The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Friday, January 23, 2009



Doubling up with yesterday's Hit and Run column, I had a chat at BP as well. Alas, it was fraught with technical difficulties that slowed the system considerably, limiting the number of questions I could get to without pulling my hair out:
frampton (Oakland, CA): Thanks for the chat! You alluded in today's article to the difference between lamenting the inclusion of players like Jim Rice to the Hall on the one hand, and pressing for the inclusion of guys like Blyleven and Raines. Is there a pragmatic reason to focus on the latter rather than the former in the sense that the guys with the votes might be more receptive to arguments for inclusion if we don't tell them they're idiots for putting in borderline players? It also sort of seems that the history of the Hall has pretty much rendered moot the argument that only the truly elite should be enshrined . . .

JJ: There are a few things in play here. Arguing against Rice is particularly futile because his admission is a done deal. Not that it didn't stop me from mentioning some of his candidacy's shortcomings today, but my intent was more to focus on the process and its underlying patterns than on the player. Oh the other hand, arguing for Blyleven and Raines is still a worthy cause even if the battle appears to be an uphill one. Second, as contrarian as I may seem relative to the BBWAA electorate, I much prefer the positive angle of arguing for a worthy candidate than against an unworthy one.

Furthermore, in this particular case, I've had enough of bagging on Rice because as I mention, I genuinely did enjoy watching him play and I do feel like he got a raw deal in some quarters. If his admission promotes a bit of healing, so much the better.

Matt A (Raleigh): I've been very interested to hear the thoughts of someone from BP on the Braves' signing of [Derek] Lowe. Got any?

JJ: Moving away from the Hall questions for the time being, I like this signing, though the price is a lot steeper than it should have been based on the reports of what the Mets were offering. Lowe is an ultra-durable groundballer who's solidified into a much better pitcher since leaving Boston, even beyond the obvious advantages of his move from Fenway to Dodger Stadium, park- and leaguewise. Over the last four years, he ranked 11th in the majors in SNLVAR, 10th in innings, and 12th in ERA+. While he's entering his age 36 season, there's nothing about him that suggests he's a particular health risk or that he's at risk of a sudden collapse.

The bigger issue for the Braves, however, is that while Lowe and recently acquired Javier Vazquez are both solid #2-type starters, neither is anywhere near the caliber of Johan Santana or Cole Hamels, the NL East's big guns.

AlexBelth (Bronx, NY): Jay, do you ever recall an off-season when so many veteran players were unsigned by this point? It's one thing when you are talking about Junior Griffey who has little value left, and a guy like Manny or to a lesser degree Abreu, who while in decline, can still provide...something.

JJ: My man Alex! I think you'd have to go back to the collusion era (1985-1987 offseasons) to find so many big names out there who remain unsigned. While I'm not suggesting anything so nefarious is afoot, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if a decade from now somebody unearths evidence to the contrary there.

Doubling this up with another good question you've asked ("Has your analytical work been more difficult this year with all these free agents still out there in limbo?") I think the offseason climate created by the economy and the slow pace of player movement has provided one of the more daunting challenges I've ever faced in this industry. Teams like the Brewers and Dodgers (both of whom I cover in BP09) still haven't come close to completing their offseason work with regards to replacing big guns like CC Sabathia and Manny Ramirez, making any legitimate assessment of their 2009 chances very difficult.

Snakedoctor18 (New York): Who should be the Yankees opening day CF in 2009?

JJ: Has the ship sailed on Zombie Mickey Mantle yet?

I'm certainly not wowed by the Yankees' in-house options, a pool that nominally includes Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, Johnny Damon and Nick Swisher. I don't think the latter two can carry the position defensively anymore, and I'm less than wowed by the offense offered by either of the former two, unless Cabrera has spent the entire winter being beaten over the head with a fungo bat in an effort to impart the slightest modicum of common sense into his thick skull.

Which means that a better solution must lie outside the organization. I'd be willing to see if Jim Edmonds has anything left given his rebound with the Cubs.
I appreciate those of you out there who dropped by. Fair amount of Yankees, Dodgers, Mets, Brewers and Hall of Fame chatter in there for those interested in reading more.


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