The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Things I'd like to see

A week or so ago what I would have used to head up this list would have been something along the lines of seeing the Marlins use Dontrelle Willis as a pinch hitter. Well, we saw that this weekend, and while the results weren’t great (he grounded out), it was exciting nonetheless. Here are some other things that I would like to see sometime soon, but probably won’t. Please feel free to suggest your own via email or the comments section.

1. Derek Jeter dropped in the Yankees lineup and moved to second base. Jeter isn’t having much luck at the plate this year; he’s much more of a hacker than a hitter. Since the Yankees are likely to be in a tight race for the playoffs all season, it doesn’t make much sense for the Yankees to let him work himself out of his season long funk at the top of their lineup. Move him down in the order Joe, and give those at bats to someone who is actually going to get on base.

It is also probably time to move Jeter from shortstop to second base. Yes, I’m well aware that Jeter’s fielding percentage is amongst the league leaders so far this year. But by that same logic, I haven’t made any errors at shortstop this year, and I’m sure that some of you would argue that I – in poor shape and not having taken a grounder in years – have as much range as Mr. Jeter. Defensive statistics such as zone ratings and range factors are limited and imprecise, but they consistently (over the years and this year) come back saying that Derek Jeter is not a great shortstop. Plus, the best shortstop of the modern era, and possibly of all time,, is playing in the same infield as Jeter, so let play short.

In addition to all of this, the crop of potential new second baseman for the Yankees was severely diminished recently when Expos’ second baseman Jose Vidro signed a four year contract extension. There has also been talk recently that former Yankees’ third baseman, and off-season basketball player, Aaron Boone may be healthy enough to return this year. Sure, Boone could play second base, but signing him and playing him at third would free up to play short, which then allows Jeter’s lack of range and defensive abilities to be hidden at second base (question to Yankees fans – would you rather have a 2B-SS combination of Alfonso Soriano and Derek Jeter or Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez? Too bad Alfonso Soriano and Alex Rodriguez isn’t an option).

In addition, since Boone is likely to be relatively affordable to sign when he’s healthy enough to return, this will keep additional dollars available (c’mon – at some point the Yankees have to at least blink when they’re talking about this kind of money – have you seen what they contribute to revenue sharing?), which could likely be applied to the acquisition of Royals’ super-star center fielder Carlos Beltran. While I’ll be sad to see the Yankees add another All-Star to their star studded lineup, I will be glad to see Beltran leave the AL Central Division (assuming of course that the White Sox can’t find a way to acquire him).

2. The Florida Marlins should trade Josh Beckett. Yes, Beckett is the reigning World Series MVP and was a star throughout the playoffs and late last year during the regular season. He’s young and was a high draft pick (2nd overall) not that long ago.

He’s also relatively expensive (making somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.5 to $2 million per year) in Marlins terms and his salary will only increase as he approaches free agency eligibility. He also owns a .500 winning percentage to date for his career. My mother would likely compare Josh Beckett to the girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead. When he’s good, he’s very, very good, but when he’s bad, he’s very, very bad. The problem with Josh – sometimes he’s great and sometimes he’s a lot less than great, but you never quite know what you’re going to get. That isn’t really a reason to trade Beckett though.

The reasons to trade Beckett are much deeper than the performances Beckett has actually delivered on the field. It’s about his potential. Beckett is 24 years old and is a prototypical fireballer, even straight to the Major Leagues, just like Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, and Kerry Wood before him. Scouts look at Beckett and drool. Opposing managers and general managers do the same. The consensus around the league is that Beckett has the potential to be a top of the rotation, number one starter for the next decade or so, possibly even the better part of the next two decades (if he’s able to sustain Nolan Ryan or Roger Clemens-like health).

What that means is that other teams will be willing to pay to acquire Beckett. In many ways, this could be a smart move for the Marlins, particularly because Beckett has, at least so far – sans the 2003 post-season – lived up to the hype that surrounds him. Typically teams wait until a player is in a free agent year (or approaching free agent eligibility for the first time – as would be the likely case with Beckett) before they start to consider trading the player (or offering a long term contract). The problem with this strategy is that by that time, other teams already know that you’re in a bind. They know that you’re about to risk losing this player in free agency, at which time every team will have an equal shot of negotiating with said player. What typically happens when such a trade goes down is that a high caliber player, such as Beckett, is usually traded for less than their fair market value because the acquiring team almost sees it as a rental situation (or the team holds onto the player, loses him in free agency, and is compensated with a highly speculative draft pick in the next year’s amateur draft). They’re getting the player’s services for the remainder of the season, but they have little or no guarantees after that. If the Marlins were to trade Beckett in such a scenario they could expect to receive some journeymen and/or so-so prospects in return.

By trading Beckett now, when the acquiring team would have the opportunity to use Beckett’s services for more than part of one season (actually, for nearly three seasons) before he became eligible for free agency, the Marlins are much more likely to be able to acquire value in return for him. This will help the Marlins to stave off the likely result of eventually losing him (since he will one day command a top dollar, long term free agent contract – which for a pitcher is rarely a good bargain, at least from the team’s perspective) and would allow them to receive players in return who would allow them to be competitive now and in the future.

In short, Beckett’s trade value will probably never be higher. I’m also not convinced that his ceiling is really higher than what we’ve seen of him so far in his career. If he’s going to be a .500 pitcher for the rest of his days in the majors, the Marlins might be best served to trade him, since a .500 pitcher is generally available in the farm system, via free agency, or via a trade. Trading Beckett especially makes sense if another team still sees the top of the rotation, build your team around this guy type of potential in Beckett that so many (including the Marlins) apparently have over the years.

3. Move the Expos to New York. This analysis will be sufficiently under-developed, but I think that most of you will understand my point. Moving the Expos to Northern Virginia, the DC area, Portland, or Mexico is not significantly better than just leaving the team in Montreal. If the team was run by an owner with deep pockets and was run well, the baseball product could work as well in Montreal as it would work in any of the potential relocation sites.

Better than any of that though would be to move the Expos to New York. Although it’s before my time, way back when, back when New York was smaller and when there were fewer teams in the league, New York supported three viable major league franchises (the Yankees, Giants, and Dodgers). Sure, the Giants and Dodgers left town, but that was more because of opportunities out West than a lack of support in New York. New York City is the biggest city in the country, and as evidenced by the Yankees and Mets abilities to continually spend money lavishly on players, there’s plenty of fan interest. Adding a third (and possibly even a fourth or fifth) team to the New York metro area would reduce the Yankees dominance (at least in terms of acquiring players if not in terms of World Series rings of late) and would help restore competitive balance (in terms of each team’s ability to acquire players) throughout the league. This wouldn’t make the Yankees or the Mets a poor team or the equivalent of a small market team – not by any stretch. It would simply put them more towards the stratosphere of the Dodgers, Red Sox, Cubs, White Sox, Phillies, and Braves in terms of resources. This would, essentially, be good for everyone except the Yankees and Mets.

Another proposal, launched half in jest I think on's page 2 last week (which I unfortunately can't find a link to), was to sell the Expos as a public company. This is possibly the most fabulous idea that I have heard to date. I haven’t run the numbers, but I think this would make sense for the greedy owners who are collectively running the Expos currently (as the IPO could be set up to make them obscene profits) and would likely turn the Expos (or whatever they’ll be renamed to) into one of – if not the – most popular team in all of Major League Baseball (besides, then all of us regular people could become like George Will and sign our tax returns each year as “Baseball owner” for our occupation). Think about it – you’d probably buy a few shares. That would be a nice little certificate to buy and hang up on your wall. Only a few teams are publicly held today – the Green Bay Packers and Boston Celtics come to mind – and I don’t believe any of them are in Major League Baseball. Make the Expos a publicly owned company and relocate them to Las Vegas and I think you’d have something pretty interesting.


Post a Comment

<< Home