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, August 14, 2009


Friday on My Mind

Since we last spoke...

• Tuesday's Todd Helton piece generated enough discussion and had enough leftovers that I took a second look at Helton's Hall case, this time in the context of his contemporaries at first base -- much as I did here.

• Along with colleagues Kevin Goldstein, Marc Normandin and John Perrotto, and ESPN Insider's Matt Meyers, I was part of a roundtable (BP/ESPN) on young pitchers who struggle to fulfill expectations, with Clay Buchholz, Homer Bailey and Mike Pelfrey being the prime examples. Here's a taste of the beginning of the piece:
Matt Meyers, ESPN Insider: The one guy I can't figure out is Clay Buchholz. The Red Sox righty burst on the scene with a no-hitter in 2007, but has not been able to sustain any sort of success in the majors. However, his 2.36 ERA and 8.1 K/9 at Triple-A this season show us he has little left to prove in the minors. I'll channel my inner Jerry Seinfeld and ask, "What's the deal with Clay Buchholz?"

John Perrotto: There are some around the Red Sox who believe Buchholz enjoyed the trappings of the immediate stardom that came with throwing a no-hitter in his second career start, and that was a major distraction. You can get by on pure stuff in Triple-A, but it's a different story in the majors.

Marc Normandin: Agreed. Buchholz has great stuff, and he throws a ton of first-pitch strikes. But for some reason, he walks too many hitters (4.9 BB/9 for his MLB career). He needs to sort out the "how" of pitching to go along with his natural talent.

Jay Jaffe: I think it's fair to say that few players in baseball have had as much pressure thrust upon them as Buchholz. Ever since the no-hitter, his name has been floated as the key to so many potential big trades (Johan Santana, Roy Halladay, Felix Hernandez), so every lousy start raises the question of, "What if they'd traded him for X ... "
• Today's Hit List finds the Yankees edging out the Dodgers for the top spot by a single Hit List Factor point, a gap closed by last night's 11-1 win for the Yanks as the Dodgers sat idle. The real fun is further down the list:
[#12 Blue Jays] Talentless: J.P. Ricciardi makes the biggest salary dump in baseball history when he lets Alex Rios go to the White Sox via waivers for nothing but salary relief from the $61 million remaining on his contract through (gulp) 2014. It's a move which obviously saves the Jays a pretty penny, but it's merely the latest embarrassing gaffe in a series which has seen the GM's name become synonymous with awful contracts, not to mention some awkward attempts to evade their full impact. On the field, Marco Scutaro continues to be the exception that proves the rule when it comes to Ricciardi's penchant for buying high; he's hitting .296/.387/.441 and ranking in the top five in both walks and runs while earning a base salary of $1.1 million.

[#13 White Sox] My Final Offer is This: Nothing: The White Sox score themselves a potential long-term solution in center field by claiming Alex Rios on waivers from the Blue Jays and refusing to submit to J.P. Ricciardi's demands of any talent in return to offset the $61 million remaining on his deal. It's a bold and obviously costly move, but his defensive numbers suggest he can cover the middle pasture which more easily justifies the investment in a 28-year-old hitting to a .275 EqA tune in a down year. Add in the fact that Jake Peavy is beginning a rehab assignment, and it's clear the AL Central race is about to get interesting.

[#21 Mets] No Drama: It's a relatively uneventful week for the Mets, with no executive firings or pratfalls, just peace, quiet and losing as befits a team whose Playoff Odds have fallen below 0.2 percent. The team does reward those masochistic enough to still pa attention with another injury setback (Carlos Delgado) and some late-inning heartbreak, as Francisco Rodriguez yields five ninth-inning runs to the Padres in Petco, an occurrence whose extreme unlikelihood breaks the Baseball Prospectus Infinite Improbability Drive.
For some reason, the Jays are often one of the last team's I get to when I'm writing the weekly Hit List, but they move to the front of the line when Ricciardi gets on a roll with his idiotic antics. And for that, I'm very grateful.

Plus, anything that give me an excuse to quote a Godfather movie is all good.

• • •

My Toledo radio hit
, which was rescheduled for Thursday due to a chaotic Wednesday for Norm Wamer and company.

• • • 

My deepest sympathies go out to Can't Stop the Bleeding snarkmeister/Matador Records co-owner Gerard Cosloy, whose Austin, Texas home burned to the ground at 3 AM on Tuesday morning. The cause of the fire is still unknown, but officials estimate it did about half a million dollars worth of damage, and by the looks of it, Cosloy lost everything that was in the house. Fortunately, he himself is safe. He told the Austin American-Statesman "There are a lot of people who have a lot less than I do who deal with a lot worse, but this is pretty bad."

To say I've been a fan of Matador Records since the early Nineties would be an understatement. Along with labels like Sub Pop, Touch and Go and SST, they're one of the definitive indie rock labels. I've got at least a hundred Matador albums in my collection from artists like Guided by Voices, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, the New Pornographers, Pavement, Pussy Galore, Railroad Jerk, Yo La Tengo and others, and that's without even touching upon how much some of those albums have meant to me over the past two decades.

So it was quite a joy to discover Cosloy was in the blogging game a few years ago, and that he was keeping at least an occasional watch on this site. After years of link-swapping, we finally met through mutual friend Nick Stone as the three of us attended a Yankees game back in June. But even if I'd never met him, I'd feel for him in the same way I felt for two other blogging brethren who found themselves in the same painful circumstance, Christian Ruzich and Larry Mahnken. I'm a bit of a pack rat, to say the least, with several lifetimes worth of stuff in our Brooklyn apartment — books, music, computers, artwork, memorabilia, photos, clothing — that I can't imagine living without, and more of the same in storage. Hell, I'm still smarting over the four CDs that got lost when our rooftop party was interrupted by rain four years ago, and just spent a month mourning the loss of my trusty 1 GB flash drive, only to rediscover it in a piece of luggage. Don't even ask about the stack of football cards left at Skippers Seafood and Chowder House, Salt Lake City, November 1978...

My point is that as with those previous fires, I can only begin to fathom Cosloy's loss, and my heart goes out to him at this time. In lieu of a donation and what's bound to be a hell of a benefit show or two given the bands he can probably summon, I ask that you pick one of his favorite targets -- the Mets, Isaiah Thomas, Phil Mushnick, Phillies fans, etc -- and bash away gleefully until he can get back on his feet.

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