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Talking Baseball

Your weekday baseball fix. Some days.



Posted by Jon on Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Another A-Rod Article

Not to pile on another helping when you’re just beginning to finish your plate, but I fear that I must comment, at least a little, about Alex in his new home, competitive balance, The Rivalry, and the Rangers.

Morning Bells

Don’t you love the weekends, when you don’t have to set your alarm and can slowly wake up to a beautiful morning without the responsibilities associated with the work week? Each night I cherish the little sleep I manage to engineer into my schedule. The sound I most revile in life? The incessant beeping of my alarm clock, which hits me day after day after day, making me cringe in its presence. Even after a peaceful and long sleep, it’s a sound I can’t endure. But after many restless nights, the sound becomes unbearable.

After a fervent summer in Boston, Sox fans were content to enjoy a mighty slumber after Game Six ended, Josh Beckett single-handedly sending Derek Jeter and the rest of New York to bed without dessert. We Bostonian Rip Van Winkles were brusquely awoken from our blissful dreams of anticipation on February 16th to most abrasive alarm clock in Red Sox Nation – more like an air raid siren. I don’t blame us for being a bit cranky in the morning. We were pissed! The best player in baseball, the man penciled in as our starting shortstop for years to come only months ago is now – gulp – a Yankee? The snooze button was gone and the alarm clock has not stopped drumming away at our hearts.

In a stupor, we tried to shout the Yankees down: “MLB is in trouble!”, “Nobody can compete with the Yankees!”, “We need a salary cap!”, and of course, “George is ruining baseball!” We said that we couldn’t compete. We said it was all over. But now we’ve been up for a while. We’re fully awake and a little closer to sanity. Dream space is no place for objectivity. Now that we’re awake, let’s try to tackle the A-Rod issues objectively.

Yes, the Yankees just added Alex Rodriguez: The Best Player in Baseball. Yeah, they also added six other All-Stars during the off-season (one of which shouldn’t count because his name is Tony Clark). On the face of it, things look bad for Sox fans. But don’t forget that they also lost six All-Stars since October in Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, David Wells, Jeff Nelson, Alfonso Soriano, and Aaron Boone. So the Yankees have netted themselves a total of only one All-Star player, and with the impending addition of Travis Lee, Tony Clark may have already seen the last of his playing time as a Yankee. The Yankees lost a lot of talent this off-season, so it stands to reason that they would stock up on enough talent to fill their vacancies. Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta have done exactly this for years, replacing lost players with the talent to fill the void. Money aside, the Yankees filled their holes. Following is a list of their impact losses and additions, including each player’s 2003 Win Shares and VORP. (I’ll discuss the Win Shares below. I added VORP just for the hell of it.)

YANKEES' OFF-SEASON ADDITIONS
..............Win Shares.........VORP
Gordon........11.................21
Quantrill.....11.................29
Vazquez.......21.................55
Sheffield.....35.................79
Lofton........18.................19
Clark.........4..................7
Brown.........20.................60
Rodriguez.....32.................86
TOTAL GAIN....152................356

YANKEES' OFF-SEASON LOSSES
..............Win Shares.........VORP
Clemens.......15.................37
Pettitte......15.................27
Wells.........14.................36
Nelson........6..................7
Johnson.......14.................30
Weaver........2.................-12
Hammond.......7..................18
Soriano.......27.................59
Boone.........23.................29
TOTAL LOSS....123................231

YANKEES' OFF-SEASON NET GAINS
..............Win Shares.........VORP
..............+29................+125
Now, let’s do the same for Boston’s off-season, which was less active than New York.

RED SOX' OFF-SEASON ADDITIONS
..............Win Shares.........VORP
Foulke........21.................35
Schilling.....15.................49
Reese.........2.................-5
Burks.........13.................7
TOTAL GAIN....51.................86

RED SOX' OFF-SEASON LOSSES
..............Win Shares.........VORP
Walker........15.................22
Suppan........14.................31
Howry.........0.................-3
Jackson.......2.................-4
Jones.........1.................-6
Merloni.......1.................-1
Chen..........0..................0
Fossum........3.................-2
Lyon..........5..................7
TOTAL LOSS....41.................44

RED SOX OFF-SEASON NET GAINS
..............Win Shares.........VORP
..............+10................+42
This may not be the best manner of going about determining who won and who lost this off-season, but it is a fairly decent method of analysis. Players can improve, players can slump, and injuries can occur that change the landscape of the season, but please bear with my analysis.

The Yankees obviously added more talent and more free agents, but they had more holes to fill as they lost six players with 14 or more Win Shares last season. Boston only lost two such players, one of which had no place on the team after the Red Sox finalized their rotation by adding Schilling.

Whereas we can reasonably presume that Schilling and Reese, if uninjured, will produce more than they did last season, the Yankees acquired players who peaked in 2003 and may have trouble eclipsing those numbers. Both Schilling’s and Reese’s production suffered due to injuries in 2003. If healthy next season (a reasonable prediction considering their injuries were not of the lingering variety) we can conservatively predict Schilling to tack on an additional five Win Shares and Pokey to add another four.

By adding nine Win Shares to the Red Sox net off-season Win Shares calculated above, the Red Sox end up with a net gain of 19 Win Shares, only ten fewer than the Yankees – or the equivalent of only about three wins. Three wins can mean everything in baseball, but if these teams are no further than three games apart according to opening day talent, the Red Sox have just about as good of a shot of beating out the Yankees as the Yankees do of beating out the Red Sox. New York is the favorite, but Red Sox Nation need not lose hope. So Sox fans, don’t complain that the Yankees have once again beaten us in the off-season! New York was required to add more talent because they lost so much in the off-season.

The Yankees obviously feel threatened by the Red Sox. Without the Red Sox lurking in the fog, Steinbrenner wouldn’t have forced such a flurry of moves. Cashman knew that without Rodriguez, the ‘Evil Empire’ wasn’t good enough to beat the Red Sox.

So Bostonians, I implore you: wake up, stretch, and throw that damn alarm clock out the window. As a Sox fan, I embrace the fact that Theo is pushing the Yankees towards the brink of desperation! The Yankees have added seven All-Stars since the end of the 2003 season, and the Red Sox are still in position to challenge them all the way into October. Despite your initial reactions, it’s a wonderful morning for Sox fans.

A Monopoly on Pitching

Remember when I wrote an article questioning whether the two worst teams in baseball, if they combined their players into one team, would be able to compete with the Red Sox, presumed to be the best team in baseball? To quickly recap, the combined Tigers and Reds didn’t stand a chance against Boston.

OK, I guess that wasn’t such a big surprise. But how out of whack is competitive balance in baseball? Even before the A-Rod excitement this weekend, Baseball Prospectus posed a similar question to mine, comparing a combined team of the two best (and richest) teams in baseball, the Yankees and Red Sox, to a combined team of the best of the rest, from all other major league rosters. If the saying holds true that it’s really pitching that wins ballgames, then anybody in baseball pushing for competitive balance should avert their eyes, for what follows is downright miserable.

After adjusting Dayn Perry’s numbers for the A-Rod/Soriano trade, the non-Sox/Yanks team still has a better lineup according to VORP. The relievers on the Sox/Yanks are relatively comparable to a bullpen of the rest of the best. But the rest of the league can’t compare to a rotation shared by the Red Sox and Yankees. Their five best starters according to VORP were better last season than the best pitchers in the rest of the league. It isn’t even close! A rotation of Prior, Halladay, Wood, Hudson, and Loaiza would surely dazzle, but not as brilliantly as a rotation of Pedro, Vazquez, Mussina, Schilling, and Brown. And if Prior was somehow finagled from Chicago to an AL East powerhouse, the Yanks/Sox pitching staff would boast baseball’s five best pitchers of 2003. Ridiculous? I think so. If pitching wins ballgames, the 2004 World Series winner is in the AL East. To be sure, neither Pedro nor Schilling came through Boston’s farm system, and you can be sure that neither Mussina, nor Vazquez, nor Brown came out of New York’s minor league system. All of these players were essentially bought. What a surprise! Money breeds success in life and in baseball.

Go Go Texas Rangers

I keep going back and forth about the utility of this trade for the Rangers since it occurred. At first I was flabbergasted by the fact that Texas wasn’t going to receive the Yankee’s top prospect, and that they had to pay so much for basically just Soriano (the Yankees are fresh out of decent prospects). Then I actually looked it up and discovered that in 2003, the Win Shares that A-Rod (32) and Soriano (27) accumulated were nearly identical. Yes, A-Rod was injured, but that type of injury could nag him for a while. And no, I’m not arguing that Soriano is a better player than Rodriguez (I have long disdained Alfonso’s approach at the plate). But last year, Soriano was only two wins worse than A-Rod. Looking at it as purely price-per production, Alex is clearly not worth the extra $10 million they would have spent on him this season had he not been traded. But then I thought about this: Hicks actually agreed to pay the New York Yankees – America’s richest sports franchise – $67 million to take on A-Rod’s contract.

At first I wondered how foolish can one man could be. First Hicks authorizes signing him for $252 million over ten years, and then he offers to pay another $67 million to get rid of him? In what scenario could this possibly make sense? I can’t help but feel that the Rangers got screwed, but I can’t tell if they were screwed by A-Rod, by A-Rod’s agent Scott Boras, by the Yankees, or by themselves. Or maybe it was a combination of factors. But the certainly were exploited – out of $73 million for Rodriguez over the last three seasons, and now for $67 million more. Average that out and the Rangers will end up paying A-Rod $140 million dollars for three years of service in Texas, or over $46 million per year of service at the Ballpark in Arlington. Say it with me now: “Wow.” That’s almost double what Hicks thought they’d be paying him per season over the course of that outrageous contract.

The Bane of Talking Baseball

Scott Boras has done it again! Reports are circulating widely that Boras’ client Greg Maddux is has signed with the Cubs for $24 million over three years. Forget the fact that contract immensely overvalues Maddux. Let’s talk about the negotiations. Last night reports from New York said that the Yankees were about to sign Maddux. These reports were soon deemed untrue. To this Boras basher it appears as if Scotty’s done it again.

I am willing to assume that Boras purposefully leaked a bogus story about the Yankees’ interest in Maddux to jack up his price for the Cubs because, in truth, they were the only real bidder for his services. After this little shenanigan, the Cubs suddenly agree to pay New York dollars, upping their offer from $14 million to $15 million over two years (proposed on Monday) to $24 million over three years. I’m sure Boras was sitting by the phone, waiting for the Cubs, desperate for Maddux, to outbid nobody but themselves in signing the aging right-hander.


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