 2008 World Series (even bigger maybe) to see Kosuke Fukudome (the Chicago Cubs’ prize acquisition in free agency) take some swings against someone like the Red Sox’ Josh Beckett, who won 20 Games last season and was the AL Cy Young Runner Up. Right?

Grand Forks International TournamentWrong. Over ten years ago, a Texas High School flamethrower named Josh Beckett pitched for the semi-pro Reno Astros (then in Houston) in the 1997 Grand Forks International Tournament. Beckett was on loan from another Texas team for the tourney.

In the tournament, Reno played a Japanese National Team and Kosuke Fukudome was a member of that squad. Let’s watch Josh Beckett pitch to Kosuke Fukudome

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4V0dIjEbWw

Fukudome walked all three times he faced Beckett. But the youngster only allowed one run in the game, which the Astros won 9-1.

If you noticed Fukudome glare at Beckett during the at-bat, that’s because current Atlanta Braves’ backup catcher Corky Miller was Beckett’s batterymate for the game - and he had Beckett twice throw inside on Fukudome, which Fukudome didn’t like very much. I talked with Reno Astros‘ owner/manager Matt Konopisos about the game. I was told that Fukudome was the big name on Team Japan (he was the top draft pick of the Chunichi Dragons the following year) and came across as a little bit arrogant - hence the inside pitches.

Konopisos also told me that Josh Beckett has seen the video you just saw, and Beckett still feels he got squeezed by the ump on some of those pitches. Beckett was a junior in High School and showed up to meet the team while wearing his HS letterman jacket, which had “phenom” written across the back - which had some of the veterans question their manager’s sanity about letting him pitch. But he was the real deal.

It was the first game of the Tournament and no one typically wanted to play the Japanese team, who had won the previous tourney. In the Astros’ first appearance in the Grand Forks’ tournament they beat Japan 9-1. Beckett did not pitch again in the tournament and when the Astros met the Japanese team again in the Championship game … the Astros lost a late lead and fell 2-1.

Let’s watch Beckett pitch a few more innings …

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ls1hXtdsKAA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYaMJ7BiX2I

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