Saturday, December 04, 2004

21 days of Clemente

If you're in New York City, you might want to check out this art exhibit:

"21 Days of Clemente" showcases the legacy of Baseball Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente in an exhibit Dec. 10-31 at 424 Grand Concourse, Bronx. Public schools in the Bronx will participate with art, poetry and essays about the late Pittsburgh Pirate all-star outfielder Clemente (1934-1972), who died in a plane crash during a humanitarian mission to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua. This exhibit will reflect the work, mission and generosity of Clemente. Students will receive certificates, and the top 20 winners will receive special prizes. Music by Yerba Buena. Call 718-402-9310.

That's what I would call a legacy.

Big Ben action figure available

Stocking stuffer. Ryan's on it.

Congratulations Dejan

The P-G has promoted/reassigned Dejan Kovacevic from the Penguins to the Pirates so he's our newest beat writer. Link here. Thanks to Paul for the link.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Sarah's Take has re-published the thoughts of a fan named Sarah. It's the Kendall reference that caught my eye. She thinks Kendall caused a lot of resentment among the Pirates because he made a lot of money. So, the Dodgers shouldn't pay a lot of money to Adrian Beltre.

I'd be curious to learn how she observed this. While I generally believe that stars & scrubs is not the best way to assemble a low-budget baseball team, I don't understand how a fan can say she saw resentment among Kendall's 2004 teammates. And, for the record, I don't think Kendall's salary last year was as much as an albatross as it would have been in the final year of his contract. There's no evidence that the Pirates' sub-.500 season had anything to do with the portion of total payroll consumed by Kendall's salary. There appears to be a reading of Littlefield's Alex Rodriguez comments which infers that the GM and maybe some fans blame Kendall's salary for the Pirates' inability to win a lot of games the last few years. While I don't know what the GM meant by those comments, I doubt that's what he meant to suggest. The problem with Kendall's salary is that it grows year after year. And as it grows, it would continue to restrict the team's ability to pay his teammates more than a scrub's salary if, as I think we all anticipate, the current ownership does not significantly grow the team's annual payroll.

I think the trade looks OK for the Bucs because it frees money that can be used for the eventually arbitration-eligible guys we want to keep. Redman looks like a good replacement for Sean Burnett and, as unfashionable as it may be, I still think Rhodes is a bad-ass with at least one more dominant set-up season in his tank. All that said, we have to wait a few years before we can judge the trade with any justified conclusions. I've read a lot of commentary on the Kendall trade that reminds me of the cocksure snap judgments that were issued after the Pirates sent Giles to San Diego.

One more thing. Scroll to the bottom of Sarah's piece and click on her link. Is this something that would be called a blog?

Mother of All Depth Charts

Check it out.

Looks dubious to me. No way Albaladejo fits in the 2005 Lynchburg rotation.

Ah, just kidding. All hail Wilbur Miller.

Bucs in Winter Ball

Ed Eagle catches us up on Vogelsong, Castillo, Bautista, Ronny Paulino, and Leo Nunez.

How many years before we get these winter ball games on streaming audio? I'd kinda like to listen to one of Vogelsong's starts.

No great demand for Nunez, Alvarez, or Rivera

All three cleared waivers and become free agents. Thanks to Tom Veil for calling our attention to it.

On even more Steroids

Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful and wise and eloquent comments in the last thread.

Ban 'em I say. If that's what people want, give it to them.

If steroids are to be banned because they are hazardous to the athlete's health, OK.

If steroids are to be banned because young people might get the (possibly mistaken) idea that they improve a player's ability to compete, OK.

By the same logic, though, we'd also have to ban nicotine and caffeine. Should we put an asterisk next to Jim Leyland's managerial record because he won all those games on the performance-enhancing quality of cigarettes? Don't say there's a difference. Any serious cigarette smoker will tell you he or she just can't concentrate when they really need to smoke. Children already get the message that cigarettes will make you cool and sexy and athletic from the tobacco companies. And they've been getting that message for more than 100 years. Why shouldn't baseball recognize that cigarettes are harmful to their players and that cigarette (or chew) usage encourages children to pursue false "enhancement"? Ban 'em.

Should we invalidate all trades that are made after the GMs have stayed up all night drinking coffee? After all, there's no doubt that the performance-enhancing effects of caffeine played a role. Did Billy Beane or David Littlefield have an unfair advantage in the negotiations for Jason Kendall because the one had better or more high-potency coffee? Unless we ban coffee from the clubhouse, players will continue to sacrifice good sleep and better nutrition in the name of some false performance advantage. And young children will grow up thinking they have to consume eighteen lattes a week if they want to be General Manager.

Protect the kids, yes. Amen to that. The best way to protect the kids is to talk sense to them. They won't get the idea that juicing up will necessarily improve their ability to hit a baseball if their parents talk responsibly about the role steroids and muscle mass play in the ballplayer's ability. The way the current Hate-Barry debate is going, kids are getting the message that steroids, legal and illegal, made him a big home run hitter. They are getting the message that they need to juice up if they want to compete. That's the real shame.

Baseball isn't weightlifting or boxing or sprinting. This is a much more complicated sport. Baseball requires a far greater range of abilities than any of the more limited skill-set Olympic sports. To state categorically that legal and illegal steroids are "performance-enhancing" oversimplifies the game far too much for me. Caffeine is performance-enhancing. So is nicotine. So is Viagra. So is Prozac. So is spinach (well, maybe only for some people). LSD was performance-enhancing for Dock Ellis, to hear him talk about his experience that day. I'll agree that maybe sign-stealing is "part of the game," but putting Vaseline on the ball, or using sandpaper: that is cheating. If cheating is what this is all about, let's drag old Gaylord Perry from the Hall of Fame and give him the witch treatment too.

In the course of a year-round fitness regimen involving all the best medical and motivational advice that money can buy, an athlete uses a cream or a pill that increases the efficiency of his workouts by some unknown and unproven increment. He goes to the ballpark. Maybe he is still capable of hitting a baseball - Marty Cordova became so muscle-bound, he lost the flexibility to swing the bat as he once did. And maybe he is not facing a pitcher who, because of his own illegal perfromance-enhancing hobbies, throws just like pitchers used to throw in the old days. If he can still hit and the pitcher is not equally juiced, maybe the batter hits the ball another five or ten feet if he makes contact.

And this is more serious that applying a foreign substance to a ball that makes it dance and move in some unnatural fashion? I can't believe that.

Because I'm not all that alarmed about the way Perry cheated, I can't get upset and believe that Bonds would have hit 37 home runs instead of 73 home runs had he only worked out like mad and not used "the clear" or whatever it was he used.

The role of steroids in baseball performance is not simple. Bud Selig will serve up a simplistic solution because that's what the fans appear to want right now. No politician will ever be caught doing anything less than being "tough on drugs."

I'm sure there will be a witch hunt, the implementation of some draconian drug-testing bureaucracy, and a further increase in ticket prices to pay for Bud's crusade to look good while making the sport safe from this boogeyman.

Because I believe that sports operates as an outlet or an escape for most people, when they get really upset about something in sports, I usually suspect they are displacing some concern or anger about something else. Maybe they are pissed that their boss raided their pensions or that their son didn't get into an exclusive college. Maybe they have gotten older and can't hit a baseball out of the infield anymore. Maybe a hurricane destroyed their orange grove. Maybe they stepped in a puddle and are at work, right now, with wet socks. Maybe they can't or won't recognize or express that anger. Maybe they need a safer target. Some people kick the dog. Some take it out on their kids. Others appear to have found release in hating on the High-Tech High-Paid Disrespectful Home-Run Hitter.

I see all this as a Bad Sign. Something must be very wrong to have people so fired up about some crisis of intergrity in professional sports. The whole Ron Artest thing was just another scene in this unfolding drama. Something is Wrong with the world.

At least we aren't worried about some perceived epidemic of cheating at the circus. When I turned on the radio this morning, I did not hear someone saying, "I don't know what to tell my children now that we know the Alligator Lady is a fraud." For that I'm grateful.

P.S. If we're going to hate on Barry, and as a Pirate fan a part of me wants to do that for the 1990-1992 NLCS performance - let's pick on him for not having won a World Series. Aaron has a ring, Ruth had a bunch of them, even Mark McGwire has a ring. I'd so rather see all this anger channelled into some discussion of the efficacy of the stars & scrubs strategy. Here's the greatest player of all time, or one of the greatest players of all time, and he's unable to lead a team to the ultimate goal.

This is the last I'll write about this for a while because I find the whole subject depressing. Thanks for all your great comments, and thanks in advance for any comments you might want to leave here.

On Steroids

A conscience is the part of you that tells you, immediately and without reflection, if a certain act is lawful or unlawful. It's pretty clear that most everyone knows, in their gut, that it's not right for a ballplayer to use steroids.

I feel that way. But I do think there's a lot of overreaction to the Jason Giambi news. Steroids is cheating but baseball has always been full of cheating. Corked bats. Stolen signs. Overwatered infields. Foreign substances on the ball.

There's no conclusive proof that steroids do anything but help the body heal faster and help the body add muscle mass faster. There's no proof that they do anything to help a hitter hit a ball, and there's no proof that they help a pitcher to hit his spots. There's no proof that they do anything to turn a mediocre player into a superstar. Jason Giambi took them, if reports are to be believed, and so too did Jeremy Giambi.

People are overreacting to the steroids question. People have said that the 1951 Giants stole the pennant and there's been no movement to put an asterisk on their accomplishment. Guys are in the Hall of Fame for careers built on doctoring the baseball. Where is the outrage? There is none. There has always been a lot of winking when it comes to the usual forms of cheating in baseball.

We've always known that athletes have used and abused "recreational" drugs. Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter on LSD. We all know Ricky Williams has been running all stoned but there's no movement to put an asterisk on his accomplishments, either. And we know many athletes played high on cocaine or half-drunk. Amphetamines are reported to be totally common in sports, too. Would anyone have a problem with a ballplayer who's taking Prozac?

So why all the hullabaloo about steroids? What is it about this drug that has so many people convinced that it's the rock-solid iron-clad most-foolproof sure-thing way of cheating?

My response to news that players have been "juiced" is one of pity - it's the same reaction I have to news that players abused and suffered from their use of LSD, cocaine, amphetamines, alcohol, and marijuana. And I can't believe that steroids use is a threat to the "integrity of the game." Why do some people worry more about the integrity of a game than they worry, say, about the integrity of a business, of a political policy, of a college degree, or of a religious vow? The "integrity" of baseball was sacrificed long ago and since it's sport, it's no worse for wear for this habitual wanting of virtue and consistency.

On the scale of cheats, I'd rank steroid use below putting vaseline on the ball. I'd rank steroid use below sign-stealing schemes which involve more than one person. (If one person cheating in secret is bad, worse is two or more players helping each other to cheat.) My guess is that steroids have had no more impact on the outcome of games than alcohol, which is to say that it's probably had some influence but no more influence than dozens or even hundreds of other factors which have come and gone over the last hundred-and-fifty years.

If steroids helped players get stronger, it's not very clear that they helped the hitters more than it helped the pitchers. If they helped players heal faster and get back on the field, then I don't see why we should complain about them.

Compounding the dubious "criminality" of steroid use is the fact that they were legal until last year. And now that Bud Selig has banned some of them, I can still walk into any mall and go home with a big jug of Creatine. Are the illegal versions of steroids that much more effective than the legal ones?

Something tells me this is all about the home run record. I think that's sad. People can't help themselves from barrelling down this train of thought: Steroids -> Muscle -> Home Runs. Never mind the fact that this is only one of the many logical consequences of steroid use. How about Steroids -> Muscle -> Career-ending ligament damage? Or Steroids -> Muscle -> A home-run-preventing extra 5 mph on the fastball?

The more important question is this: who gives a damn about the home run record? I'd trade one playoff win for a home run record. If the home run record really is the most important thing to baseball fans, then the sport is in worse shape than I thought.

The fact that this might go down as the steroids era is sad, but no more sad that the fact that other eras might be remembered as the alcohol era, the cocaine era, the amphetamine era, the sign-stealing era, the spitball era, the vaseline era, the pine tar era, the body armor era, or the what have you era.

The game is just as strong as it has ever been. And it has just as much integrity as it has ever had.

Play ball.

Honest Wagner NFL pick 'em: week 13

snf 10.5 STL ..STL ..snf ..STL
buf -3.5 MIA ..MIA .buf* ..buf
car 01.5 NWO .car* ..NWO ..NWO
hou 06.5 NYJ ..hou ..NYJ .NYJ*
atl 01.5 TAB ..atl .atl* ..TAB
cin 06.5 BAL ..cin ..cin .BAL*
min -7.5 CHI ..CHI ..CHI ..min
nwe -7.5 CLE .nwe* .nwe* ..nwe
arz 05.5 DET ..DET .arz* .DET*
ten 10.5 IND ..IND ..ten ..ten
ksc 01.5 OAK .OAK* ..OAK ..ksc
den 02.5 SND .SND* ..SND ..den
nyg 01.5 WAS ..WAS ..nyg ..nyg
gnb 05.5 PHL ..gnb ..gnb .gnb*
pit -3.5 JAX ..pit .pit* .pit*
dal 06.5 SEA ..SEA ..dal .SEA*
Asterisks indicate best bets.

Season to date:
Bones 98-78 .557
Scoop 96-80 .545
Rowdy 91-85 .517

Best bets
Bones 33-22 .600
Rowdy 35-26 .574
Scoop 21-16 .568

Thursday, December 02, 2004

89 days until Spring Training opens

Schedule here.

Charles Johnson no D-Ray

The Denver Post reports that Johnson has some kind of $1M bonus that the D' Rays won't pay. Sounds like his real salary for 2005 is $10M, not $9M, so even if the Rockies absorb $8M it's still going to work out to about $2M per year plus some kind of prospect. Is that such a great deal for whoever takes Johnson off their hands?

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Black and Gold in Baghdad

All hail the troops.

File this one under what it means to be a fan. I like to write on this subject; I'm sure I'll come back to this essay by this apparently-anonymous sports guy. It's a great essay. Go read it.

Japan Times: Bucs interested in Nishi

The Japan Times, today:

Free agent and utility infielder Toshihisa Nishi, who has apparently drawn interest from the Pittsburgh Pirates, put on hold a two-year contract offered by the [Yomiuri] Giants in their talks Tuesday.

The 33-year-old Nishi told the Tokyo-based Central League team that it is difficult for him to respond immediately whether he will return for a 10th season as he hopes to find himself among the players on the checklist of teams at the Dec. 10-13 Major League Baseball winter meetings.

Sounds like the Pirates are getting creative in their search for appropriate free-agent signings. But how do we need another utility infielder? Is he left-handed? What's the angle here?

All hail the Curve

Our elite minor-league franchise.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Guess Craig Wilson's 2005 salary

Ed Eagle's new mailbag reminds me of a fun debate: what will Craig Wilson earn for 2005? Through arbitration or a pre-arbitration deal, at the All-Star Break I thought he'd be looking at David Ortiz money. But then he tailed off. The arbitration process is a little wacky and unpredictable. What do you think he'll make for next year? Surely more than $1.15M.

Honest Wagner NFL pick 'em: week 12 results

Best bets went Scoop 3-1, Bones 3-2, Rowdy 2-1. We got murdered in the guess 'em games. Overall numbers were Scoop 8-8, Bones 7-9, Rowdy 7-9. I stared at the three heavy home favorites (Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Denver) and debated taking all three dogs or all three faves. Overreacting to the predictability of Week 11, I once again indulged one of my pet theories about the NFL - i.e. that Parity is Dead - and went with the faves.

In other news, in our Brown family pick 'em pool, of which Bones and Rowdy are but two members, our charming and accomplished 21-year-old sister is beating the snot out of us with a gaudy .565 winning percentage. She's not old enough to remember the Super Bowl teams.

Bubby Brister may be her earliest Steeler memory. Our sister, we'll call her Annie for now, must have been six years old. She found one of the Steelers helmets that Bones and I used to wear as teenagers when we played "Earl Campbell" in the neighbor's backyard. She put on yellow sweatpants, rubbed black stuff under her eyes, and put on her Bubby Brister jersey. It was Halloween. We took a picture and mailed it to Bubby care of Three Rivers stadium for his amusement.

He mailed it back, which we never expected, with a short message addressed to our sister. "Dear Annie," it said, "Lookin' good!!! Signed, Bubby Brister #6" or whatever his number was, I forget now.

For her sake more than any other reason, I'd love to see the Steelers go to the Super Bowl and win big. Super Bowl XXX was okay but not all that.

Charles Johnson "leaning Pirates"

Joey G sends this report from the Denver Post: Charles Johnson would rather waive his no-trade clause to play in Pittsburgh than in Tampa Bay. Or so they conjecture.

I don't put any stock in this. Everyone knows we all look our best in black and gold, and any ballplayer with half a heart wants to play in Pittsburgh. Of course Charles Johnson would like to be a Pirate.

Next rumor please.

On Park Effects

It's the offseason so now is as good a time as ever to do some thinking about the way baseball players are evaluated and ranked.

One premise that I'd like to throw out there is that team-building strategies that may be sound and even very good in fantasy baseball won't work in real baseball. One example of a fantasy baseball strategy that works in fantasy but doesn't in real life is the "stars and scrubs" strategy. This says put all your eggs in one or two baskets and surround the stars with replacement-level freely-available talent. For now, rather than debate the merits of this strategy, I'd like to just stop with the proposal that we call this team-building strategy "stars and scrubs" and that, in light of Littlefield's recent comments about the A-Rod in Texas model, we agree that it's one the Pirates have considered and rejected.

Fantasy baseball players want good, accurate projections. Non-fantasy fans would also like them too and since most of the first group overlaps with the second group, it's fair to say that the various projection systems available to fantasy gamers (Rotowire's, Primer's ZiPS, Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA, etc.) have a growing influence on the expectations of the fans who actually buy tickets and go to the park.

The better projection systems use "park effects" to translate statistics from one environment to another. The theory is that a park like Coors field inflates offensive statistics in regular and predicable ways. Therefore any given player's real performance data can be "translated" or adjusted by multiplying his raw numbers against "a park effect" number.

The park-effect translation math also plays a key role in the various "unistats," or single measures of a player's overall contribution or value, and these things, be they Win Shares or VORP measures, appear to be having a growing influence as fans debate the relative merits and overall value of individual players.

A problem I have with park effects, as they are currently used (or as they are currently described), is that they seem to me to be amazingly crude and uneven. Some stadiums have years and years of data supporting their park effect. Others are one or two years old. And yet both park effect numbers appear to be trusted equally.

A second way that the park effect measures strike me as really crude is in their apparent inability to discriminate between kinds of players. All Pirate fans know that PNC Park is tougher on right-handed hitters, for example, than it is on left-handed hitters. Yet most park effect measures that I've seen describe the park as something like perfectly neutral. Handedness is only the most obvious way that all hitters can be broken down into subgroups. It seems pretty obvious to me that PNC ought to have one park effect for right-handed hitters and another for left-handed hitters. And ditto for pitchers. How much of an advantage will a lefty like Mark Redman have from PNC Park? So long as the park is described only as neutral, we can't get a good idea of that.

Hitters can be further broken down as power hitters and singles hitters, and pitchers can be broken down as soft-tossers and as power pitchers. Each group should have its own park effect.

The only protest I can imagine against providing more specific park effect numbers - what we need, really, are park effect tables for each park - is that by dividing the data the quality of the sample size will be compromised. Yet park effects are immediately provided for new parks like Petco and, at the end of the year, the VORP calculations of players in that one-year park appear on the same lists as if they were equally valid as the VORP calculations of players who have played half their games in much better-known ballparks.

Finally, I know that many calculations of park effects are not stadium-specific but look instead at the whole schedule of games a team played. So much Coors and so much Dodger stadium goes into some of those Petco numbers. But doesn't that compound the problem even further? The overall park effect number made up by averaging the various effects of all the parks a team played in may work with the aggregate numbers. But aren't these aggregates too muddled for use on the individual level? I wonder. Also, there's a problem with using the previous year's data to project the upcoming year. Last year the Pirates played many of their interleague games on the West Coast. Will those stadiums go into the calculation for the park effect for 2005, when the Pirates won't play any interleague games out there? Shouldn't a 2005 projection with an aggregated park effect measure consider the handful of games they'll play, for example, in Fenway Park? Maybe some of the systems already do this. It's not my intention to specifically single out one projection system or one measure of park effects and call it wrong, but to raise questions we ought to ask about these numbers before we trust them very much.

My guess is that ten years from now, we'll look back at the state of the easily-available advanced metrics today and marvel at their crudity, much as we look as the baseball video games of the 1980s and wonder how we could have ever thought they were so cutting-edge.

Monday, November 29, 2004

More post-Kendall news

Ed Eagle's long report of the trade and the fallout contains more stuff that was news to me.

Eagle quotes Littlefield talking along the lines of the Captain A-Rod argument I've made in defense of a trade in the past:

Despite Kendall's production, his contract had become a burden to an organization looking to rebuild around a core of young and inexpensive players. Kendall still has three years and $34 million remaining on the six-year, $60 million contract he signed prior to the 2001 season. He was expected to take up about one-fourth of the Bucs' projected $40 million payroll in 2005.

"The formula of one player eating up a significant portion of the payroll doesn't work," said Littlefield. "You can look at other teams, you can look at other years and it's just not a formula that is going to enable you to have a lot of success."

A winning team is a fused group, a collection of individuals who are all empowered and capable of rising up and leading in the short-term. Aaron is the hero of game 1, but no matter that he strikes out five times in game 2; Bobby hits two home runs and the team wins again. Aaron and Bobby play terribly in game 3, but Clay strikes out ten and Daniel has a big eighth-inning triple. There can be no permanent leadership; no one person is capable of winning every game by himself. Trot out all the platitudes that have been offered about the 2002-2004 New England Patriots and see if they don't fit this description.

No team can be perfectly egalitarian, but too much pecking order hurts a team's ability to compete. There can be no division of caste in a winning team. The ramifications are many. For example, when one guy makes too large a share, it puts an impossible burden on his shoulders. There's no way he can perform well enough to "earn" that share of the total payroll. Teammates are not impressed with anything less than perfection, which is not possible to achieve. There's more sides to this but it's probably not worth an even long description. Suffice it to say that a team needs to be a rough circle of rough equals if it wants to win a lot of games. There's no other way to create the environment in which the players all take turns being The Man. And unless everyone gets a chance to be The Man, there's no way a baseball team is going to win a lot of games.

I have no idea what Kendall's role was in the chemistry of the clubhouse. I've never met him and I've never been in the clubhouse. But I can see why, in theory, the Captain A-Rod model is doomed to fail. I was never surprised when the Rangers failed to win with him. He was another owner, a player and co-manager, out there on the field, and all the wisdom and technique he had to share in practice only made his teammates look small on game day. Players can't be feeling or looking small if you want to have a winning team. So, I was not surprised to see them win without him. And of course he fits in just fine with the Yankees.

From college I remember Sartre's meditations on the French Revolution. Go read that if you really want to get deep on this subject. No mob will storm the Bastille while a member of the gentry leads them. It's basic human nature: a certain degree of equality is a prerequisite for meaningful team coordination. I'm not sure how Kendall was perceived by his 300K mates, but it didn't look good on paper.

I would like to see a study that compared income distribution and won/loss record. I would expect to see a correlation between payroll and winning, sure, but also a correlation between the equity of payroll distribution and winning. The fact that players have to put in three years at 300K-350K would probably exaggerate differences, however. There will also be guys on the payroll who aren't really on the team - Chan Ho Parks and Darren Dreiforts, for example - who make a shitload but aren't really in the mix of everyday players the way Lordship A-Rod was at Texas. This is a "team chemistry" thing. And it's a strength and a weakness of these arguments that they can't be settled with "advanced metrics." There's just no way any fan is going to know enough of what is going on behind-the-scenes to measure the degree to which the players intimidate, awe, resent, or just plain fuck with each other in the clubhouse.

Back to Eagle's report. Eagle also quotes Littlefield as suggesting the Pirates will get a catcher, but not necessarily a starting one:

With the durable Kendall out of the picture, backup catcher Humberto Cota will see more playing time. However, Cota, who has batted .241 with five home runs and 10 RBIs in 60 career big league games, will not be handed the starting job outright. Littlefield hopes to add a veteran backstop to the mix this offseason.

"We'll probably go out to get a catcher to add to Cota," said Littlefield. "I don't know that we have to designate one as a starting catcher necessarily. We do have a good feeling about Cota in the time that we've had him."

Because the Pirates recently discovered that catching prospect J.R. House still has a minor league option remaining, it is unlikely that the 25-year-old will be in competition for a starting job out of Spring Training.

I look forward to seeing the position settled. The temptation to run with Cota and House is pretty strong, especially if Craig Wilson could catch one day a week, but I have no idea how the Cota/House tandem would handle the young guys and/or if Craig Wilson remains fit for catching duties. Those would be good questions for Paul Meyer or Ed Eagle or David Littlefield. Somebody please ask them.

Finally, Redman said the right things:

"Six big league seasons and five different teams, I'm getting used to it," said Redman. "I'm glad to be back in the National League. I enjoyed it the one year I was in Florida. I look forward to coming there and pitching at PNC Park."

When asked if he was disappointed to be traded to a rebuilding team after spending the previous two seasons in the thick of playoff races, Redman cautioned reporters not to be so quick to count out the young Bucs' chances next season, using his 2003 Marlins team as an example of a club that came out of nowhere to win it all.

"No one expected them to be a championship-type team, especially the first two months of the season," said Redman. "We ended up going on and winning the World Series. Anything can happen in this game of baseball."

I like him already. He's my sleeper pick for the 2005 NL Cy Young award.

...bkopec of Batting Third thinks all the talk about having too much payroll in one player is a bunch of hooey. He found a number of teams with players eating a large share of the payroll and they weren't all bad. To that I'd say I'm not sure it refutes the claim that a team has to be a fused group, or a band of equals, to really succeed. I'm sure this is true in the "team chemistry" department. And while I might be right, bkopec is right to point out that the actual salary numbers probably don't tell us what we need to know about the effect uneven payroll can have on a team's ability to compete. Kendall certainly doesn't seem to have been a problem, and I'm definitely not laying the 2004 won-loss record at Kendall's feet. But he was due for a raise and we do have a whole bunch of other arbitration-eligible players who have also earned a raise. Anyway, huzza for bkopec for writing on the subject.

Trade frees $3M for 2005 payroll

Robert Dvorchak catches us up on this this and other details about the post-trade Pirates.

It sounds like the Pirates will acquire someone like Charles Johnson to catch. J.R. House can be returned to AAA and it sounds like he will return to AAA. Johnson's a guy who hit a ton when batting eighth or ninth in a loaded Chicago lineup. He's one of those guys that can surprise a team if they aren't paying a lot of attention to him as a threat. If you look at his three-year splits by batting position, you see he's only done regular 800 OPS service in the eighth spot. I doubt the Pirates could bat him eighth if they bring him in and pay him $1 or $2 million. His 2000 season - hitting at the bottom of a loaded lineup - and his 20-homer season as a Rockie will be two facts that will have him batting fifth or sixth or seventh for McClendon's team. And if pitchers key on him as one of the Pirates' main threats, they are going to beat him. That would be my expectation.

We can live with a no-hit catcher if he works wonders for the young pitchers. But Charles Johnson would come in with good-hit expectations and the odds are pretty good that he'll disappoint. I'd stay away from him if I was DL.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Redskins at Steelers

So far so good (Steelers 10, Redskins 0). What's up with Ben taking all these sacks? He's been a sackaholic.