Hall of Fame Reactions

January 9, 2014

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On Wednesday, the Baseball Writers of America (BBWAA) announced the 2014 Hall of Fame class.

The inductees are:

  • Greg Maddux – Maddux is the winningest living pitcher, with 355 wins.  He won four straight Cy Young awards, was almost always in the conversation as one of the top five pitchers in any given year, mentored younger players, and was a good guy.  For one reason or another (mostly to “make a point”), sixteen voters left Maddux off their ballot – he received “only” 97.2% of the voter.  There’s even a stat named after him.  A Maddux is a complete game shutout where the pitcher throws fewer than 100 pitches.  Maddux also won eighteen gold gloves – most of any player at any position.
  • Tom Glavine – Glavine was also an elite pitcher, albeit a tick below Maddux.  He won 305 games in his career.  He also won two Cy Young awards and was in the top five in Cy Young voting on four other occasions.  He eventually left the Braves to sign with the Mets.  When he became a free agent again, the Braves surrendered type A compensation (giving their first round pick to the rival Mets and allowing the Mets to gain a compensation round pick) for a 42 year old in obvious decline.  Such was the respect Glavine commanded.  (Although, logically, the move made littler sense, and I panned it at the time.  At best, the Braves were going to get a couple of good years out of Glavine.  Most likely, they were going to get mediocre performance.)
  • Frank Thomas – During the seven year stretch from 1991 to 1997, Thomas won two MVP awards and finished in the top eight in MVP voting every year.  He had an OPS+ of at least 174 every year (OPS+ is a league and park adjusted stat – 100 is average).  The Big Hurt was the most feared hitter in the game.  You could argue that Griffey was the better all-around player, but Thomas was the best with the bat.  At the age of 30, Thomas’s productivity dropped considerably.  He wouldn’t win any more MVP awards and would finish in the top five “only” twice more.  He would only have two more seasons with an OPS+ above 150.  He was still a well above average hitter, but it was a very noticeable decline.  I had concerns that the dramatic decline might make people forget how dominant he was, but Thomas picked up 83.7% of the vote.

Craig Biggio narrowly missed being elected, falling two votes short.  A couple of things conspired against Biggio.  The first was a handful of writers using their ballots to make statements.  One example of this was Ken Gurnick’s ballot.  He voted only for Jack Morris.  His logic was that he refused to vote for anyone from the steroid era.  He has said he will abstain from future votes.  Interestingly, a chunk of Morris’s career fell within the steroid era.

The second issue was a limit on the number of players a writer can vote for.  There is a strict limit of ten.  This year featured a stacked ballot due to PED-tainted players remaining on the ballot (if clean, they’d have been elected already) and a very good class of new players.  Several writers said that they’d have voted for Biggio if there  were eleven spots.  Why even have the ten player limit?  Why not just have a yes/no for each player on the ballot.  They’d still need 75% of the vote to be elected, but a writer would be making a conscious decision about every player on the ballot.

Jack Morris was in his fifteenth, and final, year on the ballot.  Not only did he not get the final year bump that most players do, he actually received less support.  Again, likely due to crowded ballot and limit of ten players.  Morris has become a lightning rod, with many old school writers insisted he was a true ace, while proponents of advanced stats portray him as a slightly above average pitcher with a good narrative.  I do feel bad for Morris, even though I don’t think he should be in the Hall of Fame.  He has been dragged through the mud during the process, and there’s no need for that.  At the very least, he was a very good pitcher for a long time.

Where do I stand on PED-tainted players?  If a player tested positive or there is substantial evidence that he took PEDs (such as an indictment), I don’t believe he should be in the Hall of Fame.  However, I refuse to paint all the players with a broad brush.  If there are just whispers of use and no formal accusation by a reliable source, I wouldn’t bar that player.  Rafael Palmeiro holds a special spot on my list.  Palmeiro was playing out the string in his career, at an age where he easily could have been retired.  Had he simply retired a year earlier, he’d be in the Hall of Fame.  With 3000+ hits and 500+ homers, he’d have been a lock.  As a result of PEDs, he dropped brlow 5% support this year and will fall off the ballot.

I also give the BBWAA a D- for their web site.  It’s not a great site to begin with – very simply design with poor navigation – but the site crashed immediately following the announcement.  It would be nice if they would hire a web master who was tech savvy enough to realize that you can rent servers and bandwidth to accommodate predictable traffic spikes.


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Baseball is Back

March 6, 2013

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There may be snow on the ground in your neck of the woods, but it’s time for baseball to begin!  Baseball is already alive and well.

Spring Training

Spring training began in mid-February, and games have been underway for a while now.  If you subscribe to MLB.TV, you can watch these games on various types of smart devices (not all games are available).  I’ve tried to connect from an iPhone (worked great), Roku (slightly awkward, but worked), Kindle Fire (didn’t work on the first day, but games are now available), and my Panasonic Blu-Ray player (still doesn’t have the Spring Training games).

I’m switching from MLB Extra innings to MLB.TV this year.  Overall, I think it’s a good switch.  MLB Extra Innings is $200.  The base MLB.TV package is $109.99 (for computers only).  It costs $20 more for connected devices (which includes the iPhone, Roku, and Blu-Ray player).  I opted to buy the minor league package for $20, which will allow me to watch some minor league games (only on a computer sadly).  That’s more value than MLB Extra Innings, for $50 less.

I won’t pretend that MLB.TV is perfect, though.  Each device I’ve used has a different interface, and the differences generally aren’t related to the technical constraints of the device.  In a perfect world, the experience should be nearly identical on every device.  Even worse, the fact that the spring training games are available on some devices and not others is unforgivable.  The availability of minor league games only on computers is also very perplexing – why not make these games more readily available instead of forcing people to their computers?

Fantasy Baseball

My fantasy baseball league draft is under way.  We have a very unconventional setup.  We can only start one player for each letter of the alphabet (last name).  The changes player valuation considerably.  For the draft, owners are randomly assigned 2 letters for each of the 10 rounds, and can pick any player from those letters.

I’m through the first twenty picks of the draft and at this point no major holes are evident.  I got my infield in order first, and then filled out the rest of the team.  I’ve tried to get a bit too cute in recent year – notably, last year trying to corner the market on good catchers to create demand – and it had generally bitten me in the rear.  This year I played it pretty much straight up.

World Baseball Classic

World Baseball Classic

World Baseball Classic

The World Baseball Classic is well under way.  Cuba and Japan have advanced from pool A and Chinese Taipei and The Netherlands from pool B.  Pool C and D (in Puerto Rico and the U.S.) begin play this week.  By the time you read this, Japan and Cuba will be near the end of their much anticipate game.  Both have already clinched spots in round 2, but the winner gets a better seed in the second round.

I’ve had the good fortune to watch bits and pieces of a few different games so far, and it’s definitely enjoyable baseball.  It’s nice to see fresh faces as a reminder that baseball in not just a sport in the Americas.

The WBC staggers the games, with two players from each pool playing the first day, before all the teams are in the fray on day two.  It might be good from a PR perspective, but it’s horrible from the standpoint of fair play.  For example, let’s look at pool A.  Japan and Brazil played on the first day, matching their aces.  On day two, they each played teams who hadn’t played yet – meaning that they also had to face that team’s ace – and obviously couldn’t match with their ace, who had started the previous game.  In the case of Brazil, they faced Cuba’s ace in the second game.  This setup creates an unfair advantage for the team that are idle on the first day.

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Random Thoughts

August 16, 2012

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Crunchy doesn’t have an article today.  She does, however, have a new baby boy.  He was born yesterday morning.  That’s 4 little boys in her house now …

I don’t feel like writing an article about one particular thought this week, so I’ll bounce around a bit.


I didn’t get the chance to watch nearly as much of the Olympics as I would have like.  I did make an effort to keep up on what was going on, though.

My personal highlight was Jake Varner’s wrestling gold medal.  Jake and I share an alma mater – Iowa State University.  I’m very proud to have Varner add his name to a collection of Iowa State wrestlers who have gone on to win gold – including living legends Dan Gable and Cael Sanderson. 

London organizer Sebastian Coe caught some flak for failing to state that Michael Phelps was the greatest Olympian ever.  While Phelps is definitely one of the greatest ever, Coe was caught in the difficult position of trying to compare athletes from different sports.  Swimming (and track) afford an athlete more opportunities to medal.  Let’s take boxing, for example.  If a boxer were to match Phelps’s record of 22 medal, it would require medals in 22 consecutive Olympic games, spanning 84 years.  While in raw numbers, this would simply match Phelps, in reality it would be a far more impressive feat.  If we only look at raw medal counts, this would mean that only athletes from a handful of sports could ever make the claim to be “great” Olympians.  It’s simply not feasible for boxers, wrestlers, basketball players, or hockey players to win 10+ medals.


Melky Cabrera was one of the feel good stories on 2012.  He was hitting .346 for the year and was the All Star game MVP.  After years of struggling, Cabrera was putting up good seasons in back to back year and appeared to be turning into a very good major league player.  The dream season came to a crashing halt Wednesday, when Cabrera was suspended 50 games for using testosterone.  The loss of Cabrera puts the playoff chances of the Giants in serious doubt.

Paul Ryan

Mitt Romney selected Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate.  Expect the budget to become a major issue in debates.  Ryan’s budget plan was the one the Republican congress pitted against Obama’sd budget.

Aside from a stint as driver of the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile, Ryan has worked in the political arena his entire career.

What are you watching?

I managed to get a chance to see Avatar this week.  I found the story very enjoyable.  While I usually don’t dig too hard to find a deeper meaning in a movie (I prefer to simply be entertained), it’s pretty hard to misss the point of Avatar.  It’s a sci-fi movie, but also has an interesting love story.  I definitely recommend it.


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Tools of a Baseball Addict

July 3, 2012

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I’ve always been a huge baseball fan.  In recent years, however, I’ve begun focusing even more on the sports, while losing some focus on the other sports.  I haven’t followed the NBA much since Magic retired, and my interest in the NFL has waned in recent years.  I have baseball thoughts 365 days a year.  There has never been a better time to follow the sport, as technology lets fans get up to the minute information.

Here are some tools I used to follow baseball.

MLB Extra Innings

I subscribe to MLB Extra Innings on Direct TV.  I actually think the price point is pretty decent.  You pay roughly $200.  Compare this to the $300+ that the NFL package costs – for 1/10 the games – and Extra Innings seems like a pretty good deal.  Next year, I’ll drive the price down a bit more by getting MLB.TV instead of Extra Innings.  For about $50 less, I’ll watch the games streaming through my net-enable Blu-Ray player (upstairs) or Roku (downstairs).  A benefit is that I’ll also be able to stream audio on my Palm Pre.

I like MLB Extra Innings, but it’s not without flaws. 

First and foremost is MLB’s archaic blackout policy.  Baseball teams have territorial rights, and if you live in that team’s territory, the games cannot be viewed through MLB Extra Innings (and can only be viewed on a delayed basis on MLB.TV).  The basic idea is that the local cable affiliate has rights to the games, and that you can view the games there.    That’s OK if you’re in Boston and only the Red Sox are blacked out.  But if you’re in Iowa, the Cubs, White Sox, Cardinals, Brewers, and Twins are all blacked out (until recently, the Royals were also blacked out).  The Cubs are often available on local channels, the White Sox are sometimes available, the Cardinals are rarely available, and the Brewers and Twins are never available.  It’s frustrating to have a Rockies game blacked out because they happen to be playing the Brewers.  Even though the Brewers claim Iowa as part of its home territory, there are absolutely no Brewers fans in Iowa.  MLB need to re-draw territorial rights boundaries soon.  They are leaving a lot of money on the table.  Just in Iowa, there are tens of thousands of Cardinals fans who are unable to watch any of their team’s games.  It’s likely that a significant number of these people would pay $200 for Extra Innings if they could watch Cardinals games.  I fail to see the downside to this.

It’s great that you can choose to watch either the home or road team’s broadcast of the game – unlike the NFL, where you get stuck with only one option.  I really can’t figure out why DirectTV doesn’t simply dedicate one channel for each team.  Foe example, make channel 742 be the Rockies channel.  On any given day during the season, I could just flip to channel 742 for the Rockies game.  Having to scroll through the list of available games to find the one I want is mildly annoying.

Finally, Extra Innings gives you only the game – none of the pre and post game coverage and interviews.  Seriously, throw the viewers and bone and include these features.

Palm Pre

A while ago, I purchased a used (and slightly battered) Palm Pre for a good price, and have used it as a portable WiFi device (the phone portion is not activated).  This has been a great tool for keeping up to date on scores and stats.  I use a premium app (meaning that it cost a whopping $1.99) called Baseball Live.  The home screen of the app lists all the games.  You can easily click to get to a detailed information about the game.  Based on your settings, you’ll get either the MLB.com or ESPN widget for the game.  You could get the same end result by going directly to MLB.com or ESPN, but the Baseball Live app provides a more convenient interface.


I’ve only recently begun seeking out podcasts.  I complain (a lot) about the lack of baseball coverage on sports talk radio.  There are several baseball podcasts that can alleviate this.  By far the best is the Up and In podcast from baseball think tank Baseball Prospectus.  Baseball Prospectus is a serious organization, published several books every year.  Up and In throws this aside and is a very informal (and often R-rated) chat between two colleagues (and occasional guests).  Baseball Prospectus managing partner Kevin Goldstein hosts the show with Jason Parks.  They cover a variety of topics in both Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball.  The show generally rambles on for about two hours (with frequent detours to random non-baseball topics).  I’ve enjoyed Up and In so much that I decided to purchase a membership to BaseballProspectus.com – mostly to get the minor league insights from Goldstein.

I also listen to the ESPN Baseball Today and Fangraphs podcast.

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Modern Technology And The Baseball Fan

May 30, 2012

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If you’re new around here, you might not know that I’m a huge baseball fan.  If you’ve been a reader for a while, you really have no excuse for not knowing.

I really feel fortunate to live in a time when there is so much modern technology to keep me in touch with baseball.  Sure, it lets me keep up on world news and the stock market, but let’s focus on what’s important.

The Old Days

When I was a kid, I was a fan of the Cubs (I was cured of this disease in my late teens).  I loved baseball, but my access to information was extremely limited.  We didn’t have cable TV, so the only time I was able to watch a game was when the Cubs were on national TV – a handful of games each year.  I did have the ability to listen to games on the radio.  I could almost always get the Cubs games, and often the Cardinals, too.  On a good night, I could catch the Reds from where I lived in eastern Iowa.  I’m sure I could have also picked up the White Sox, but even as a kid I had little interest in the American League.

Statistics?  There were box scores in the daily paper, but if I wanted a running total, I had to wait for the Sunday paper, which would list the league leaders in hitting and pitching (a long list).  I had to run my finger down the list until I found my favorite players.

The Modern Age

These days, I subscribe to MLB Extra Innings.  Although a bunch of teams are blacked out in Iowa (Cubs, Sox, Twins, Brewers, Cardinals), I have the ability to catch most games played by my Colorado Rockies – assuming that I have the free time to do so, and that the game gets over at a reasonable time (those west coast games are killers).  Such easy access to “out of market” games is a dream come true for a baseball fan.

If I want statistics, there are no end of sites that can give my up to date information.  The most frequently used app on my Palm Pre?  The “Baseball Live!” apps that constantly refreshes scores and allows me to quickly check in on any game.  I keep tabs on quite a few players (beside my Rockies,  I watch Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Matt Holliday, Adam Dunn, Albert Pujols, and a few others), so this is really handy.

I don’t get as much time to catch baseball coverage as I would like, and I spend a lot of time alone in my car.  Recently, I realized that it would make a lot of sense to load up on podcasts.  Since then, I’ve been listening to several hours of baseball coverage every day.  ESPN, Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, Baseball America – if they’re talking, I’m listening.  It’s definitely far better than the options available on over the air radio during my drive times.

Of course, we can’t forget about Twitter.  I’m not a huge Twitter user, but I do follow a couple of Rockies players – Dexter Fowler and Eric Young Jr.  Both interact quite a bit with fans, and I’m come to become bigger fans of both as a result of what I see on Twitter.  EY occasionally retweets some nasty tweets he receives from “fans” (anti-fans), which let us see what they have to deal with at time.  Fowler seems to constantly be doing ticket giveaways.  Both guys are clearly enjoying playing a kids’ game.

Has your hobby been influence by technology in recent year?  What impact has technology had?

Who Will Win The World Series?

March 15, 2012

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LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 26:  Jhoulys Chacin #45...

Do you know who this man is?

It’s the opening day of the NCAA tournament.  What better day to talk about baseball?  It’s finally time for me to give my playoff predictions.  The regular season is about twenty days away at this point, and temperatures in the 70s in Iowa are making the season seem ever closer. 

There’s have been a lot of changes this year, and the future will bring even more changes, with new penalties for exceeding signing bonuses for draftees and international free agents … not the mention the Astros being kicked to the curb (forced to the AL) next year).

American Legion

English: Carl Crawford between innings in an A...

East – For the first time, there will be two wild card teams in each division.  In theory, three teams from the same division could make the playoffs.  I doubt that this will remain a hypothetical situation for very long.  I fully expect the Yankees, Red Sox, and Devil Rays strongly content for the playoffs this year.  The real question is which team will earn a bye by winning the division and which two will be forced to square off in the coin-clip game.  I’m going to take the Red Sox.  I fully expect Carl Crawford to snap out of his funk and return to being a very good all-around player.  I also think this is the year that David Ortiz fixes his April/May problems and become a great hitter for all six months of the season.  The Sox do have to find a way to replace the production of the underrated Marco Scutaro at shortstop, but overall, I think this is a team that should be better than last year’s version.

Central – A good Tigers team adds Prince Fielder.  If they don’t have the division wrapped up by mid-September, I’ll be surprised.  The question does remain whether or not Miguel Cabrera can adequately field the ball at 3B, or whether one of Cabrera/Fielder is going to have to DH.

SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 23:  Yu Darvish #11 of...

West – This should be another great race.   The Angels sign free agent C.J. Wilson away from the Rangers and also nab Albert Pujols – and they still might not win the division!  The Rangers replaced Wilson with Yu Darvish and signed closer Joe Nathan – which should push stud closer Neftali Feliz into the rotation.  If Hamilton can stay healthy this year, the Rangers will win the west.

Wild Card – OK, I’ll pencil in the Yankees one last time.  I think they significantly strengthened their pitching staff by adding Michael Pindea and the underrated Hiroki Kuroda.  I think this is the year when we see a notable decline from Derek Jeter, but I think Cano, Big Tex, and company can keep the wheels on for one more season.

The only wild card team has to be the Angels.  While the Devil Rays have a lot of good young players, you can’t add an MVP caliber player and a Cy Young contending starting pitcher to a team and expect them to miss the playoffs (unless you’re the Mets).

The close-but-no-cigar award goes to the Devil Rays.

National League

East – This division is going to shape up to be  the best division in baseball in a couple of years.  At the moment, however, I think the Phillies still control the East.  Their ability to throw an ace at the opposing team nearly ever day means that they are a virtual lock for 90+ wins.  There are definitely some footsteps to be heard – Washington is building a good young team and the Marlins should also be on the upswing.

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 12:  Matt Holliday #7 of t...

Central – Albert Pujols is gone after leading the Cardinals to an improbable World Series run.  That’s definitely a huge blow, but it is offset somewhat by the return of Adam Wainwright and the signing of Carlos Beltran (Lance Berkman will shift to first base).  Would the Cardinals be a better team with Pujols AND Wainwright in the lineup?  Definitely.  But I think the Cardinals can tread water in the Central and allow the Brewers to get worse.  This could also be the year when Matt Holliday re-emerges in the public eye after time in the shadow of Pujols?  Remember those people who predicted that Holliday would turn into a mediocre hitter once he left Coors Field?  It hasn’t happened so far.

SAN DIEGO, CA - JUNE 6: Troy Tulowitzki #2 of ...

West – I’m going to go out on a limb and pick my Colorado Rockies to win the west.  Is it a homer call?  Definitely.  Do I think there’s an actual chance of it happening?  Definitely.  Some pundits have said that Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd is considering age to be the new market inefficiency when it comes to player valuation.  I think they are correct in their beliefs, and I also believe that O’Dowd may have a point.  The Rockies should be one of the more interesting stories in baseball as they attempt to add some aging vets (OF Michael Cuddyer, SS Marco Scutaro, and possibly Jamie Moyer) to a team that is also going to expect significant contributions from a number of very young players notably pitchers Jhoulys Chacin and Drew Pomeranz and catcher Wilin Rosario, and perhaps even 20 year old 3B Nolan Arenado.  If the veterans play well, and the kids avoid the mistakes of youth, this could be a very good team.  If the veterans get old and the youngsters have trouble adjusting, this could be a very bad year.

I really expect Troy Tulowitzki to win an MVP award within the next 5 years, and this could be the year (after all, this is his age 27 season).  I think Tulo and Cargo will be a real force in the middle of the Rockies order.  On the mound, I expect people to finally notice Jhoulys Chacin.  He’s really good and really young (just turned 24).  He’s the mystery man at the top of the column.

English: Stephen Strasburg

Wild card – I think this is the year the NL East breaks through.  Not just multiple teams in the playoffs, but I see both of the wild card teams coming from the East.  The Nationals have been building  a very good team, and I think this is their breakthrough year.  Bryce Harper might make an impact this year, but my guess is that the return of Stephen Strasburg will have a bigger impact.  And in Florida, the Marlins have added Jose Reyes at shortstop (pushing Hanley Ramirez to third base) and also Heath Bell in the bullpen.  The new stadium opens with a bang – increased attendance (I hope) and a winning team.

DENVER, CO - JUNE 19:  Starting pitcher Justin...


Coin Flip round – The Nationals dump the Marlins and the Angels beat the Yankees.  Zero confidence in this, since one game is too small of sample size.

Division Series Winners – Red Sox, Tigers, Phillies, and Cardinals

League Championship Series Winners – Tigers and Phillies
World Series – Tigers over Phillies.  Rain thwarted the chances of the Tigers to fully utilize Verlander against the Rangers last year.  In the World Series, Detroit will pitch him in games 1, 4, and 7 and also nab another win from someone.

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Baseball’s New Collective Bargaining Agreement

February 16, 2012

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NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 22:  Major League Base...

Baseball is just around the corner.  Pitchers and catchers will report to spring training in a few days.  I’ve been looking for a copy of the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) ever since it was announced that an agreement had been reached.  I still can’t find one, but there is a downloadable summary that does give a few more details.  I gave my thoughts on the new CBA a few months ago, but here’s an update version based on the details in the summary document.  Some of this article will rehash the details of my previous article, but there’s also some new content in this article.

Two wild card teams per league – I hate, hate, hate this idea.  One of the things I love about baseball is that it’s very hard to make the playoff.  Currently, just 8 of the 30 teams make it.  I also hate the one game “coin flip round” of the playoffs, because one game is a very poor judge of which team is better.

Free agency – MLB is finally dropping the Elias rating system for free agents.  This was an incredibly flawed system.  Among other things, one of the rankings for catchers was related to the number of putouts.  A catcher is awarded a putout on a strikeout by the pitcher … so a catcher on a team with a dominant pitching staff would see his ranking artificially inflated.  Stats like runs and RBI – heavily dependent on the players around you – were also included, and there was no attempt to normalize statistics for the player’s park.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 03:  Ike Davis #29 of the N...

Additionally, an older, quickly fading player could be a Type A free agent and scare off potentially suitors because of the fact that they’d lose a top pick to sign him (the Braves lost a 1st round pick to the Mets when they signed an aging Tom Glavine.  The Mets used the pick to draft Ike Davis).

The new systems awards compensation when a team offers a pending free agent a one year contract worth the average of the top 125 salaries.  In other words, you have to demonstrate the player’s value to your team – by putting your money where your mouth is – before being awarded compensation.  (Note: under the old system, a team had to offer arbitration to  a player, and have the player decline the offer, in order to be eligible for compensation.)

Draft bonuses –  My opinion is that a true commissioner should be an unbiased arbiter between the owners and the players.  Bud Selig has instead become merely the president of the owner’s group.  For years, the commissioner’s office has recommended draft bonus amounts for each slot in the draft.  I’ve always chafed at this, because I feel that the free market is a better way to handle this.  Beginning this year. there will actually be penalties for going above slot.  There will be an amount assigned to each team, based on where their picks fall.  This is the amount that can be signed on picks from the first 10 rounds.  Exceed this amount by 5%, and you start losing draft picks.  If you exceed the amount by 15%,  and you lose 1st round picks in the next two drafts.

What baseball is trying to do is avoid having teams with lots of cash to spend (Yankees) have player drop to them because of signability concerns.  The core problem here is that teams can’t maximize that value of a pick by trading it.  Eli Manning didn’t want to play for the San Diego Chargers.  Did the Chargers just skip him because of signability concerns and grab the next player?  No, they drafted him and immediately traded his rights.  This can’t be done in baseball.

If draft bonuses are going to be capped, then I think it makes sense to reduce the amount of time a player is under a team’s control (currently at least six years).

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 03:  Russell Wilso...

I think this can have a real impact on dual sports athletes.  These players often fall in the draft because a team is taking a risk that they won’t sign, or will choose their other sport over baseball (case in point: Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson has announced that he is choosing the NFL over baseball).  If often takes extra money to get these players to commit to baseball full-time.

A similar system will be in place for signing of international amateur free agents (but not international professionals, such as Yu Darvish).

The top 200 draft prospects and top 100 international amateur free agents will also be subject to pre-draft drug testing and a pre-draft medical program.  The medical program should not be overlooked – this may allow teams to spot undiagnosed medical conditions that could affect a player’s ability to succeed at the major league level.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 24:  Actress Gemma ...

Competitive balance lottery – Teams that are in the ten smallest markets and teams that have the ten lowest revenues will be entered into a competitive balance lottery.  There’s certain to be a lot of overlap in this group, so I’m guessing this will usually be 12-15 teams.  A team’s chance of winning a lottery picks is based on their winning percentage (I assume that the teams with the worst records will have the best odds).  There will be six lottery picks between the first and second rounds.  The non-winners are put into a second lottery for picks between the second and third round.

I’m not sure if post-season revenue is included in the calculation or not.  If post-season revenue is included, you might see a team drop out of the lottery by winning a few games down the stretch in October.  Conversely, you might see some teams attempt to limit their late season revenue in order to get into the lottery.

As a fan of a small market team (Rockies), I’m not a fan of this idea.  A billionaire owner (Mark Cuban, for example) could also turn this idea on its head by purchasing a small market team, grabbing lottery picks as birthright of being a small market team, and then spending freely in free agency.  Basically, he could build the Royals into a better version of the Yankees.

Is there anything at all I like about the competitive balance lottery?  Sure.  You can trade these picks – that’s a step in the right direction.

Do you have any new thoughts on the new CBA?

Are you ready for baseball?

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Kosmo’s Briefs

February 10, 2012

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English: penulis = writer

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Oh, joy.  Random odds and ends in today’s column 🙂

I’ve finished off  a free freelance jobs in the past couple of weeks.  I have a pretty decent backlog of articles and could keep pretty busy with the freelance work if my schedule allowed for it.  While The Soap Boxers makes a negligible amount of money, it’s nice to have freelance gigs where I get paid.  The cash is nice, but so is the underlying meaning – someone things my writing is good enough to pay me for it.

Johnny Goodman wrote an interesting article and submitted it to me.  You won’t be seeing it on The Soap Boxers, though.  I found a market for the article and brokered the sale for him.  It’s Johnny’s first professional sale, and he’s nearly as happy about it as I am.  I guess technically it makes me a literary agent.

The murder-suicide in Washington state saddened me greatly.  Unfortunately, we’ve had a couple of case of parents killing kids in Iowa City in the last few years.  As a parent, I find it extremely disturbing.  Personally, one of the strangest details about the whole incident is that he emailed family and friends about where his money was and how to get utilities shut off (I’m guessing the gas company is going to shut off gas supply to the raging inferno without being explicitly asked).  So he was able to think through all these insignificant details, but overlooked that whole “killing my kids is very bad” aspect?

Rick Santorum picked up wins in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado.  Mitt Romney finished second in Missouri and Colorado, but third in Minnesota (Ron Paul was second).  Gingrich wasn’t on the ballot in Missouri and failed to hit 15% in the other states.  At the moment, it looks like Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich will all stick around for a while.  Santorum and Gingrich would be better off if one of them dropped out, and it would allow the “anyone but Romney” faction to consolidate behind one candidate instead of fracturing the vote.  I suppose Ron Paul is also taking votes from someone.

Scouts from the Baltimore Orioles have been banned from attending games in South Korea after signing a 17 year old who hadn’t yet begun his senior year of high school.  While Major League Baseball allows teams to sign foreign players (those not subject to the draft) at age 16.  However, the governing body of Korean baseball does not allow players to interact with professional teams until their last year of school (applicable to both high school and college players).

The band Alabama is touring once again, sans longtime drummer Mark Herndon (there was a lawsuit over some royalties).  I’m hoping to see some new music from the guys very soon, but will definitely miss Mark’s drumming.  I’m a huge fan of the group, owning more than 30 of their albums (including some very hard to find stuff).  I’ve been reacquainting myself with a lot of their work lately, and can’t help but enjoy some of the forgotten songs from their albums – such as Pete’s Music City, Pony Express, and Clear Across America Tonight.  None are signature hits for the group, but these songs – and dozens of other – are very enjoyable to listen to.  Hard to believe that some of these songs are 25-30 years old.

The Pony Express has a special place in the history of this country.  Care to guess how long it was in operation?  10 years?  5 years?  Nah – a mere 18 months.

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Looking Ahead To Baseball

February 6, 2012

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The Colorado Rockies National League baseball ...

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With the Super Bowl now little more than a distant memory and spring training coming up quickly, it’s time to talk about baseball.


Most of you know that Troy Tulowitzki is my favorite player.  I truly believe that Tulo will eventually win an MVP – could it be this year?  It’s true that Coors Field inflates a hitter’s numbers, but I think Matt Holliday has shown that the true value of a Rockies hitter is somewhere between his home and road splits.  Holliday didn’t turn into a mediocre player when he left, and Tulo likewise would adapt and thrive in a different environment.

Tulo provides something that no other shortstop in the game does – power.  He has 89 homers in the last few years.  Hanley Ramirez as the second most homers among shortstop in that period, with 55.  The position is so weak in terms of power hitters that Clint Barmes – whom Tulo shoved aside at SS for the Rockies – is 8th on the list with 43 homers.


And what of the rest of the Rockies team?  The front office showed its recent willingness to spend money by signing OF Michael Cuddyer to a three year deal.  They also picked up Casey Blake to play third base (although prospect Nolan Arenado could make a push for the spot at some point in the season) and traded for Red Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro.  The Red Sox made the Scutaro deal mostly to free up money and keep them under the luxury tax threshold.  From a pure talent perspective, it was a great trade for the Rockies.  Scutaro will play second base for the Rockies and should provide good on base skills near the top of the lineup.

There will also be a change at catcher, with Chris Iannetta being traded.  Ramon Hernandez will hold the job as long as he can hold off top prospect Wilin Rosario.

Whereas the lineup for the Rockies will be more veteran-infused than last year, the same can not be said for the pitcher staff.  Ubaldo Jimenez will be gone and Jorge De La Rosa will not return until around Memorial Day.  I’d expect Jhoulys Chacin to be the staff leader early in the year.  His record in the past two year is 20-25, but with an ERA around 3.50.  That’s an outstanding ERA for someone who plays half their games in Coors, especially at a young ago.  I think Chacin is going to blossom into a consist 16-18 game winner very soon.

There are a lot of people competing for the other rotation spots.  I see Drew Pomeranz and new acquisitions Guillermo Moscoco and Josh Outman.  In De La Rosa’s absence, I can see Alex White or Jamie Moyer nabbing a spot.  Closer Huston Street was traded and the job will fall to Rafael Betancourt, who should to a fine job.

NL Central changes

The National League Central will see huge changes in 2012.

The most notable change was the Cardinals losing Albert Pujols to free agency.  They did sign Carlo Beltran and will also benefit from the return of co-ace Adam Wainwright, but  when you lose the best hitter in baseball, the impact will be felt.  Financially, it may have been wise for the Cardinals to pass on Pujols – especially when his skills begin to erode – but right now, he’s still an excellent hitter.  This is Matt Holliday’s time to step from behind the Pujolsian shadow and lead.

The rival Brewers also lost their first baseman, with Prince Fielder going to Detroit.  While the Cardinals had a fighting chance to retain Pujols, there was no chance the Brewers would be able to make a competitive offer.  To rub salt in the wound, Fielder’s partner in crime, reigning MVP Ryan Braun, will miss 50 games due to a PED suspension.  The Brewers did sign 3B Aramis Ramirez to add some pop to their lineup.

The Cubs finally rid themselves of Carlos Zambrano, who had become a major distraction.  This might actually be addition by subtraction – which is sad to say, considering that Zambrano has immense talent.  They also lost Aramis Ramirez to the Brewers.  Shortstop Starlin Catro was questioned by police regarding a sexual assault allegation, although there hasn’t been any news on this in several weeks.

With all this unrest at the top, is this the year the Pirates win the Central?  Perhaps?

Around the horn

The most under-rated player in the game is Rangers catcher Mike Napoli.  He had 30 homers in a mere 369 at bats last year – as a CATCHER.  Napoli never seems to get 500-600 at bats, but it he does, his numbers could go through the roof.  Last year was a fluke in the homers department for Napoli, either.  He’s emerged as a safe bet for 20+ homers, regardless of how much playing time he gets. Make sure you get Napoli in your fantasy league, as catcher is always a thin position.

Will Yu Darvish be a stud or a bust?  Although there have been comparisons to Daisuke Matsuzaka, the truth is that while Matsuzaka was very good in Japan, he wasn’t nearly as dominant as Darvish was.  Darvish also has the benefit of being in a smaller media market, rather than be thrust into the Red Sox – Yankees rivalry.

Brian Matusz is a far better pitcher than his 2011 numbers (1-9, 10.69 ERA) indicate.  Injuries likely contributed.  Don’t undervalue him as a fantasy player.

On the flip side, Ivan Nova isn’t nearly as good as his 16-4 record in 2011 would lead you to believe.  Expect worse numbers in 2012.


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Baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement

November 23, 2011

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The baseball owners and players have reached a collective bargaining agreement, meaning that there will labor peace for a span of at least 21 years.  As a fan who still has nightmares of the 1994 season, I’m ecstatic that there is a deal in place.  I’m anxiously awaiting for the CBA to be publicly available, so that I can print out a copy to read at my leisure.  (No, I’m not kidding).  Maybe MLB can throw baseball junkies a bone and put out a Kindle version …

The new CBA will result in some changes to the game I love.  Some of the changes are great; some aren’t.  Here are my thoughts.

Blood testing for HGH (human growth hormone) – I’m in favor of any rule that makes it more difficult to cheat.  I’d have even gone a step further and allow this to be expanded to include any drugs which are banned by MLB, including ones that are not currently banned.  Banning a substance without testing for it is pointless.

Revamping of free agent compensation – I have railed against the existing system for many years, and I’m glad that people finally listened to me.  Instead of the old Elias statistical rating system – which used seemingly arbitrary stats – teams will be forced to make a qualifying offer to pending free agents in order to be compensated if the player is signed by another team.  The qualifying offer must be the average of the top 125 salaries – currently, this would be about $12 million.  This makes sense to me – if you’re willing to sign a guy to a $12 million deal, he clearly has value to you.  In the past, there have been some odd situations where the Elias system put unreasonable values on players.  This ended up hurting the players – including my friend’s brother one year – because no team was willing to pay the compensation, which in turn limited the number of bidders for their talents.

Penalties for exceeding recommended bonuses for draft picks – Team can now lose future draft picks if they exceed MLB’s recommended bonus for that spot in the draft.  Every year, some guys fall down in the draft because of signability concerns.  Teams high in the draft don’t want to pay big bucks, so they drop down to a team willing to pony up the cash.  Penalizing these teams is a Rube Goldberg solution to the problem.  The most logical thing to do is simply allow teams to trade draft picks.  Currently, baseball teams can’t trade picks, nor can they trade draftees until one year after they signed a contract.  I guess this is to protect GMs from making dumb trades … but if you need that sort of protection, perhaps you shouldn’t be a GM.

Houston moves to the American League – Houston will move to the AL to create six divisions of five teams each.  This really sucks for Astros fans, who get stuck in the bad league.  Why not send the Brewers back to the AL?  Oh, right.  Because Bud Selig acts in the best interests of the Brewers, the team he formerly owned.

Expanded playoffs – One thing I love about baseball is the fact that it’s hard to get into the playoffs.  Only eight of the thirty teams make it.  In the future, this will get expanded to ten teams.  The two wild card teams will face off in a one game playoff – already being called the “coin flip round” in some circles because of the silliness of a one game playoff series.  This could create a situation where a weaker team is at a significant advantage in the one game playoff.  Imagine that the Red Sox nip the Yankees for the AL East title – 105 wins for Boston and 104 for the Yankees.  Both teams used their best pitchers in the final days of the season, due to a strong desire to stay out of the coin flip round.  The second wild cards goes to Tampa, which wins 91 games, 4 more than the next closest team.  Tampa spends the last week of the season getting its rotation in order for the playoffs.  The result?  The 91 win Tampa team sends its ace to the mound against the #4 starter for the Yankees.

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