December 2011


Baseball was better when the A's didn't have to send their best players away every year.

This week, the Oakland A’s made a trade, sending their best starting pitcher, Gio Gonzalez, to the Washington Nationals for four prospects. A couple of days later, they sent their All-Star closer, Andrew Bailey, along with outfielder Ryan Sweeney to the Boston Red Sox for Josh Reddick and two more young players.

Gonzalez and Bailey, you see, were arbitration eligible and in line to get big raises. But the A’s don’t do big raises. They can’t with their payroll essentially maxed-out at $66 million. That dollar figure is expected to drop, and keep dropping unless the A’s can increase revenue streams.

They play in a stadium unsuited for baseball, in a relatively poor part of California’s Bay Area. But that could change if they’re allowed to move and build a new park in San Jose.

And if it weren’t for the Giants, claiming territory rights on San Jose, a region 50 miles from the San Francisco park, the A’s might have been able to do it by now. (more…)

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Say Hey! Yuniesky is back in Kansas City... or something.

Yuniesky Betancourt is not a great player. By most accounts, he’s not even a good player, or slightly below average. He’s in competition for the coveted title of  “Worst Everyday Player in Baseball.”

His 2011 numbers with Milwaukee back that up. in 152 games, all at shortstop save for a few pinch hits, Betancourt hit .252 for a .652 OPS, which adjusts down to a 75 OPS+. He did hit 13 home runs, but walked only 16 times. He’s a slap hitter with signs of pop but no real discipline, and he’ll be 30 years old before Opening Day. If he hits a peak, he probably already has.

With that in mind, it’s not hard to understand the outrage with the Royals signing him to a contract for 2012, if there can be such a feeling regarding the signing of an infielder in Kansas City. Even when that infielder has recently been underwhelming in the same uniform. And the “underwhelming” tag comes without much in the way of initial expectations. (more…)

The Captain.

The Red Sox’ offseason has been an exercise in plugging small holes. The core of the team is intact and, in terms of the roster, the team has happily recognized that September was more fluke than disease, and are working in filling in the gaps around the important parts — Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury, and so on.

Jonathan Papelbon is out, but Mark Melancon is in to fill his spot in the bullpen. Nick Punto replaces the traded Jed Lowrie in the infield. Daniel Bard will shift to the starting rotation.

And, following stops in Cleveland and Tampa, Kelly Shoppach returns to Boston. He also marks the closing of the book on the captain. (more…)

I was asked ever-so-nicely to contribute to Baseball-Prose.com this offseason, and I have a piece up there today outlining how I channeled my baseball obsession through the little-discussed Bases Loaded 3 for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Included: my customized Red Sox, the mythical Bases Loaded 3 league and notes from the 1990s, all working to chronicle how much time I had on my hands as a 15-year-old.

So, please, read and enjoy.

Luis Tiant long ago earnd a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Ron Santo, the great Chicago Cubs third baseman of the 1960s and ‘70s, had the title of “Greatest Baseball Player Not in the Hall of Fame” removed from beside his name this week, when the Veterans Committee elected him into Cooperstown, as part of their “Golden Era” ballot.

This is an event that should be celebrated. Santo, long a great ambassador of the game, was one of the best players to man third base, an under-represented position in the Hall. He was the heart of the Cubs for more than a decade, hit with power, played with grace and performed at a high level while keeping his diabetes in check in an era that wasn’t as kind to sufferers of the disease, both in perception and treatment.

Of course, this is also an event to be ridiculed. Santo was first eligible for induction in 1980, and won’t be able to enjoy his induction in person — he died last year.

Why he was kept out for so many years, and why the voters suddenly saw him eligible after he left the Earth, is anyone’s guess. There are a lot of flaws with the election system and debate over what makes a player worthy of enshrinement. Some say they can just “feel” it, that they know a Hall of Famer when they see one, and don’t need to think about it. Others hold firm to statistical evidence, coldly drawing a line in the mathematical sand — per position, this guy is in, this guy is out, and there’s no debate. (more…)

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