Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Will Citi Field Hurt Curtis Granderson’s Fantasy Numbers?

The following is a guest column from FanDuel.com:

The New York Mets have already made a decent amount of moves this offseason, with the biggest one being the signing of Curtis Granderson. The outfielder will be moving across the city to play, but the move could hurt his fantasy baseball 2014 numbers.

After another disastrous season, the New York Mets have been fairly aggressive on the open market. They locked up Granderson with a four-year, $60 million deal so that they could have some stability in the outfield. However, his splits these last few years show that he is a much different hitter when he is outside of Yankee Stadium.

Every left-handed hitter salivates when they see that short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium. When Granderson arrived in the Bronx, he made a conscious effort to pull the ball more to take advantage. His home run totals went up, but his average went down. Some of those home runs will be outs in Citi Field though, which would hurt his power and average numbers.

Another thing working against Granderson is that he will be switching leagues. This is not as big of a deal as it was in the past thanks to interleague play, but it is still something that could make a little bit of a difference. The American League East has better pitching than the National League East, but these are mostly different arms he will be seeing.

As he ages, Granderson is definitely going to notice the 15-25 foot difference in right field between Yankee and Citi. The 33-year old will also be running less and racking up extra base hits as well. Expect his fantasy baseball 2014 value to take a hit, especially if he doesn’t make any changes to his approach at the plate.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

When the light at the end of the tunnel is Bartolo Colon

How is it that the Mets' free-agent signings indicate they are spending again? The payroll currently projects to $83 million, which would be lower than last season. And the Mets' next offseason goals appear to be dumping Ike Davis and perhaps Daniel Murphy because they are arbitration-eligible.

The Mets need bullpen depth, especially with Bobby Parnell still recovering from herniated disk surgery, but they let LaTroy Hawkins go because they didn't want to pay a 41-year-old $2.5 million. And yet they are willing to give Bartolo Colon, who turns 41 in May, $20 million.

The signings of Curtis Granderson, Chris Young and Colon would be a lot more exciting if the Mets were actually adding pieces, but they still appear to be treading water. If trading Davis and/or Murphy can improve the club, great, but Davis has much more upside than Lucas Duda and Murphy is a career .290 hitter. The Mets hit .237 as a team in 2013 and new additions Granderson and Young both hit below that last season.  Even if they both manage to hit homers in Citi Field, it will be nice to have someone on base.

On the plus side, the signing of Colon shows that the Mets are not simply writing off 2014, but are willing to make a short-term investment to strengthen the rotation in Matt Harvey's absence. Signing Granderson does offer hope that the team will have hitting for the next two or there years, and if they are lucky, four years.

Young is a gamble. Billy Beane's front office is as smart as any in MLB, and they elected to let both Young and Colon go.

When Granderson joined the Mets, he said that people tell him that true New Yorkers are Met fans. I'm not even sure what a "true New Yorker" is. I'm a native, and I've always been a Met fan, but one could argue that the hordes of people who come to New York because that is where they want to be are equally true New Yorkers as those of us who never left.

What is less debatable is that a true New York team is willing to spend money, since New York is the biggest of the big markets. As New York fans, including Met fans, know all too well, spending money does not always translate into victories or even good teams.  But Met fans also know that the last time the team ramped up its spending, they won 97 games and made it to Game 7 of the NLCS in 2006.

If the remainder of the offseason does not result in an increased payroll, let's hope it at least does not consist mostly of salary dumps.   

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bill Madden shows the hypocrisy of MLB when it comes to steroids and the Hall of Fame

New York Daily News columnist Bill Madden is really down on steroids. After all, he called A-Rod the "Whitey Bulger of baseball" and has said when it comes to his MLB Hall of Fame vote that "I will never vote for any player known to have used steroids."

Yet it seems like his outrage on PEDs is very selective. After all, he recently exhorted the Mets -- twice -- to sign known PED users, cynically writing that "there is one other added advantage in signing Biogenesis clients" Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta" -- "Both of them have demonstrated they know how to beat a drug test."

And this Sunday, Madden wrote that the Mets ought to sign 40-year-old Bartolo Colon, another Biogenesis client who tested positive for PEDs in 2012. Oh, and Madden thinks they ought to give the obese pitcher a two-year deal! Yet Madden never noted that 1) Colon is a known PED user, 2) Given how well Colon has pitched at his age and weight, he is very likely still using, 3) If he were to get suspended again for PEDs, he would face a 150-game suspension, which could cripple the Mets, and 4) Even if he weren't suspended, the only way somebody over 40 is going to be pitching the way he had is if he's using steroids. Not to mention that there was none of Madden's usual outrage over PED use. Guess he saves that for A-Rod and Barry Bonds.

Then Monday, after managers Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa, and Bobby Cox were all elected by MLB's Veterans' Committee to the Hall of Fame, Madden praised their "integrity and character" and claimed that Marvin Miller was not elected to the hall in this election because of his opposition to PED testing. Madden writes:

You want to know why Miller, who missed by only one vote in the last Expansion Era election three years ago, didn’t come close this time? You probably need to look no further than his repeated statements prior to his death in November 2012, decrying the players union’s agreeing to drug testing.

Almost to a man, the Hall of Fame players have condemned the alleged steroids cheats — Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens et al, who have obliterated their records or passed many of them on the all-time lists — and Miller’s adamant stance against taking measures to clean up the game has diminished him despite all his accomplishments on their behalf.
Let's review. Madden doesn't even note that Torre, LaRussa and Cox were the top three managers of the Steroid Era, all of whom immensely benefited from PED users on their team. Lest we forget that Roger Clemens will not be elected to the Hall of Fame anytime soon because of PED use, but Joe Torre, who he played under for two of Torre's four rings, gets elected unanimously. (Torre also had nine of his 2000 WS Champion Yankees named in the Mitchell Report.)

Not to mention that Tony LaRussa was manager of the Oakland A's when Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire helped get the whole steroid era going in the first place, or that LaRussa was McGwire's manager in 1998 when he beat Roger Maris' home run record. And that Bobby Cox managed, among others, David Justice and John Rocker, PED users.

I think its a real disconnect with baseball -- and with Madden. Why are PED users kept out of the Hall of Fame when the managers who benefited from their PED use elected unanimously on the first try? Why does Madden claim (wrongly, I believe) that Miller was excluded due to his stance on this issue and not even note that the managers he praises benefited from players' steroid usage?

I contend that the only way to get PEDs out of sports is for teams and managers to suffer the consequences, not just the individual players. Yet we're supposed to believe that three of the smartest managers in the game had no idea what their players were doing. Child, please.

Why Robinson Cano did the right thing in going to Seattle (and the Yankees have no plan and no clue)

Earth to Yankee fans: our fanbase never has the right to complain about a player going for the money, least of all Robinson Cano, who actually was paid below market value as a Yankee (he never made more than $15 million a year). As if all the free agents over the years who got big salaries in the Bronx only did it for a chance to play in pinstripes, and money wasn't a consideration.

One blogger even wrote a list of the many reasons that Cano wasn't a "true Yankee," and listed No. 1 as him going for the money! (Oh, and please, stop with the crazy notion that Carlos Beltran took a pay cut to be a Yankee -- he got a three-year deal worth $45 million, after the Yanks initially insisted he wouldn't get more than two years, which means we will have him stumbling around the outfield when he is almost 40. That's the "financial flexibility" not signing Cano got the Yankees -- the ability to give Beltran a third year!)

Newsflash: this "love of the game" and "love of the pinstripes" stuff is a fantasy. And don't give the Core Four argument, as one deluded Yankee fan did with me this weekend. (She blocked me on Facebook when I pointed out that contrary to her assertion that the Core Four never left the team for more money, Andy Pettitte actually did just that!) And the other three members of the Core Four all were the highest-paid at the time at their positions. Besides, last time I checked, Derek Jeter got a new $12 million deal for 2014 after having all of 12 hits in 2013, when his contract option only entitled him to make $9.5 million. Does that make him not a "true Yankee"?

Unlike the sizeable contingent of ungrateful Yankee fans out there, who are now acting like Robinson Cano is some bum who wasn't even as good as Chuck Knoblauch (yes, I actually heard a Yankee fan say that the other day!) I realize what a talent Cano is, and I will miss him very much. But it is best for him that he went to Seattle, especially with the way some Yankee fans are falling over themselves to make him baseball's greatest monster now.

Let's face it -- if Cano had stayed in pinstripes, he would have become the designated Yankee scapegoat once this team tanks -- as it inevitably will. Especially given that A-Rod may not be playing next year. Cano, despite being homegrown, will never be as beloved as Jeter.

As for his skills, is Cano Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout? No. But who is? Cano is a top-five player, though.

Helpful hint to Brian Cashman: If you had really wanted to sign Cano, you would have 1) not offered him only  10 to 15% more than you did Jacoby Ellsbury, who had exactly one elite season, and 2) not told the media last month about how Cano "loves the money." (And you don't, Bri?)

But Cano is supposed to leave $65 million on the table for the love of the pinstripes. Why? So the very fans decrying him now could boo him next year when the team stinks?

We never hear Cashman challenge the Ichiros or the Beltrans of the world that if they really want to be Yankees, they can forgot about those extra contract years. No, only Cano is supposed to do that.

Look, I actually would think that not signing Cano would make perfect sense, if the Yankees 1) had new, competent leadership at the helm, and had  gotten rid of Brian Cashman, Randy Levine, Damon Oppenheimer, and Mark Newman, 2) were willing to be mediocre to bad for the next few years while they replenished their farm system and rebuilt the team slowly, and 3) stopped signing old and injury-ridden players.

But instead, we have the worst of all worlds. Not including A-Rod's salary, which could be off the books in 2014, the Yanks are already very close to that $189 million Hal mandate. And they are still missing at least one starter, a second baseman, and maybe a third baseman.

Plus, in burning the furniture by signing Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran (I am fine with the McCann deal, although they probably did overpay), the Yanks are losing draft picks for the future.

And , you know, other teams fill holes by bringing up guys from the minors. The Yankees don't really have any major-league players to bring up. And things are likely to get even worse, the way they are going.

Of course, you could say that the Yankees are going to ignore that $189 million cap and just spend, spend, spend. Well, if that is the case, then why not sign Cano as well? Why have all these machinations to get rid of A-Rod?  

Run, Robinson, run! You made the right move leaving the Bronx. Good luck in Seattle!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Yankees signing Jacoby Ellsbury is the baseball equivalent of a payday loan

Squawker Jon called me last night to tell me that the Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury and he was positively gleeful when he told me that Ellsbury's contract was even more than Carl Crawford's -- $153 million over seven years!

He was the only one happy in the Subway Squawkers partnership about the signing. I, on the other hand, was more than annoyed that Brian Cashman made yet another of his dopey deals. And it is a quintessential Cashman deal, isn't it? Too many years, and too much money, for a good but injury-ridden player who was a Boston Red Sox and a Scott Boras client. Good grief. Maybe Cashman hopes to be the new "elf" in Boston fan site Surviving Grady's Ellsbury and Elf feature! (And Ellsbury is being called Obi-Wan Jacoby by Boston Dirt Dogs!)

You know, I just want to bang my head against the wall every time Brian (Fredo) Cashman and the idiot Yankee ownership decides to make a big splash like this. The thing is, none of them have ever learned a thing from past mistakes. It never occurs to any of them that the thing to do to ensure future success would be to 1) rebuild and grow their own new core of young stars, and 2) raid the Red Sox or the Cardinals or the Rays for their front office experts -- those teams seem to know what they are doing when it comes to picking young players. Instead, everybody in Yankeeland gets to keep their jobs, while deciding to mortgage the future -- again -- on a player who has arguably already peaked.

Not to mention that much of Ellsbury's value is due to his speed -- there is a reason he is a top pick in fantasy baseball. How fast do you think Jacoby will be at 35, 36, and 37, when he's still making $22 million a year? Did the Yankees not learn from A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, etc. as to what is is like when a player is on the down side of thirty, but still making big coin? Stupid question -- they NEVER learn.

At least Teixeira and A-Rod, though, had some very healthy productive years before getting old (and Tex is still only 33; he just seems really old!) Ellsbury, on the other hand, has a history of injury -- in his last four seasons, he played in 18, 158, 74, and 134 games. Yes, even in his contract year, he still missed close to 30 games due to injury. What do you think he's going to be like in three years?

I said in the headline that the Ellsbury situation is the baseball equivalent of a payday loan. Let me explain. Much like a person with a lot of credit card debt, the Yankees have a lot of money on the books in which they are paying for past purchases. But instead of taking the steps to clear out that debt, and not make any more ridiculous expenses, they are the MLB equivalent of somebody who finances a 2010 Dodge Charger with a payday loan (with interest rates through the roof) when they already have 50K in credit card debt. And when that car inevitably breaks down, they will still need to pay for it. All because they thought they would look "cool" tooling around in it.

Listen, Yankee fans -- there is a reason much of Red Sox Nation is chortling over this deal. It's not a good one!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Brian "Shut the bleep up, A-Rod" Cashman gives lecture on civility. Yes, really.

So Brian Cashman is doing his annual "look at me" winter tour (for one thing, the guy who broke his leg skydiving will will be rappelling down a 22-story building this weekend again with Bobby Valentine). Even more odd than that, Bri recently gave a lecture as part of a "Civility in America" series, according to the New York Daily News. He spoke on "Civility in Baseball." Yes, really.

You would think that somebody whose most memorable utterance this year was telling Alex Rodriguez to "shut the (bleep) up" would be the last person to lecture anybody on civility. Not to mention all the times Cashman has threatened reporters who dare to write the truth about him, like when Cashman read Wally Matthews the riot act for writing that Cashman opposed the Alfonso Soriano trade, after Soriano was a smashing success in pinstripes.

It would be like Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, head of the federal agency responsible for the Obamacare website debacle, lecturing us on how to run a successful website. If that is too esoteric an analogy for you, it would be like Chris Brown lecturing on how to control your temper!

Yet, for some reason, Cashman -- hardly the person who comes to mind when thinking about civility in America, baseball, or in any context -- spoke on the subject. And guess what, kids, he gave steroid use as an example of lack of civility in sport, according to the New York Post, which begs the question as to why he himself has signed or traded for so many known or suspected steroid users. (And don't forget him reportedly screaming at a TV screen to tell Jason Giambi to get back on the juice!)

In the lecture, Cashman also talked about bullying and hazing in baseball, saying in reference to the Richie Incognito debacle in Miami: "It all goes on, unfortunately, in our world. Every aspect they're experiencing, we've experienced. I can't sit there and represent that that's not occurring in our sport." Cashman also talked about how Orlando Hernandez did not want to dress up as part of the rookie hazing. From the Daily News:
"He's coming from Cuba and a whole different culture and life experience that no one could even comprehend. The rookies all get dressed up. It's a rookie-hazing situation and it's kind of an indoctrination, whether it's right or wrong. I went back (to talk to Hernandez) and said, 'This is what they do. Even though you're older, you're still a rookie. It's just kind of a welcome to the team. They dress them up in funny outfits, different themes each year.'
Cashman said that El Duque responded, "'I was a clown for (Fidel) Castro for 31 years; I'm not going to be a clown for anyone else, ever again.' He was very upset. So it happens." The News wrote that "Cashman said he did not recall whether Hernandez dressed up or not." And the rookie hazing tradition still goes on today.
First of all, I find it hard to believe that Cashman could not recall whether El Duque participated in this. Isn't that kind of the point of the story -- that way back in 1998, a proud Yankee did not want to do the rookie hazing?

Second, Cashman has been GM of the Yankees since that year. And he learned in his very first season how the rookie hazing could not sit well with some people. Yet the tradition  still continues today. Wow, he's a really slow learner. Perfect speaker to talk on civility, eh? Not a single example of how he has lifted a finger to make baseball a better place. Good grief.

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