Drew Fairservice: December 2009 Archives

infocaps.jpgThe imminent end of this decade has already been fodder for about 10,000 blog posts, magazine articles and TV shows. Well, far be it from Walkoff Wallk to let an easy angle like that pass us by. Starting yesterday and running through tomorry, we're presenting The Walkoff Walk End Of Decade Personality Compendium Infocaps.

Divided alphabetically between Kris, Rob and Drew, the Infocaps are our choices for the member of each organization who most defined them during this decade. Often it's the best player, but not always. We hope to inspire reflection, debate and stick a finger in your sister's eye for selecting The 25th Hour as her favorite movie of the decade. Ooohhhh, it captured the zeitgeist of post-9/11 New York. Richie Tenenbaum is unimpressed.

On with the listicle:

Philadelphia Phillies: Jimmy Rollins.

He certainly wasn't the best Phillie over the last decade, but he's certainly been the most visible. Winning questionably deserved MVP awards, talking glorious amounts of trash, and appealing to our basest instincts by teasing and taunting the Mets into a full-blooded feud, Jimmy Rollins serves as the face of the Phillies. His offensive emergence coincided with the teams ascent to their current World Series shoe-in status. (So did the arrival of Utley and Howard but hush.)

Runners-up: Pat Burrell, The Phanatic, Jared from Subway.

Pittsburgh Pirates: The Green Hitters Backdrop at PNC Park.

Pity the poor backdrop at PNC. Unable to soak in the gorgeous views of Pittsburgh's rivers and bridges, instead overseeing 10 years of abject baseball and row upon row of empty seats. Forced to watch Jason Bay kick the ball around just to his right and Craig Wilson's mullet flutter in the wind. But there's hope for our friend the green backdrop! Now the great and wondrous Andrew McCutchen marshals the area at his feet. Perhaps the next decade will treat his green skin with a little more kindness.

Runners-up: Jason Bay, Jack Wilson, the Primanti Brothers

San Diego Padres: Trevor Hoffman

What can I say about the all-time accumulator of one of sports most meaningless stats playing in one of the most indifferent markets in the league? The Padres started off the decade poorly, peaked in the middle, then finished off with a flourish of mediocrity. Hoffman was there nearly each step of the way, picking up saves and blasting his quads. Until his team needed him to nail down a save in extra innings of rare a one-game playoff, of course.

Runners-up: Brian Giles greasy skin, Tony Gwynn's stretched skin, skinless fish tacos.

San Francisco Giants: Barry Bonds.

Whether you think he's an asshole or merely a prick, Barry Bonds mastery of hitting baseballs is not up for debate. The word "porn" gets attached to everything on these here interwebs and rarely does it apply. Looking over Bonds' decade numbers makes me feel dirty and titillated in a way I didn't think anything tentacle-free could. From Big League Stew's own decade listicle, Bonds posted a .517 on base percentage for the decade. A 221 OPS+ for the decade. He slugged .714 for the decade. Bonds was intentionally walked 120 times &mdash in 2004, the same season he posted a 1.422 OPS.

Runners-up: Tim Lincecum, Jeff Kent, Orlando Cabrera, the guy in the kayak, Brian Sabean's shrink.

Seattle Mariners: Ichiro!

Safe to say this was a slam dunk. Not a normal, powerful slam dunk. The kind of dunk where you're running away from the rim and kind of knock it in sideways. It may look and feel like cheating. Ichiro hails from the land hyperbole forgot. His accomplishments are many, his detractors are few. (but vocal!) He's a baseball singularity and we're all better people for it.

Runners-up: Felix Hernandez, Jack Zduriencik & Bill Bavasi as different sides of the same coin.

St Louis Cardinals: Albert Pujols.

Speaking of slam dunks. Probably the best player in all of baseball over this time. I would list his eye-popping stats or his admirable work within the community here but I don't want this post to delve into NSFW territory so I'll keep the spitting in the ocean to a minimum.

Runners-up: Rick Ankiel, Scott Rolen, Orlando Cabrera.

Tampa Bay Rays: Carl Crawford.

The urge to award this Rocco Baldelli is understandably strong but I held off because Rocco's story is a tragic one while the Rays are mostly just pathetic. Mismanaged for nearly their entire lifespan, the Rays showed signs of life at the end of the decade with a surprise World Series berth. CC is one of the most talented players in baseball, showcasing all 5 tools as well as a neck tattoo scary enough to ensure he'll never court the blue haired Snowbird the owner of every team in Florida swears will fill the taxpayer-funded building he extorts from the local electorate.

Runners-up: Rocco Baldelli, Greg Vaughn, a thousand unsold tickets.

Texas Rangers: Alex Rodriguez

Because Michael Young is the kind of decent hitter that adds zero value. Because the ownership group of Tom Hicks and friends failed to realize paying A-Rod his endless riches meant Rick Helling ends up pitching 200 innings. Because his deal turned into Alfonso Soriano plus cash which turned into Armando Galarraga, Terrmel Sledge and Brad Wilkerson. Just Because.

Runners-up: Michael Young, Rafael Palmerio, Nolan Ryan's bucket of chaw

Toronto Blue Jays: Roy Halladay.

No matter how hard he tried, it wasn't until Roy Halladay was on his way OUT of Toronto that anybody gave a damn. A throwback to another era, the ultimate workman toiling away futilely against forces far beyond his control. The ballplayer we all want on our team, the quiet statesman we all wish would actually say something.

Runners-up: Carlos Delgado, Vernon Wells, a fart in the wind.

Washington Nationals: Youppi.

After soullessly jobbing the people of Montreal out of their team and soullessly plopping them into RFK and building a sleek 21st century ballpark that nary a soul dare enter, the Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos need to reflect on something soulful and good, rather than obese and mercinary. Youppi is all that is right with the world, and the empty $600 seats-for-lobbyists behind home plate point to what's wrong. Go on Youppi, shake your moneymaker for a moneyloser.

Runner-ups: A Zimmerman or Zimmermen, Adam Dunn, Jim Bowden.

oldequipment.jpgThe rise of prospect pr0n isn't new, it's just more refined. The nuggets of information and hype leak out and we fans are suddenly worked into foamy lathers at the thought of losing a Kyle Drabek or Casey Kelly.

Brief aside: Guess what? Even if Drabek turns out to be twice as good as he looks, he'll still only be half as good as Roy Halladay. At no point of his career will Kyle Drabak give the Phillies as good a shot to win the World Series as Roy Halladay gives them in 2010. Sorry, I had to say it.

No position is more prone to hyperbole and broken dreams than catcher. The "tools of ignorance" apparently goes for anyone projecting the most recent backstop stud as "CATCHER OF THE FUTURE!" A quick look at recent free agent catcher signings &mdash and the scornful comments they provoked &mdash makes it abundantly clear that the difference between COTF and catcher of the now is quite different. Any time signing John Buck and Ramon Castro (OBPs within whiskers of .300 in tow) rank as major catching coups, we can tell something just ain't right.

That Jason Kendall & Pudge Rodriquez signed deals worth more than $3 million bucks a year in the year 2009 and Rod Barajas and Bengie Molina are sought after commodities tells us all we need to know about the Catcher Of The Future phenomenon. More often than not, more often than any other position, the catcher of the future fizzles somewhere between AAA and the big show. Teams are so desperate to find the COTF that they demand a catcher when trading away star players, like the Royals did when dealing Carlos Beltran. The COTF they received? The recently non-tendered John Buck. If anything, the Catcher of The Future phenomenon accomplishes two tasks:

  1. Proves Joe Mauer and Matt Wieters are hyped for a reason and indicate we still don't appreciate them enough.

  2. Proves the de-generative impact of catching on the human body is far greater than we acknowledge.

I don't think there is any way for us to appreciate the ultimate impact on young backstops the grinding of cartilage and breaking of spirit the act of professional baseball catching entails. 10% of all baseball teams currently employ a Molina, so genetics play a big part, too. Players rocket through the minor league ranks only to stall before they reach the zenith. Does their talent simply dry up or does their body give out? We aren't (quite) at a point were the survival rate of catchers as they mature can accurately be projected. It's little wonder guys like Pudge and Kendall keep getting work. They have, like inner-city public school teachers, only two real skills: they're willing and they're breathing.

Unless you're lucky enough to be a fan of a select group of teams, you know all too well about COTF heartbreak. The quick riser with the power bat and quick feet suddenly disappears from view. Catchers exist within a strange universe of their own, with very unique expectations and basis for judgment. The rest of us watch as retreads and hold-overs float through town until the next great Catcher Of The Future appears on the horizon. THAT guy will be untouchable!

Image courtesy of Johnny Good Times dot com

fish_011.gifNobody can ever accuse Ruben Amaro of being gun shy. A zillion reportstweets have Roy Halladay moving to the Phillies as part of a three-team blockbuster. Initial reports claim Cliff Lee would go to Seattle with the Jays receiving a small army of Rainiers, Diamond Jaxx, and AquaSox. Halladay and his agent were spotted in Philadelphia today, negotiating a contract extension the likely reason.

With stories circulating that Cliff Lee would not offer hometown discount when he hits the free agent market after 2010, the Phillies felt they needed to make a move. Halladay is a creature of habit who's focus is on winning rather than securing max money; the widely-held belief is Halladay will sign an extension at a lower dollar figure to stay in a place he's comfortable. Also, Roy Halladay is a massive upgrade over Cliff Lee because he's the best pitcher in baseball. There, I said it.

This Phillies get the finest of top-line starters, coming to an easier league with a contract already in hand. The Phils are primed and ready for another run at the World Series. The Mariners get the perfect piece for their ballpark (provided it's Lee. J.A. Happ/Cole Hamels are attached to the deal and would also fare well at Safeco.)

Roy Halladay pitched in zero post-season baseball games for the Toronto Blue Jays and was part of zero pennant drives. Yet Roy Halladay is, unequivocally, the greatest Blue Jays pitcher of all time. This deal figures to make the Blue Jays a very, very tough sell in 2010 and beyond, Even if the pieces coming back form the core of a very good team in a very short period of time; this will prove to be one of the more pivotal days in Blue Jays history.

Personally, this hit me like a brick in the center of my chest. I knew it was going to happen, I coat myself in a thick layer of detachment and laissez-faire at all times, yet the prospect of soldiering on without Roy Halladay is not an inviting one. This isn't about money or small-market tears. It's about a good team that took their shot and missed and now must start again. Without the face of their franchise. With Ricky effin Romaro as their Opening Day starter. It sucks. I'm not excited. Congrats to Phillies fans, you don't know how lucky you are. May the t-shirts fly off the virtual shelves.

This week's Classic TV post features baseball legends Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams' introduction to the crowd and the both national anthems prior to the 1991 All Star game in Toronto. The duo make a grand entrance to the polite applause of 50 000 Canadians trying to determine which one is Maurice Richard and which one is Bobby Hull.

Bask in the glory of early 90s Canadian fashion, Jean Valjean performing the Star Spangled Banner in front of former President George H.W. Bush and his lantern jawed Canadian counterpart Brian "The Jet" Mulroney. Witness Canadian one-hit wonder Alannah Myles belting out O Canada while a still-cool Skydome struggles to encompass her hair.

The 1991 All Star roster features such luminaries as Danny Tartabull (pre-Seinfeld fame), Ivan Calderon (pre-disturbing gangland assassination), Bryan Harvey (pre-me forgetting who he was), and Wade Boggs (likely post-enough beer to fell a moose).

Canadian Cokes for Dave at Go Jays Go. He's got links to 5 more '91 All Star videos, including Tony LaRussa being booed by the Toronto fans and a neat interview with Williams and DiMaggio .

babytype.jpgCan you believe we're already through one day of winter meetings? I certainly cannot, because A) nothing happened yet B) the amount of 3G bandwidth consumed by the discussion of these nothings is dizzying.

Used to be the Winter Meetings were nothing more than a job fair and conference put together by minor league baseball with the big league GMs tagging along. After a few years some business gets done because there isn't anyone around to bother them and presto: media event. Not a media event as we see it now; just a way for the grimy grunts to get away from the wife after two months house arrest. Enjoy a couple rounds of "Punish the Peeler" at the local Romanian ballet and swap bullshit stories with the assistant to the traveling secretary about Reggie Jackson's contract demands. No big deal.

But now the 24 hour news cycle-beast needs feeding. So the Winter Meetings are a big deal (just like the Fall League), full of credentialed reporters hounding GMs to an uncomfortable extent. The emergence of Twitter not only swells any scintilla of a hint of a rumor into a full blown story &mdash complete with official denials &mdash in a matter of minutes, Twitter also provides a nice opportunity to tsk and tsk again. Even writing about twittering is a cottage industry unto itself; though its an awful precarious position to take when your website features nearly 50 posts during day one of the meetings, the longest of which checked in at 5 paragraphs.

That the beat guys are chasing any story around for in hopes of screaming FIRST like a mouth-breathing messageboard commenter is just sad. That GMs refuse to host press briefings in their own room for fear of writers staking it out to track who comes and goes is even worse. (If only Tiger Woods were so discreet. Topical!)

The whole thing plays out like a pathetic popularity contest. Writers want to break the story to get their chance at a Baseball Tonight segment. The Twitterverse stands poised to heap scorn on any and all moves (for example, I only learned of Ivan Rodriquez to the Nats through snarky "takes" on the Nationals decision making.) Writers "innocently" tweet tidbits of information with asides like "start the rumor mill!" Guess what friend, you just did.

Is this the nature of reporting in the digital age? Are fully trained and accredited journalists now flying by the seat of their pants, grasping at straws just like the bloggers they're so quick to denigrate? Is this a case of the market setting the standard? IS Twitter the US Weekly of sports journalism?

Probably not. As soon as the newspapers and wealthy benefactors realize, as Craig Calcaterra intimates above, they can't effectively capture revenue from the twitterfeed of a reporter in their employ; most speculation and innuendo will go under lock and key much like the very information itself. Through the looking glass we will be! Reporter pit against reporter, each one vying to leverage The Power of The Written Word into a 4% pageview increase to keep their editors at bay.

Perhaps CC and the Circle the Bases team are laying down a new template: overwhelm the RSS crowd with dozens of posts requiring new clicks each and every time. That'll certainly keep the impression rate up. Meanwhile the teams will issue such strict gag orders to keep instant outcry from queering every deal bigger than the Rule 5 draft. Until that time we're left to sift through the glut of information for a morsel of quality. That isn't better, frankly that is worse. Wake me when something actually happens.

The Dirty Projectors

| | Comments (18)

The week's version of baseball limbo is upon us. The winter meetings don't begin for a few days, the free agent pool is a tepid puddle of middle infield mediocrity. What can possibly fill the precious baseball moments of our day and fuel the empty speculation of trade rumours? Why projections of course! The cherry pickers delight.

If you're new to the geek game, you may not be familiar with the assorted projection models and their banal acronyms. CHONE, Marcel, ZiPS, PECOTA, and Bill James are the best known, each with their own faults and strong points. Based on past performances, linear weighting, age regression and magic 8 balls; these systems spit out incredible reams of information that can be taken or left at your convenience. Sometimes the results are bang on, sometimes they're laughably off. Sometimes they make little or no sense, as the playing time they predict simply won't or can't happen.

Projections can serve as guides or indicators of potential future success. They are helpful in attempting to forecast how worsening the offense of your favorite team might be. Pitcher projectors are more tricky, as pitchers are fickle flakes whose flights of fancy cause frequent fluctuations in their FIPs and Fly Ball rates. But in the wrong hands, projections are dangerous. Reading too much into any given projection starts the average diehard down a dangerous line of thinking:

No team in their right mind would trade Stud Corner Outfielder X for 2 years of Proven Starter Y! Look at his Bill James Branded Projection brought to your by BIS, BATS, and The Boston Red Sox Baseball Club! SCOX is a sure thing! SURE THING! I don't care if we're getting Sandy Koufax in his prime, my team benefits from cheap production and I have new face on which to hang all my hopes and dreams! Gimmie the youth! Gimmie the youth!

You may ask "Drew, what's the difference between these systems and the community projections that seem to be in vogue these days?" At which point I will tell you community projections are a fancy way of saying "homertastic orgy of hopefully guesses, offset by spiteful lowballing and simmering self-hatred." As stated above, the bulk of these systems are based on elaborate algorithms and other things I don't understand. That doesn't mean they're better, it just means they're different. And better. But worse. Come o'er the jump for the projector breakdown.