Sunday, August 20, 2006

Theo Epstein And The Jim Duquette Effect

Let's talk about the Mets. Or fantasy baseball. Because the Red Sox are impossible to watch these days.

I think the Kazmir-Zambrano trade has left a lot of GMs pissing in their pants. For Duquette, it was a Grady Little-esque move. The guy was a serviceable GM till then, but once he made that trade, it cemented his reputation with the likes of Kevin Malone and Steve Phillips. And now, it seems like every GM in the league is afraid of losing good young talent for a mediocre established player.

But hey, sometimes, you gotta take the risks. And sometimes, you've gotta filter out the scrubs from the future stars. Look at what Stick Michael did as Yankees GM. He made a lot of trades for mediocre veterans like Melido Perez, Terry Mulholland, and Xavier Hernandez. Sure, those guys never really contributed much, but aside from J.T. Snow (who turned out to be a good fielder, but a below-average bat), would you recognize the other names they gave up? Domingo Jean? Bobby Munoz? Ryan Karp? Jerry Nielsen?

I remember when the Yanks traded for Cecil Fielder in '96. At the time, I was ticked that they gave up a young pitcher named Matt Drews. The guy was putting up great numbers in Columbus. And now, he's nothing. Everyone criticized the Yanks for trading Brandon Claussen for Aaron Boone in '03. Claussen's numbers this year? 3-8, 6.19. Looks like the Yanks still have had the better end of that deal.

To me, Epstein's performance this year takes him out of the upper echelon of GMs, takes him away from the likes of Beane, Kenny Williams, Schuerholz, and arguably Ned Coletti. He's above average, but no longer "great."

If Delcarmen, Hansen, and Lester turn into Mulder, Hudson, and Zito, then perhaps we can put Epstein back into that category. But if those three turn into Jeff Johnson, Scott Kamienecki, and Wade Taylor, then Epstein will have '04 to talk about, and not a whole lot more. When your big midseason acquisition is Jason Johnson, you can't really tell me you're playing to win this year. Epstein is trying to win in '06, '07, and '08. And only time will tell if his approach will be successful.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Defending The Indefensible

Been very busy lately, so that's why I haven't blogged recently. And the way things have gone, good thing I was busy; thinking too much about baseball would've been too annoying.

On my way to a much-needed weekend getaway, I was listening to Chris Russo talk to Yankee fans trying to defend the richest baseball team getting even richer.

"Because the Yankees are in New York, they deserve the highest payroll." What's so great about New York? Stupidity.

"When you wear a Yankees cap in Europe, everyone knows what it is. You can't say that about a Tampa Bay cap." And therefore we should say to hell with competitive balance and to hell with a team that can't generate a fraction of the revenue that the Yankees-YES juggernaut does?

"Why is it any different than Exxon-Mobil making tons of money?" Comparing sports and real life? Gimme a break. Life isn't fair. But games should be fair.

"They're playing within the rules." As I pointed out on this blog a few months ago, and as Russo said the other day, NY Giants owner Wellington Mara did what was good for the game by sharing his revenues with other teams. If not for Mara, the Green Bay Packers would be in the same straits as their baseball counterpart, the Milwaukee Brewers, losing year after year and being unable to sign good players due to small market constraints (if the Brewers had the Yankees payroll, you think they would've traded Carlos Lee?).

"Because of football's salary cap, you have mediocre Super Bowl champs." Baseball isn't much better, since the advent of the wild card. The best team in recent vintage, the '01 Mariners, won 116 games, but very few people outside of Seattle care to remember. A lot of wild card teams (like the '03 Marlins) had the fortune of getting hot at the right time and thus being able to win it all. Were the '03 Marlins baseball's best team in the regular season? Far from it.

"And salary caps prevent teams from putting together dynasties." As Russo pointed out, how about the Pats winning the Super Bowl 3 of 4 years?

-- And don't talk to me about the Red Sox. They're in a different league. And if the Yankees' payroll was only $10 million more than the Red Sox, I wouldn't say a word. When the Yanks won it all in '98, it didn't bother me. They didn't spend over $85 million (more than most teams' payrolls) than the second-best club.

The fact that the Sox can spend millions more than the Royals or Marlins bothers me, and I agree that the system needs to be fixed. But at least their payroll is not a gross aberration. The Yanks' payroll, especially with the addition of Abreu, is.

- So let the Yankee fans celebrate as their team buys another pennant. If I had that money, I can do the same thing.