The Cycle: Red Sox/Dodgers Trade Analysis, AL Cy Young Race, and Yankees! Struggling!

Posted: August 31, 2012 in ALL II

Single: Yankees Limping into the Playoffs

*I enlisted the help of the Editor-in-Chief to diagnose the growing worries of this NY Yankees franchise losing its comfortable lead in the AL East*

A Rod hurt. Tex hurt. CC was hurt. Ivan Nova hurt. Mariano Rivera hurt. My beloved New York Yankees are entering the one part of the schedule, I tell every one I care about: September.  Unfortunately, the Yankees, despite leading the AL East, are nothing to write home about right now. They are showing their age. I’m not ready to write them off as yet, but I never thought at this point, the Yankees would be relying on the bat of the 38-year old Captain, Derek Jeter. (They just lost a series to the Toronto Blue Jays.

What’s truly cause for concern is the pitching rotation. Other than Kuroda and Sabathia, the Yankees haven’t found a foursome they can rely on consistently. Despite Nova’s double digit win total, he sporting a sexy 4.92 ERA. Yankee fans have to be excited for their projected Game 3 starter right? Not only does he have an ERA near 5, he’s injured! Then there’s Phil Hughes. The guy Cashman keeps giving a chance. He’s a roulette wheel. Pitch by pitch, fans don’t know what they’re going to get. It’ll make for one heart-wrenching playoffs.

Luckily for the Yankees, Nick Swisher and Eric Chavez are playing as well as they’ve played their entire careers. Who needs A-Rod and Tex (but seriously though).  I need Girardi to pull out that infamous notebook and work it out with this team. Although their ERA is 4th in the AL, that’s probably good enough to get the Yankees 4th in the AL which is not good enough. Their window is closing. The Captain isn’t going to be around much longer. Both A-Rod and Tex’s contracts are catching up with the Bronx Bombers and the boss ain’t walking through that door.

Double: Awards Previews – AL Cy Young Race

Grantland’s Shane Ryan inspired this idea.  The MLB season is full of awards story lines late in the year.  For the next month I hope to rank these compelling races but mainly discuss the best one of the season: the best pitcher in the American League.  This year’s selection combines all the controversial factors we have come to love in these races: win/loss record, pitching for a team headed to the playoffs, owning other statistics beyond win/loss record, and riding previous reputation.  As I see it there are five contenders: Chris Sale, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, David Price, and Jared Weaver.  Here is how I see it today:

1)      David Price

2)      King Felix

3)      Justin Verlander

4)      Jered Weaver

5)      Chris Sale

Sale is probably going to be dropped from this list given his poor start in Baltimore and the fact that his durability will take games away to amass glamor stats (strikeouts) and wins.  He probably does not to hit the 20 win plateau to be a real contender but it doesn’t diminish anything from his amazing performance thus far.  Jered Weaver is certainly the most disrespected player on this list but this is probably the 2012 case for wins not mattering.  Unlike Sale, Weaver will probably get the glamor stats of wins but his advanced stats (especially average innings pitched per start) will cost him compared to others.  Verlander at three is simply a matter of people not wanting to give him another award in two straight years.  Also was hammered earlier this week.  Felix Hernandez has the Verlander stats and finally has a record to appeal to the older generation.  5CG/5 shutouts.  It’s a powerful case and has been absolutely dominant with little run support against contending teams.  Price is one for me (leading to awkward “Price is Right headlines”) because external factors favor his case.  He is on a contender and one that will catch the Yankees in the final month of the season.  Plays in a tough offensive division.  Has the win totals and ERA to please the people and I think he will be a stable ace down the stretch as the schedule gets tougher.  The Rays exposure will also help his case over Felix Hernandez.  Obviously, these are subject to change but I love this race and you should too.  Much better than AL Rookie of the Year or MVP.

Triple: Red Sox/Dodgers Trade – An Analysis

The trade of the sports world happened in baseball last week with the Boston Red Sox trading Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Nick Punto and a cool $11 million for James Loney, Ivan De Jesus Jr., Rubby De La Rosa, Jerry Sands, and the rising star Allen Webster.  In this post trade deadline move, the Red Sox effectively dumped more than $250 million in salaries through the 2018 season – a Massachusetts sized mulligan for seemingly poor decisions involving ungodly amounts of money locked into a handful of players (namely Gonzalez and Crawford).  The Dodgers upgraded their team in the now to make a run at the NL West, at the very least showed their fans and baseball at large that new ownership is serious about winning, and effectively completed the power shift in baseball from the east to the west.  That’s just the tip of the ice berg on this one.  I’ve waited all week to write on it (namely because I was moving) but here are several other thoughts from the deal.

  • The Los Angeles Dodgers are spending unprecedented amounts of money and that should scare the hell out of everyone in baseball.  Including the New York Yankees.  Jonah Keri wrote a fantastically long piece analyzing this deal and proving backstory to the teams along with player analysis.  No team has ever traded for two players who each are owed over $100 million.  The deal speaks to the gradual revolution in sports franchise financing based on external broadcast revenue.  Originally popularized in college football with Notre Dame’s NBC contract and large deals throughout each major conference, baseball is slowing picking up the same approach which, by and large, separated the Yankees from the pack.  The YES Network in New York is an unprecedented marketing power that literally prints money when needed which is why the luxury tax system is a bunch of bologna.  The Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim California within the United States of America both signed fairly significant deals but with projections of a Dodgers deal at nearly $4 billion, any notion of upper thresholds are immediately put on hold.  Absurd.  That type of financial relief was unthinkable and I expect these types of all in gambles to be the norm of the upper management era.  Sure, teams will still maximize smart scouting and some “Moneyball” tendencies but as long as the Yankees, Phillies, and Rangers keep making it to the World Series, teams will seek out extra financial resources to keep up the chase.  Sorry small markets.

 

  • While the Dodgers’ upgrades look fantastic, the bigger winner in this deal (I guess) is the Boston Red Sox.  They rid themselves of major money to spend going forward though it is not absolutely clear that the new money will be spent wisely.  It’s the exact same issue I have when people demand that a coach be fired: Who is going to replace him/her?  Well, who is going to be running this team?  GM Ben Cherington, it has been alleged, hasn’t been given full control of personnel decisions since he came aboard.  MLB insiders suggest ownership (read: Larry Lucchino) insisted on signing big name free agents and hiring the bigger named manager Bobby Valentine.  With this blockbuster move, it appears that Cherington has earned more power as the big names are beginning to leave and the talent department earning major kudos with De La Rosa and top Dodgers pitching prospect Allen Webster.  Red Sox faithful should be satisfied with a return to “Theo-ball” with talent being the chief determinant of player value.

 

  • Oh and then there is Bobby V!  When I picked myself up off the floor, I immediately thought about the ramifications for Valentine, a man who is blamed for more stuff  that he cannot control than any other person in America.  Except Barack Obama.  It appears, to me, that the Red Sox decided to get rid of the players rather than the traditional move to keep the high paid players and fire (scapegoat) the manager.  On my radio show ALL Sports –before the deal- I said the Red Sox would probably keep Valentine as he is ownership’s pick for the job and rarely does the head man want to be viewed as wrong.  For the power ceded to Cherington, I feel even more confident that Valentine stays for at least the start of next season.  While Crawford’s injuries seem fluky, Gonzalez (text message to ownership) and Beckett (beer and chicken sponsored by Ludacris) were central pieces in the major controversies befalling the Red Sox during their losing run.  I hate advocating anyone to lose his or her job but it drives me nuts when management just brazenly fires coaches/managers as if they were responsible for injuries, the sudden ineptitude of starting pitching, or significant declines in offensive productivity.  Not sure how long Bobby V will last but the decision to shed the huge player deals should put Lackey (disaster), Lester (probably will bounce back in 2013), and Pedroia on notice.

 

  • Why do teams quickly sour on their deals to sign players to $75 million +, 4 year + deals?  The question begs to be asked as the Red Sox join an ever growing list of teams compelled to sign players to unworldly contracts and immediately feel bad about it.  This isn’t how the Angles will feel about Albert Pujols in three years or how the Yankees feel about Alex Rodriguez now.  This is how the Phillies feel about Ryan Howard after dropping major bank on him to struggle and be unhealthy.  The most reasonable answer was given by Keith Law on the Baseball Today podcast: you learn more about a player when he is in your organization and it darn well matters how he fits in your organization.  You move from “imperfect information to more perfect information on a player.” (Law, Aug 28, 2012)
  • Chika and I have been engaged in a huge battle over the Carl Crawford contract.  (By the way, many of you may not know who Chika is because he is usually not around to share his thoughts and opinions.  He is the third blogger on this blog and yes, he is still alive.)  Looking at the Crawford tenure, Chika contends that the deal is awful and the Red Sox should regret it.  In this argument and others, I always suggest that we cannot look exclusively on results (especially when there are more years left) and think about the circumstances a team was in with the free agent; I don’t believe the contract was a bad deal considering Crawford’s production to that point.  I also think it will be good when he is healthy and he can positively contribute to his team.  Still, the Red Sox didn’t see the type of production they (and other teams) will always OVERPAY for and they flipped out.  It’s the classic “baseball market sets the price” scenario but that does not mean giving in on initial unlucky (injury) or inconsistent (Gonzalez decline) performance.
  • The last point is whether there is a winner or a loser in this deal.  I can assure you that the Red Sox won this deal in the short and long term.  They rid themselves of tons of money to (hopefully) be spent wisely on future players and reset the clubhouse culture by eliminating lightning rod players.  With the race to get below the luxury tax now on, Boston puts themselves in position to rebuild competitively in the future.  The Dodgers are winners now but have not guaranteed themselves anything special as it pertains to catching and passing the Giants in the NL West.  In several years they will probably regret this move but if at any point they win World Series then the deal is a success.  That’s the ultimate point here: the goal is about winning a World Series and if it comes at the expense of hundreds of millions then so be it.  Cubs haven’t seen one in over 100 years; you break the bank to get it and cherish it forever.

Home Run: The End

No seriously, that’s it.  I had a long piece on Adrian Beltre’s power surge (including hitting for the cycle last week) but unlike the Dodgers there are limits on me and I’m about 1600 words beyond mine.  Sad.

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