Friday, November 03, 2006

Offseason begins

This is shaping up to be the most interesting and expensive offseason since 2000-2001. With so many teams being profitable, new revenue sharing money coming in, and so many contracts ending, expect to see some contracts that appear mind boggling. I'll probably go through a list of what teams need sometime next week. Until then, here are some things that have come up.

-Guillermo Mota tested positive for steroids. I've seen a few articles attributing his late season success to performance enhancers, but to my knowledge, it just doesn't work that quickly. Though the argument I've heard that it could've acted as a placebo in the short term, making him feel stronger and alert seems like a valid position. The problem is, we really don't know what kind of effects different performance enhancers really have on baseball players, since there really isn't an ethical experiment that exists where we could measure the effects. We're never going to know everyone or even most of the people who have used in the past, and there's nothing George Bush, George Mitchell or Sherlock Holmes can do about that.

-I'm still of the opinion that 50 games is a bit harsh for a first offense, especially combared to the 10 games one gets for doctoring a baseball, something we DO know the effects of. On the other hand, 100 games for a repeat offender and 150 for a three-timer are too leniant. I'd' probably go with something along the lines of 25 games for the first offense, one season for the second, two seasons for the third, lifetime for the fourth. But that's just me. I'd also be in favor of testing those who do test positive much more frequently. Once someone fails once, they should be subjected to biweekly tests, during the season AND offseason. I'm less inclined to worry about a players privacy rights once they've broken the rules.

It matters little, because the steroid testing is a joke anyway, without blood samples. Heck, from what I've read, hair samples would be more likely to show traces of HGH than urine.

-Every year, the Gold Gloves get more recognition than they should, because the writers just don't take the time to research who the best fielders are at that position. So I suppose I'm exacerbating the problem. Derek Jeter won his third gold glove. A lot of people have taken the time to say that Alex Gonzalez was the player who was actually deserving, and that Jeter won based on name recognition. Neither player was especially close to being the best defensive shortstop in the AL this year. Michael Young had 113 more assists than Jeter (494-381) and 28 more putouts (241-214), despite the fact that Jeter was playing behind baseballs most profound groundball pitcher every fifth day. Assist and putout numbers can be misleading, but rarely when a guy is making 20% more outs in the field than another, from the same position, then it seems likely that he's the better player.

Here's what strikes me. Young makes the play in the hold and has the strong arm, like the other top shortstops in the league. When I watch the Rangers, though, Young has more balls hit directly at him than any shortstop I've seen since Cal Ripken. This isn't luck, not over the course of seasons. Young is just so superior at positioning himself, that he's not making enough spectacular looking plays. It's easier, though, for Gold Glove voters to vote for whoever they did last year.

-Interesting column by Rob Neyer a couple days ago, saying that the Tigers should trade a young arm to get a top bat at first base or DH. It's true that they are going to need to upgrade those positions significantly, playing in the toughest division in baseball. Trading young pitching isn't the way to do it, though. Young, inexpensive, healthy pitching is the most valuable resource in baseball, so unless the Tigers can get a truly elite player in return, it just doesn't seem worth it. First base and DH are the easiest positions to fill with lower-level trades and free agent signings. The Tigers plan is not just to compete in 2007, but also for years beyond. At this point, even if they do regress to 85 wins next year and miss the playoffs, their long-term outlook is among the best of any in baseball.

Much of the Tigers offseason plan likely revolves around Carlos Guillen. If they feel he can be more productive and be in the lineup more often by moving him off of shortstop, then that's an easy choice. He hits like a good corner infielder, so it's not like they'd get the usual hit from a team trying to move a shortstop there. Plus, he'd probably have the range to be a Gold Glove level 1B with some work. All things equal, their lineup is better with him at SS, as they'll be more likely to find an effective 1B than SS on the open market. If he knees won't hold, though, then all things aren't equal.

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