Friday, November 30, 2007

You Are Looking Live at the Opryland Hotel and Convention Center!

Can't get enough hot, hot, hot stove action? Then get the streaming video, baby!, the official website of Major League Baseball, will provide baseball fans with expansive live video coverage of the annual Baseball Winter Meetings from Nashville, Tenn., via its exclusive offseason subscription package . . .

. . . Among the Winter Meetings programming highlights on are: exclusive interviews with every Major League manager in attendance; live video of every press conference; breaking news updates; expert analysis from former Major Leaguers Harold Reynolds, Jim Leyritz, John Marzano and Billy Sample and former Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Fred Claire; and exclusive pick-by-pick coverage of the 2008 Rule 5 Draft beginning at 10:00 a.m. EST on Thursday, December 6.

Sure, like everyone else I will always remember EXACTLY where I was and what I was doing when Jesus Flores was taken in last year's Rule 5 draft, but I am nonetheless going to have to take a pass on all of the excitement this year. I mean, I have some paint drying in the spare bedroom, and it's not going to watch itself.

Mets Trade Lastings Milledge to the Nats

For catcher Brian Schneider and outfielder Ryan Church, according to several sources.

Look, Milledge is not as good as a lot of Mets fans think he is, but this trade makes zero sense. Ryan Church is basically a fourth outfielder, albeit a pretty good one. Brian Schneider is about as replaceable a commodity as you can get. While I'm sure they're bummed that Milledge wasn't getting the kind of trade market love the Mets expected, keeping him would have cost the Mets nothing. Trading him now is the ultimate sell-low move.

On the bright side, Mets fans now have a second atrocity to list after the Kazmir trade, and as everyone knows, good rhetoric demands multiple examples.

UPDATE: Welcome Rob Neyerites! As a pathological lawyer I can't pass up the chance to mount a rebuttal case, so to read my response to Rob's thoughts on the Milledge trade, go here.

Pettitte's Decision

The whole Andy Pettitte thing intrigues me. While it seems like he's been around forever, he is still only 35, and his 2007 season, while not transcendent, fits quite nicely with those he posted back when the Yankees won the World Series every year. Based on the comments of his father in this story, however, it seems that he is leaning towards calling it quits in order be a stay-at-home dad, hunt, and chill out.

Which is cool. The guy has made close to $100M in his career, so why not take the time to enjoy his family and his life? Heck, I'm surprised more players don't retire a bit early these days for exactly that reason. Sure, the competitive juices flow and everything, but for every five guys who wouldn't know what to do with their lives without baseball, there has to be one or two who have developed greater interests by the time they're in their mid 30s. Guys who, rings or not, feel like they've accomplished enough in that phase of their life and want to see what's next.

But then you're reminded that Pettitte and Roger Clemens are good buddies and, according to the article, used to spend the offseason in "intense workouts." That could cut a couple of ways, I suppose. Maybe Clemens was Pettitte's master motivator and now that Rocket appears to be done, Pettitte can't bring himself to get ready to play ball again either.

A second possibility is that Clemens is such an inspiration to him that Pettitte is now going to start a gun-for-hire phase of his career like Roger did the past couple of seasons, getting wildly overpaid for being something less than an ideal teammate simply because owners get desperate around Memorial Day and will do almost anything to add an extra arm. I like Pettitte, so I hope that's not true, but he'd get more money doing that than going to Florida in February and running wind sprints.

Or maybe those offseason workouts with Clemens will somehow come under far more scrutiny once the Mitchell Report comes out and he doesn't want to deal with the fallout. Hey, I'm in prime conspiracy theory mode here so take it with a grain of salt, but the last time we heard about a couple of players spending the offseason together working out it was Barry Bonds and Gary Sheffield.

Baseless speculation aside, seeing what happens to Pettitte between now and Opening Day is going to be one of the more interesting stories to watch.


The Orioles' negotiations with pitcher Erik Bedard have apparently stalled, and they are listening to offers for him. A couple of thoughts:

1) If Baltimore is truly willing to trade him, the loser of the Santana derby is going to get a nice consolation prize. Maybe one that is even better than the grand prize considering how much less one would have to give up and pay on an extension. I mean, Bedard is really good -- 3.16 ERA, 221Ks and 57 walks in 182 innings; he's eight days older than Santana and had a better 2007 -- but he doesn't have the hardware or extended track record to demand Santana money;

2) If you're an Orioles fan and they do trade Bedard, I'm pretty sure you have blanket immunity to give Peter Angelos atomic wedgies more or less whenever you want. Seriously, I think the Maryland legislature passed it as law during a special session in October.


According to the Denver Post, the Rockies have deals in place for the "key cogs" of their playoff run.

Question: do they have to sign the lightning and the bottle separately, or are they a package deal?

Santana News

Since everybody seems to be getting into the act, I have an announcement to make: ShysterBall has an interest in Johan Santana. And make no mistake -- there are no untouchables here. We are willing to part with almost anyone to make it happen.

I'm not going to lie to you, though; getting the extension done may be tough.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Reminder: Cardboard Gods Still Rules

Someone on Deadspin today mentioned that they knew a guy who knew for a fact (can't argue with that kind of authority) that Bill Simmons makes over a million bucks a year writing for ESPN. Who knows? Maybe it's true. Maybe he deserves it. I know it's not popular to say such things in the hipper-than-thou sports blogosphere, but Simmons is a good writer and I have no doubt that he brings the eyes to justify a lot of money, so good on him if it's true.

But if it is true, it's also evidence that the universe is not a fair place, because for all of his good qualities, Simmons isn't even the best writer who happens to be a Boston Red Sox fan. That title goes to the incomparable Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods, who never ceases to amaze, even when he allegedly has writers' block.

This is a little old, but in late October he began a five-part + epilogue series relating to his Sox (and so much more) called "The Yazmobile" which, like everything else he writes, is alternatively funny, touching, sad, and thought-provoking, often times in the course of a couple of sentences. The chapters can be found here: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5 and Epilogue. Unless you're performing CPR, you should stop what you're doing and check it out.

Bill Simmons made a lot of money writing a book about the Red Sox called Now I Can Die in Peace. Josh Wilker probably writes Cardboard Gods for nothing, but one gets the sense after reading "The Yazmobile" that the Red Sox 2004 championship brought him a peace that was much greater, and much more deserved.

Keltner List: Fred McGriff

Given how Alabama's season ended, I was worried for a while that Braves Journal's Mac Thomason was stationed somewhere near Nick Saban's house with a high-powered rifle. Thankfully that's not the case, as today he has posted a Keltner list for Fred McGriff. Then again, I suppose he could still be outside Saban's house with a laptop, mooching off of his wireless. Maybe we shouldn't speculate.

I'm a sucker for Keltner lists, and Mac does an excellent job on McGriff's, though I am more pessimistic about whether the writers will ever actually come around.

The Rays Fantasy Land

Plans were unveiled for the Rays new probably-never-gonna-happen park yesterday. No real roof, though. They're raising a sail instead:

In a news conference held in the outfield of Al Lang Field, team officials, Florida governor Charlie Crist, and MLB president and chief operating officer Bob DuPuy praised the design of the state-of-the-art ballpark, which will include a unique retractable roof made of a weatherproof fabric that will be pulled along cables suspended between arches on one end and a central mast structure on the other . . .

. . .The roof, likened to a giant sail, will produce an umbrella effect, retaining the open-air feel. Rays officials, working with HOK Sport architects, deemed a traditional retractable roof impractical because of the small site and undesirable, since it would block the water views. The design calls for climate-cooling techniques that will lower temperatures 8-10 degrees. Those include keeping the "sail" up during the days before games. Michael Kalt, the Rays senior vice president of development and business affairs, said the process should at least make the mid-summer temperature inside the stadium comparable to those in Baltimore, Kansas City, and St. Louis.

Kind of a neat idea until you realize that mid-summer temperatures in Baltimore, Kansas City, and St. Louis aren't exactly something worth aspiring to. Maybe instead of a sail they should use those long plastic flaps you see over the open back door of reefer trucks and just plunk an a/c unit on the joint.

What does the public think of it all? The Tampa Tribune asked folks hanging around after the unveiling. St. Pete resident Nicole Kelly is obviously concerned about the dubious funding scheme and likelihood that far more taxpayer dollars will ultimately have to be plowed into the project when it is all said and done:
"I think it would be pretty cool to see a home run go into the water," she

Or maybe not.

Yeah, it was Dusty

Francisco Cordero claims that it was the presence of Dusty Baker that tipped the scales in favor of him signing with the Reds. I'm sure the $46 million didn't hurt.

As I mentioned before, I don't like this deal for the Reds based on the size and length of the contract, but it's not my money and Cordero is obviously going to help the bullpen. And by taking Cordero away from a division rival, the impact is doubled. Most people don't realize that the Reds bullpen improved dramatically in the second half last year, and by adding Cordero, it could be a surprising source of strength for Cincinnati in 2008.

But that's still a long way away. For now we have this to contend with:
"(Weathers has) been in a number of roles," Baker said. "I've seen him close. I've seen him set up. He's going to be somewhere at the end of the game because he knows how to pitch. Stormy's a team man. I'm not worried about Stormy's reaction ... Stormy wants to win."


Return of the Powder Blues

I can't find any other source for this, but the blog Home Run Derby is reporting that the Royals and Blue Jays are returning to their powder blue uniforms in 2008. Alternate homes, it seems, as opposed to regular roads, and the Royals only from the waist-up, but they'll be on display all the same.

I hope this is true. While powder blues were an abomination on most teams, I always thought they looked natural on the Royals. This is due in most part to George Brett, I suppose, who I had the good fortune to see kill the Tigers in his roadies on numerous occasions as a kid. If you do something as well as he did, it doesn't matter what color you're wearing. You're going to look good regardless.

Cubs, Cardinals, Phillies, Braves, Rangers: don't even think about it.

Rays-Twins Trade

It's not everyday you see a bunch of young players traded. Interesting deal. Like everyone else seems to be doing, I have to give an edge to the Rays. They get a third solid pitcher to slot behind Kazmir and Sheilds and deal from a strength -- outfield depth -- to do it. And Young isn't as good as a lot of people think he is.

The Twins are supposed to have a lot of young pitchers ready to move up and into the rotation, but with Garza gone and Silva and Santana all but gone, that's 3/5 of the end-of-season rotation out the door. Yikes. Makes me wonder if they are banking on getting two of the Yankees' trio of young pitchers for Johan.

UPDATE: Aaron Gleeman, master of all things Minnesota Twins, breaks the deal down here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Sweet Hereafter*

The survivors of the Bluffton University baseball players who were killed last March have filed suit. No one is assigning blame yet -- this suit was filed to figure out who, exactly, should be sued -- but they will. They will despite the fact that the NTSB hasn't assigned blame. They will despite the fact that, from a distance anyway, it looks like an accident in the most general sense of the term. A tragic one to be sure, but an accident all the same.

But I'm not writing to criticize this and the inevitable additional lawsuits that will come from it all. For one thing I don't know all of the facts, and the facts matter. More to the point, however, is the fact that I'm a civil litigator by trade, and I have to assume that anything I say about the merits of these particular suits is colored by the fact that whatever objectivity I once had about such things has been beaten out of me in the decade I've toiled in this profession. Plaintiffs' lawyers sue for a living and are predisposed to see liability everywhere, facts be damned. I usually defend lawsuits, so I am predisposed to see liability nowhere, facts be damned. We're both wrong and biased and jaded and we simply have to acknowledge these facts before allowing ourselves to spew our usual nonsense.

But even if I don't feel comfortable commenting on the merits of these suits, I do find myself fascinated by them. No, not the legal aspects -- if you haven't figured it out by now, ShysterBall is where I come to escape the law, not embrace it -- but the emotional ones. How and why we assign blame. How our personal experience with grief translates into action.

We're conditioned to accept and move on after the (hopefully) old-age deaths of our grandparents and eventually our parents, but when the unexpected or unspeakable occurs -- an untimely death from accident or violence, especially when a young person is involved -- we are compelled to do more than merely accept and move on. We must seek justice even if we cannot be made whole. We must assign blame even if there is no one particularly blameworthy. We must seek answers even though we know that answers do not exist.

More often than not we turn to the legal system to sort all of this out, converting questions of spiritual, moral, or cosmic justice into simple allocations of liability based on theories that were moderately well thought out by people who, for the most part, lived and died before the advent of the automobile. Our creaky system does the best it can, but even the winners usually don't walk away satisfied. How can they when, at best, they are trading the life and love of those dear to them for some money? But what option do we have? While even a successful lawsuit is likely to bring pain and an inadequate return in the end, failing to do anything is likely to feel like wholesale surrender. Even if we know that the all-too-often invoked concept of "closure" is a fantasy, we have no choice but to look for answers. To assign blame. To seek justice. All of this, it seems, leads to a second tragedy. The tragedy of the survivors who are left with no good options after hope and meaning have left their lives.

Watching all of this for the past ten years has led me to believe that maybe the system itself isn't the problem. Maybe the problem is thinking that there is any hope or meaning in life in the first place. That the best we can do is to occupy ourselves with enjoyable pursuits -- like baseball -- during those intervals between inevitable, senseless tragedy. While this may appear on the surface to be an overly pessimistic view of life, on balance, such a view allows one to spend far more of the time they have on this Earth enjoying themselves, unburdened by the task of having to make sense of it all. To right what we imagine to be wrongs when, in reality, it's all pretty much wrong and there isn't a whole hell of a lot we can do about it.

Which brings me back to Bluffton. Given who I am and how I feel about all of this I suppose I'm not in the position to tell anyone what they should or shouldn't do with their grief, but the fact remains that the seven people who died on that bus were in Atlanta because of some ballgames. I hope the survivors cum plaintiffs remember that as they begin their quest for answers, blame, and justice. I hope that, between court dates, they can take in some baseball games and that by doing so they can either forget or commune with their pain -- depending on what they need more at the moment -- by doing so.

*For those unaware, the title of this post is that of Russell Banks' 1991 novel and Atom Egoyan's 1997 film of the same name, which, in my view, constitute the most intelligent and moving depictions of loss ever committed to page and screen. Appropriately enough, The Sweet Hereafter's narrative is propelled by, of all things, a tragic bus accident.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Aaron Rowand Speaks

Sorta. And while he sounds like a bit of a dim bulb, he has a point.

You can't make this stuff up

There's a reason why Mike Hampton pitching a single inning in a Mexican league game made news yesterday. It doesn't happen often. It's of general public interest. It's man-bites-dog, as the newspapermen say.

Why then anyone is reporting that Hampton was injured during yesterday's single inning is a bit of mystery to me. What's next? Banner headlines about the sun rising in the east?


I've been pretty much wrong about everything this offseason, but I am pretty confident that the Yankees will wind up with Johan Santana, and pretty soon too. I mean, when even Hank Steinbrenner is playing it close to the vest -- "To tell you the truth, I don't want to get into all of that, as far as what they want and what we would give" -- you have to figure something is imminent. And I agree with Tim Marchman that almost any price is worth paying for that kind of talent. Santana is a bird in the hand, and while I would do everything I could to keep Joba if I were the Yankees, Hughes and Kennedy are two in the bush. Melky is relative bird seed in all of this.

The only part of this I'm having trouble getting my mind around at this point is what is reported to be the opening offer of Santana's reps for a contract extension in the range of ~$126M, or "Zito money," as it has been described. The number of years they've asked for is not clear, but even if it's five years that doesn't strike me as much beyond reasonable in this day and age for Santana's kind of talent. If it's six or seven years it approaches no-brainer territory. Such a contract would look more reasonable than the Pujols deal in a couple of years as the Jake Peavys and Brandon Webs of the world hit the open market.

It's also possible that Santana's people know that, reasonable or not, Minnestoa's ownership is unwilling to to pay anything close to that kind of money for anyone as a matter of principle, and have thus made and publicized an essentially phony lowball offer in order to (a) look reasonable; and (b) position his next team to go much higher than that by claiming that $12oMish was only a hometown discount price. Of course, given my recent cluelessness regarding how negotiations work, I may be full of beans about all of this.

All that aside, I think Santana to the Yankees is inevitable, and I think the Twins should and will get a good return for him.

Posnanski Book Offer

As Neyer pointed out yesterday, the incomparable Joe Posnanski is offering a special treat to those of you who buy his excellent book, The Soul of Baseball, for the holiday season:

If you buy a new copy of The Soul of Baseball and send a request to, I will send you a personalized and signed bookplate to stick inside the book.

Oh, but that’s not all. No, if you act now you will also get a short note on specially designed “Soul of Baseball” stationary. Giving the book to your Dad, I could write, “Hi Dad!” (Available for Moms too!). I could also write the first sentence of the Gettysburg Address or the 1977 statistics of Duane Kuiper. The choice is yours.

The book is worth reading autograph or not, but this is a great deal regardless because it provides you an excellent chance to totally mess with Posnanski. As anyone who reads his blog knows, Joe is, to put it politely, never short of inspiration. Because of this, I have a notion to take him up on the offer of the autograph/holiday greeting simply to see if he can keep it limited to a single page.

My guess: after dotting the “i” in Posnanski, he'll go off on a “vowel sidebar” followed by a “sometimes y” sidebar, followed by a “jail/gaol” sidebar, followed by an approximation (albeit a far superior one) of Bill Bryson’s linguistics books, followed by half of the travel books. By the time he gets to the holiday greeting on the stationary it will be next July and he'll have somehow come out with another book by then and be 52,000 words into his analysis of the jerseys from the home run derby. All of which would be wonderful, by the way, because as I've said before, Posnanski rocks.

Buy the book because you'll love it. Also buy the book because he's got kids, and the Dora the Explorer DVDs won't buy themselves this holiday season.

"The chair is against the wall. The chair is against the wall. John has a long mustache. John has a long mustache."

Cal Ripken, broadcasting to all of his brothers and sisters in the occupied zone on Voice of America.

Footnotes and Everything

I was accused by a reader in an email a couple of weeks ago of "over-intellectualizing" things. Big words, you know. Invoking non-baseball analogies and the like. I didn't really have much of a response at the time because I realize that, yeah, I am prone to doing that once in a while.

I have a response now, though: Nothing I've written over-intellectualizes baseball the way this article about A-Rod's contract negotiations over-intellectualizes baseball. Click that link to find references to psychological disinvestment, Calvinism, the progressive income tax, and a theoretical barter economy. There are even footnotes!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Playoff Shares

Playoff shares have been announced. A full share for a member of the Rockies is $233,505.18, which means that Mike Coolbaugh's family will get that much too since the Rox voted them a share.

There are obviously no happy endings when someone dies young, but this is the sort of thing that makes you feel good about humanity.

Cubs Reportedly Sign Kerry Wood

Seems like an excellent deal for the Cubs: 1 year, $4M. I say excellent because it keeps in town a guy who really stands a chance to be an impact arm in the bullpen, but doesn't commit them to more than a year which, for a guy with Wood's injury history, could be dicey. I really thought he'd sign for two years at that price somewhere.

"Stealing the Yankees Thunder"

Ian O'Connor of the Bergen Record thinks that the Mets need to make some moves. No, not to specifically address team needs, fill gaps, or add organizational depth in a prudent and well thought-out matter. No, they need to do it to "steal the Yankees thunder."

This notion -- that the New York teams should make moves that land them on the tabloids' back pages instead of at the top of the NL East standings-- is a common one among New York baseball writers. "Please provide us column fodder and circulation increases," guys like O'Connor are demanding, "winning should not be your primary objective." If you think I'm being unfair about this, just look at O'Connor's own words:

On arrival, [Minaya's] can-do personality transformed the sad sack Mets into believers. Minaya was the first executive to convince Fred Wilpon he had to have the stomach to go big-game hunting if he ever wanted to take the market from the Yanks . . .The GM had the nerve to chase the ace of the 2004 world champions. . . Now Minaya looks hopelessly boxed in. It appears he can't get Santana without seriously compromising his team, and again he's left to rely on the decomposing bodies of Martinez and El Duque Hernandez.

It's not about the wins, see, it's about "taking the market from the Yanks." It's about doing things like signing "the ace of the 2004 world champions" even though he turned into a "decomposing body" a little over a year into the deal. Just make a move, O'Connor counsels, it doesn't have to be a good move, it need merely be big!

This is what people are talking about when they talk about how hard it is to play in New York. The GMs can't simply build solid teams, they must do it with panache. The stars can't simply smack the cover off the ball, they must fill some vaguely defined role as "hero" as well. If the stars manage to do that at some point, they can never be judged on their performance going forward, for to speak ill of the hero is blasphemy. This, in turn, makes it very difficult to be that star's manager or teammate. The whole scene presents an entirely different competing set of demands than that which players and execs are used to having, and the only consistent thing that seems to be driving it is a competitive media market.

This isn't news to most people, I imagine, but it's helpful to remember once in a while that the genesis of this dynamic isn't some complicated genetic deformity on the part of tri-state baseball fans which makes them impossible to satisfy. It simply springs from the typewriter of columnists in places like Bergen, New Jersey who need to find something else to say besides "the Mets need a couple of starting pitchers" because, hey, the dude at the Gazette said that on Wednesday.

Mike Hampton Reaches Three Year High in Innings Pitched

That's because he has now pitched a single inning for the first time since the 2005 season.

There ought to be a law that Georgia newspapers are forbidden from reporting on Mike Hampton's rehabilitation, because it only serves to disillusion little kids who can't remember when the Braves were in the World Series and might be tricked into thinking that they're one big name pitcher away from finally winning it all. There's bound to be crying when his elbow turns into spaghetti in April.

Of course, that would assume that these kids would remember Hampton as a big name pitcher too . . .

A-Rod to Get His $300M

I suppose at this point the Boras-screwed-the-pooch meme is pretty much set in stone, but as we were all enjoying our tryptophan comas over the weekend, A-Rod's reps and the Yankees were putting the finishing touches on that $300M+ contract that no one was reportedly going to give him a couple of weeks ago:
According to a published report last night, the two sides have agreed upon a $30 million marketing package tied to home-run accomplishments that could make A-Rod's new deal worth $305 million over 10 years.

The base contract would call for Rodriguez to receive $275 million, with an additional $6 million going into his coffers each time he climbed a rung on the all-time home run list starting with Willie Mays at 660.

No, that's not guaranteed -- he does have to top Bonds' record in order to break the $300M barrier -- but he's got an excellent chance to do it. And if he doesn't break the record during the course of this contract, the mere $275M or so he gets will still represent wild overpayment because it means the guy averaged something around 25 homers a season or less during its duration. Upshot: call Boras a tool if you want, but he got his guy paid more or less what he had said he would.

By the way, I tip my lawyer cap to the gentlemen who came up with the "marketing agreement" charade the parties are using to circumvent the usual prohibition on stat-based performance incentives in player contracts. As if Rodriguez's schedule is going to be free for additional promotional appearances if and when he gets into Ruth-Aaron-Bonds territory. It's a performance incentive, pure and simple, and it's only getting a pass because someone was bright enough to characterize it in a way that makes people feel comfortable about something which would normally make them uncomfortable.

It's harmless in this instance -- I think stat-based incentives could be a good thing if the right stats are picked -- but there are a whole mess of things that impact our lives in significant and often negative ways that we never think about because someone -- probably a lawyer -- couched it just so as not to offend or cause us to think too hard.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Andruw Jones Has Something to Be Thankful For

Now that the Angels have signed Torii Hunter, one of the eleventeen teams who actually, you know, needed a centerfielder will probably go after Jones. Which, as I said yesterday, would probably be a better move for them.

Giving Thanks

I told myself a long time ago that this blog wasn't going to fall into the trap of running cliched bits like, say, annual things-to-give-thanks-for or New Year's resolutions columns. They're easy. They're lazy. They don't often bring much to the table. But then I realized something: they're easy and I'm lazy, and if I think about it a little, maybe I can (almost) make this autopilot exercise worth the ten minutes it will take you to read it. And hey, you've gotten this far, so why not read the rest?

So, without further ado, I give you ShysterBall's official list of the things which teams -- or their fans -- can be thankful for as we head into the deep dark winter of the 2007-08 offseason:

Red Sox
The Yankees. Why? Because if the team down south hadn't started an arms race the likes of which hasn't been seen since the HMS Dreadnought put to sea in 1906, Boston never would have gotten off its complacent duff and built itself into the organization it is today. It's easy to be the hard luck losers when no one else in your division is all that much better than you on a year to year basis. It's downright pathetic to simply get completely lapped, and that's what could have happened if the Sox hadn't rose to the challenge and hired some smart folks like Epstein and James to get things moving in the right direction.

Brian Cashman. Signing free agents is easy. Developing talent on the farm is hard. Given the bucks the Yankees have at their disposal, nothing would have been easier for the Yankees than to simply try to buy the talent to win every year. And of course, to some extent they have done just that. Cashman, however, seems to be cognizant of the diminishing returns such an approach can bring, and has made a point to try to build from within. There's no way to know if Chamberlain, Hughes and Kennedy will end up more like Glavine, Smoltz, and Avery or Wilson, Pulsipher, and Isringhausen, but at least they have them, and whether they use them as trade bait or as the foundation going forward, they provide an excellent resource upon which the Yankees can draw in that win-or-else town.

Blue Jays
Toronto should be thankful for injuries, of all things. Had so many Jays not been banged up, guys like Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan and Jesse Litsch wouldn't have gotten the opportunities they did. With what in this day and age passes for an abundance of starting pitching, the Jays seem poised to finally challenge the big two in the AL East next year.

Mr. Bill's? Natty Boh? These are pretty bleak times to be an Orioles fan. I suppose they can be thankful for a great stadium, which is more than I can say for the . . .

OK, that's not fair, because the stadium is the only really bad thing I can say about the Rays right now. Sure, they finished in last place again, but there is a core of nice young talent. Shields and Kazmir may be the best young 1-2 punch in the game, and there are several young bats -- Crawford, Upton, Young, and Pena (who's the old fart at age 29) that give reason for hope in St. Pete. For this, the Rays faithful should thank Andrew Friedman and Gary Hunsicker for coming up with a plan and sticking to it.

Cleveland should be thankful for Cliff Lee's abdominal strain in spring training, which gave Fausto Carmona a shot. Given how poorly Lee and Jeremy Sowers pitched the rest of the year, if there's no Fausto, there would not have been any playoffs. They can also be thankful for the Red Sox winning the World Series, because if they hadn't, far more people in these parts would be focusing on letting a 3-1 ALCS lead go than they currently are. At least in this part of Ohio, the storyline has ended up as "well, we got beat by the best team in the game. Whaddaya gonna do?"

That Justin Verlander wasn't hanging out at Joel Zumaya's house for the weekend when the fires hit.

That Scott Baker, Matt Garza and Kevin Slowey showed they can pitch in the big leagues so that the front office won't be tempted to go after the Ramon Ortizes and Sidney Ponsons of the world again this offseason. That Johan Santana was so public so early about not wanting to come back to Minnesota, which should allow the Twins to maximize the return they can get in a trade. They should also be thankful for global warming, which will eventually make the decision to build a new stadium in the great white north without a retractable roof look much better than it does today.

White Sox
South Siders should be thankful for Ozzie Guillen, because when the Sox are mired in fourth place next summer, he will at least be providing funny and colorful quotes, which should help ease the pain.

The decision -- forced or not -- to renovate Kaufman Stadium as opposed to building something new. Kansas City, in both football and baseball, is the only city which got things right during the 1960s-70s stadium building boom, and both Kaufman and Arrowhead remain really damn nice places to watch games. I'm no architect, but from what I've seen of the renovation plans, the Royals are preserving the nice stuff in their stadium while making the necessary upgrades to compete for Kansas Citians' entertainment dollars going forward. That's great news for fans of a team whose product on the field hasn't represented a consistently strong draw for many years now.

White Sox' GM Kenny Williams, for getting the whole buy-low, sell-high thing ass backwards and sending the Angels a strong starting pitcher in the form of Jon Garland in exchange for Orlando "peak oil" Cabrera.

I could go on about Ichiro or King Felix or something, but the thing Mariners fans should be most thankful for is U.S.S. Mariner, which in my view (and the view of many others) is the single best team-specific blog going. I read it almost every day and I don't even like the Mariners.

That it's only 87.27 miles between Raley Field in West Sacramento and the Oakland Coliseum, because the A's used 54 players in 2007, many of whom were booking it back and forth I-80 while changing from their River Cats to their A's jerseys on numerous occasions.

Texas can be thankful for the hubris of Scott Boras, which ended up saving them $21 million when A-Rod opted out instead of negotiating an extension with New York. Pure gift. Such a gift that I sit here late at night sometimes wondering if Boras pre-arranged the whole damn thing in an effort to get one of his other clients a big contract from the Rangers with that freed up money.

For the Mets' gagging down the stretch. Or, if you prefer, for their "lack of killer instinct."

Bugs in Cleveland, the Joe Torre drama, the A-Rod drama, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera's protracted contract negotiations, Derek Jeter's tax issues, the Macy's Thanksgiving parade, and anything else that might keep Gotham's mind off of just how ugly the season ended for the Mets. Oh, they were crucified, and will be again as we get closer to spring training, but there has been a bit of a lull in the "Mets suck" meme since the season ended, and you have to figure they like that just fine.

That the farm system seems to come up with two or three quality players every year. That John Smoltz and Chipper Jones seemed to have found the fountain of youth. That there always seems to be some team willing to trade them quality players for their dreck (Horatio Ramirez) or their surplusage (Edgar Renteria). That Mike Hampton's contract is almost over.

Manny Acta, for turning what looked like chicken shit before the season started into something that passed for chicken salad. Boston, for giving up on Willy Mo Pena. Da Meat Hook, for keeping things light. New digs, of course, courtesy of sucker D.C. politicians (note: Nats fans who pay D.C. taxes may not be so thankful for them).

If the rumors are true, Marlins fans will soon be really thankful for Dodgers' GM Ned Colletti's largess (Matt Kemp, Andy LaRoche, and Clayton Kershaw?!). Otherwise, its Hanley Ramirez and not a whole hell of a lot else.

For playing in the NL Central, which is the only place where a team could fart around, fight change course, get hurt, and generally confound everyone's expectations as much as the Cubs did in 2007, yet still win the division. The Cubs should also be thankful for the inexorable march of time, which seems to be the only thing that will bring closure to their uncertain ownership situation. Query: if Mark Cuban owned the Cubs today, do you have any doubt that A-Rod would be looking for houses in Lake Forest right now?

Two fearsome 23 year-olds. For having the opportunity to be legitimately disappointed about just missing the playoffs, which is the sort of thing Milwaukee fans hadn't had a chance to complain about for many years.

For having the brains and/or luck to sign Albert Pujols to a long term deal just before salaries started to get crazy again. The NL's best hitter, you may or may not know, is locked in until 2011, and scheduled to make less every single year between now and then than Jason Giambi cost the Yankees two years ago.

Houston should be thankful that the Pirates are around to keep them from having to admit that, for all intents and purposes, they are a last place team. They can also be thankful for the many twelve-step programs out there which counsel how, sometimes, hitting rock bottom is the only way to find the road to recovery.

A pretty strong second half, attributable to a reshuffled pen, Jeff Keppinger , Brandon Phillips, and the damn nigh unprecedented failure of Adam Dunn to wilt come August. Some youngsters, in the form of Joey Votto, Homer Bailey, and Jay Bruce, who are just about ripe enough to pluck off the vine. Finally -- and I can't believe I'm saying this -- Dusty frickin' Baker. He's not my brand of vodka, but he's interesting, and interestingness is something to be thankful for in the Midwest.

A general manager who may know what the hell he's doing.

The smoke and mirrors which allowed them to outperform their Pythagorean record by 11 games.

There are a lot of nuts and boltsy things I could point to for Rockies fans to be thankful for, but simply having a season like the Rockies did last year -- one of those years in which there's a new hero every day and just about everyone on the team is a likable gamer of a guy -- is the kind of thing that ensconces a team in the local consciousness. No matter what happens for the next thirty years or so, there now exists the platonic ideal of what a Rockies season should look like for Rockies fans. When things go bad some year, the moaning won't be "man, I wish this team was more like the Yankees." It will be "man, I wish this team was like those old Holliday/Tulowitzki teams." That may not seem like much, but it's the sort of thing that transforms a young franchise like the Rockies from one of many local entertainment options into an institution.

The Padres legal department should be thankful that Milton Bradley tore his ACL during that argument with umpire Mike Winters, because I am convinced that he would have killed that sumbitch if he had been able to walk. Getting to play and live in San Diego -- fish tacos, baby! -- is something to be thankful for too.

Fired GM Paul DePodesta, who drafted a lot of the kids who look poised to be a part of many good Dodgers teams going forward. Oh yeah, and he also acquired their current ace. Hank Steinbrenner's passive-aggressiveness deserves a hearty thanks too, as it freed up Joe Torre to don the Dodger Blue.

Barry Bonds. He may be an unemployed, indicted, steroids-using sociopath, but if it wasn't for him there probably wouldn't be that jewel of a park at China Basin, and even if there was, it would have been half empty for the past few years. And if the Giants think 2007 was as bad as it gets, they're crazy. After all, after Bonds, Randy Winn was the team's best hitter. Randy. Winn. They may be so thankful (or desperate) for Bonds (and he them) that they even resign him just before Spring Training.

And now, if you've made it this far, I'd like to give you my corny-ass but 100% sincere thanks for taking a few minutes of your time to read ShysterBall each day. When I started this bad boy back on April 21st, there were eleven page views, and all of them were me. It ain't exactly grand central station now, but it's a nice-sized party.

More importantly, it's a party that, based on the comments, links, and emails I get, is populated almost exclusively by really, really smart folks. I would have pissed into the wind for a month or two, but eventually I would have quit if either (a) no one had taken any notice; or (b) the only people who took notice were morons looking to drag their sports radio mentality into my little corner of the blogosphere in an effort to further their never ending "X is overrated, no Y is overrated" campaigns. That obviously hasn't happened, and for that I am not just thankful, I am thrilled.

I wake up each morning rarin' to go, and it's all because of you folks. So again, thanks.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Andruw Jones is Chopped Liver

While Torii Hunter goes on multi-city tours talking to teams who seem to be jumping all over each other to give him a crazy five year deal, Andruw Jones' agent is forced to seek out reporters to counter the notion that his guy has to sign a one year make-good deal someplace.

Obviously Jones stunk up the joint in 2007, but in virtually every other year of their careers, Jones has been Hunter's superior. They are both gold glovers. Jones is a year younger. Maybe you do dock Jones a bit due to the putrid season he just had, but I can't help but think that Jones is going to resume outperforming Hunter going forward.

So what gives? One thing that springs to mind is the fact that Jones is repped by Scott Boras, and some have whispered that there is a screw Boras campaign afoot in major league front offices. I suppose that's possible, but even if there is, folks should remember that in his last negotiation Andruw sidestepped Boras to sign a below-market deal even though that was several years before doing so became all the rage. Basically, if you want Jones and you can get his dad on the phone, you're going to be able to do business with him, Boras or not.

Yet there he dangles. If I were the Royals, Giants, Pirates, or any other struggling team who usually gets outbid for top shelf free agents, I would be all over Jones right now, offering a cheaper-than-Hunter, yet incentive-rich multi-year deal. I have this feeling that, come 2012 or so, I won't be regretting it.

Estrada Trade

Once upon a time I went temporarily insane as the result of Johnny Estrada being traded. Today? Meh.

The Mets blogs are rejoicing, viewing this as one of those "Great trade! Who'd we get?" kinds of deals. Brewers fans seem to think that Estrada is something of a clubhouse cancer and are happy to be rid of him. I can't say that I followed the Brewers close enough last year to remember anything happening that would justify the cancer tag, but given the disparity in talent between Estrada and Mota, one would think Brew Crew fans would be a little more miffed at the deal than they are if that wasn't true.

The Brewers bullpen is fun now, what with it containing two guys who have been busted for steroids. Milwaukee had better hope that neither of those guys break any important records or anything, because if they do, people might actually care.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


While folks talk about how baseball isn't taking root in the American inner-city anymore because it costs a lot to build a field and buy equipment, over in the genocide and subsistence farming-rich country of Rwanda, the Kigali Institute of Education is setting up a baseball program:

According to Nkusi, baseball is one of the sports that are being handled at the training camp that is open to all holiday makers around KIE . . . At the end of the training camp, children aged 8 and above will be awarded certificates of participation. However, Nkusi also pointed out that those who show good potential of growing into formidable players will be closely followed up in their respective schools.

That sound you hear is Billy Beane rushing to find a roving scout who speaks Kinyarwanda while Michael Lewis frantically types the first chapter of Tutsiball.

And Now For Your Crappy Catcher Report!

Shyster played catcher when he was a lad, and still has his nicely broken-in Lance Parrish model mitt. Based on the inexplicable Yorvit Torrealba drama, and the daily news of teams going after really, really bad catchers, he has half a mind to break it out again.

NOW what will the Dodgers do?

That sound you hear is several million Dodgers fans exhaling with relief, as Chan-Ho Park decides to forego his chance at being obliterated by opposing hitters in Los Angeles in exchange for playing on the Korean Olympic team.

In other news, the Korean Olympic team is in deep, deep trouble.

Breaking Down Glavine's Stuff

Sure, we can all sit and argue whether we think Tom Glavine will asplode in 2008, but self-proclaimed physics and math geek Josh Kalk breaks down his repertoire, his approach, and assesses his admittedly short future prospects over at the Hardball Times, complete with fancy pitch location graphs and everything.

If I haven't mentioned it lately, the THT guys are really, really smart.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The "Most Baddest Dude" Award and Other Notes

Clint Hurdle, on what Don Baylor used to use as his criteria for MVP:

"Back when Don was managing the club," said Hurdle, who was Baylor's hitting coach in 1997-1998, "and we had conversations, the MVP was the baddest dude in the league."

Hurdle claims that to be Matt Holliday. Well, I suppose at some point in his life someone was going to refer to a guy who looks like Matt Holliday as "bad," but if Hurdle really wants to go by the Baylor criteria, how can anyone other than Pujols ever be the MVP?

I don't usually trot out random notes, but it's been a busy freaking day on the legal side of Shyster's ledger, so that's all I can really muster at the moment:

A fellow you may have heard of, goes by the name Rodriguez, won the MVP award. It wasn't unanimous, however, with two Detroit area voters penciling in Magglio in as their number one choice. There has been some squawking about this -- and I admit that it looks bad that Magglio's only first place votes came from his hometown press corps., but they're not the silliest two homer votes ever. And no, I don't vote for Magglio if I had the franchise, but the guy did bat over .360 in a tough hitters' park. No one will care about this tomorrow.

Mike Lowell stays with Boston. That scraping sound you heard the other day was Mike Lowell crawling back to Boston after A-Rod went back to Yankees, leaving him with no one who was going to offer him that much more than Boston did. But even without that fourth year he wanted, this makes total sense for Lowell. He rakes in Fenway (.993 OPS at home/.773 on the road in 2007).

The Angels get John Garland in exchange for Orlando Cabrera. Cabrera is a gold glove shortstop who hit .300 last year, but at age 32, that probably represents his absolute ceiling. Garland is a consistently above-average 28 year-old starter who rarely misses a turn. On its face that makes Garland more valuable in my mind, but when you consider that having him around allows the Angels to trade some pitching for a bat -- like the better Cabrera -- one has to think that the Angels did far more to improve their team with this trade than the White Sox did.

The Mets sign Luis Castillo to a four year deal. See, not everyone is using the Mets to pump up their price for another team. No word yet on whether New York is going to use him in the rotation.

Glavine Back With Bravos

Tom Glavine has agreed to a one-year, $8 million free-agent contract to return to Atlanta.

Some of my good friends at BTF seem to think this is a bad move for Atlanta -- a primate by the name of
Rough Carrigan terms it "a triumph of emotion over reason" -- but I couldn't disagree more. Unlike the Mets -- and unlike the 1987-2002 Braves -- these Braves are not looking for Glavine to be a front line starter. They are looking for him to be a more or less average innings eater that they can plug in to the 4th or 5th slot in the rotation and not have to worry about him.

If you want to talk about the triumph of emotion over reason, we can talk about the overwhelming urge to kill Atlanta fans had each and every time someone not named Smoltz, Hudson, or James took the mound for the Braves last year:

Buddy Carlyle: 5.21 ERA in 20 starts;
Kyle Davies: 5.76 ERA in 17 starts;
Jo-Jo Reyes: 6.22 ERA in 10 starts;
Lance Cormier: 7.09 ERA in 9 starts;
Mark Redman: 11.63 ERA in 5 starts;
Anthony Larew: 7.71 ERA in 3 starts;

Tom Glavine had a 4.45 ERA in 34 starts, which included a late season implosion that doesn't appear to have been health related (most of the season he was under 4.00). If he does even slightly worse than that in 2008 for Atlanta, he will represent a dramatic improvement.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Orlando Sentinel Thinks You Are Sick and Diseased

The Orlando Sentinel's Andrea Adelson has a Bonds/steroids editorial today which, on one level makes a lot of sense in that she acknowledges how, despite the Bonds indictment and despite the Mitchell Report, baseball will continue to thrive because, at its heart, baseball is a diversion people like.

On a second, more ridiculous level, Adelson evidences her disgust at fans for continuing to enjoy the sport, opining that "it is preposterous that baseball is enjoying unprecedented cash flow given its tainted game." But rather than simply think you're crazy for continuing to enjoy baseball, she puts all of you loyal baseball fans on the psychiatrist's couch and enlists a couple of putatively unbiased and scientific sources to explain just how sick and deluded you really are:

"Life will go on," sports psychologist Richard Lustberg said. "We want to be entertained. People are willing to overlook this because they need the games for their own emotional needs. It's like smoking. You need the drug, so you overlook you're going to get cancer."

Got that? You're all addicts, and if you don't click off that Yankees-Royals game next June, you're all going to get cancer and die, OK? Anything else Dr. Adelson?

Several studies have shown how we become immune to shocking stories. Kirk L. Wakefield, a sports marketing specialist at Baylor, explains the research this way: "If you show people a terrible story about murder and mayhem and then ask them about something that is wrong but not as bad as murder, then that story is not so bad."If you compare that second story after telling them about Mother Teresa, then it is terrible. Steroids are in the news every week, so when the Mitchell report comes out and says these people have done it, people say, 'What do you expect?' "

There you have it. The only reason you silly people are continuing to enjoy baseball is because it's not as bad as murder and mayhem. Perhaps if you stopped watching the evening news you'd understand just how horrific the national pastime really is and become sufficiently alarmed.

Or you can just send Ms. Adelson an email explaining to her that, rather than being irrationally addicted or emotionally maniupulated, some baseball fans are intelligent and sophisticated enough to make the necessary distinctions between the sport they love and the occasional bad news that surrounds it in order to allow them to, you know, enjoy a ballgame every once in a damn while.

USA Beats Cuba

I really haven't followed the baseball World Cup at all, but it's probably worth mentioning that the USA beat Cuba today to win it. It's the USA's first World Cup since the Ford Administration.

Like Watching a Car Crash

I had a little chuckle at the Mets' expense when their big talk of getting big names like Posada and Santana fizzled into little talk of getting little names like Yorvit Torrealba. Now that even the little names seem unattainable, I can't even bring myself to laugh anymore, because it's just getting sad.

But don't fret, Omar: there are plenty of guys still available.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


For those writers and bloggers planning on following the Bonds case closely, please remember that every possible perjury/obstruction story has already been written in the past few years, so there's no sense in beating your head against the wall to come up with new angles. Indeed, between Scooter Libby, Lil' Kim, Martha Stewart, and, if you want to go back a few years, Bill Clinton and Oliver North, you can pretty much just use cut and paste/find and replace and sleepwalk your way to thousands of words worth of content.

It's not like you'd be the first to recycle when it comes to Bonds coverage. It's already begun, with ESPN's newly hired investigative reporter Mark Fainaru-Wada (along with T.J. Quinn) writing a lengthy Bonds/perjury piece today, citing the San Francisco Chronicle's famous Bonds reporting and the book Game of Shadows no less than four times. Of course, since that stuff was all written by Fainaru-Wada himself, I suppose it's OK.

A-Rod's Ty Cobb Number is 3

So it seems that A-Rod's path back to the Yankees was made possible by advice from Warren Buffett. I don't think Scott Boras is as bad for baseball as most people do, but if I had to choose between taking advice from him and taking advice from Warren Buffett, I'd go with the Oracle of Omaha every time.

And not just because he's a pretty damn sensible bazillionaire, either. There's some good baseball juju floating around him too. According to a Charlie Rose interview last year, he displays a Royals uniform in his office and he quotes Ted Williams -- “waiting for the right pitch is the most important thing for a batter” -- when describing his approach to buying a stock. He also batted against Bob Gibson -- an Omaha native and friend of Buffett's -- during a friendly baseball game at the 2001 Berkshire stockholder's meeting. Buffett grounded out. Which is probably for the best, because if he had made solid contact, Gibson would have buried one in his ear next time up, billionaire or not.

But the baseball tidbit I like the most is that Fortune magazine editor Carol Loomis -- a close friend of Buffett's, and the editor of Buffett's annual shareholder letters -- went on two dates with Ty Cobb in the 1950s:

"In 1957, I had two dates with Ty Cobb," she writes. "I was 28 and he was 70. We met because he watched a quiz show, 'Tic Tac Dough,' that I was on for four days and on which, out of years spent following the St. Louis Cardinals, I correctly answered some baseball questions. Cobb then asked me to have lunch at the "21" Club. A couple of my male friends thought that my accepting was not a good idea, perhaps believing that Cobb was somehow going to extend his base-stealing record in broad daylight at '21.'" They went on a second date, but that was it. "This was not a match made in heaven."

This means that Buffett is probably the only man alive who has living friends who can tell him about both Andy Pettite's move to first base and Ty Cobb's move to second . . .

Friday, November 16, 2007

Great Moments in Missing the Point

Multiple federal charges for perjury and obstruction of justice are filed against Barry Bonds, and anti-doping officials somehow hail it as a blow against PEDs:

"This is just another story related to the big picture that Americans don't like cheaters," Scott Burns, deputy director of White House drug policy, told The Associated Press at the world anti-doping summit in Madrid . . .

. . ."It shows from the evidence that the U.S. government is committed to healthy sport," U.S. Anti-Doping Agency chief executive Travis Tygart said . . ."If (players) think the only penalty when they get caught is a four-game or a 50-game penalty, it's not much of a penalty," Tygart said. "But you suddenly put in jail time and felony conviction, and it's a dramatic difference in the deterrent effect. And we're thrilled."

These guys do realize, don't they, that if Bonds had actually stood up in front of the grand jury and proudly and unapologetically admitted taking steroids -- even if he said that, in his opinion, steroids and HGH should be handed out with school lunches -- that absolutely nothing would have happened to him, including any sort of suspension from baseball?

Shyster is Wearing His Lawyer Pants Today

Sorry for the lack of posts this morning folks, but Shyster has to pay the bills, and that means being the law talking guy once in a while.

My thoughts on the Bonds indictment are two posts below this one, however, and that's all anyone is going to want to talk about today anyway.

Look for possible updates over the weekend if events warrant. Otherwise, see you on Monday.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A-Rod to the Yankees all but done

That's what ESPN is reporting.

So I'm sitting here at a law firm retreat, desperately trying to pretend that I care about something really, really boring known as "e-discovery" (lawyers in the crowd are all nodding knowingly) instead of reading and (sorta) blogging about all of this big news. What a frickin' time for two big stories to hit. It's really, really frustrating.

More in the morning. The people that pay my salary are starting to get suspicious.

Bonds Indicted

I really wasn't expecting that. Copy of the full indictment here (hat tip for the hosting to reader Matt Galemmo)

Well, it looks like the A's are going to need to look elsewhere to fill the DH hole . . . .

Quick take: There's nothing sexy in it except for a recitation of questions asked of Bonds along the lines of "did you take steroids" or "did Mark Greg (forgive me, it's been a couple of years since I thought much about this) Anderson inject you with steroids." Nothing new here. Nothing we haven't known for years. Bonds' answers to the questions -- and the questions themselves -- are vague enough to where it seems like a decent defense lawyer could cloud the issue enough to get an acquittal.

I am not a criminal lawyer by trade (I do mostly civil litigation), but my criminal law experience suggests to me that this is a face-saving indictment designed to allow the investigators and the US Attorney to say they did their job. They got the indictment (note: a U.S. Attorney can get an indictment on anyone for just about anything). If and when Bonds walks, they will blame a Bonds friendly San Francisco jury pool, and it will be done.

Make no mistake: I think Bonds took steroids, and I tend to think that, generally speaking, he has lied about it. This indictment, on these particular questions, however, looks very, very weak.

The Mets Are Going to Make a Big Splash. They Swear.

Obviously the offseason is young, but don't the Mets seem, in press reports at least, to be kind of desperate and ineffectual?

First they floated the "sure, we're serious about A-Rod" story, only to have that result in vaguely uncomfortable quotes from their own star third baseman. Then they made a public show of courting Posada, only to have him sign with the Yankees ten minutes after dessert was over, and forcing them to settle for Yorvit Torrealba. Now they are telling any reporter who will listen -- as opposed to other teams, it seems, that they're willing to part with all kinds of talent in order to get a big name starting pitcher.

When it comes to big-splash moves, there's far more smoke than fire coming out of Queens. If I'm a Mets fan I'm probably fine with all of this -- neither Posada nor A-Rod made sense for them -- but I get the impression that most Mets fans tend to agree with the press hype that the only moves that matter are the huge ones. If that's the case, they are probably pretty frustrated right now.

Intolerant San Francisco

Stereotypes of whole cities and entire regions can be just as ridiculous and ill-founded as those based on race or gender. There are Southerners who aren't friendly and easy going. There are New Yorkers who aren't tough and resilient. There are Midwesterners who aren't boring and naive. There are also Northern Californians who aren't accepting and open minded:

Half a century ago, in a city called one of the most liberal, diverse and open-minded in America, a great baseball player found himself unacceptable . . .

. . . Throughout the summer of 1957, the move of the New York Giants to San Francisco and the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles was a foregone conclusion. Official announcement came on Oct. 8. Mays, and his then wife, Margheurite, came west and sought a residence. Their choice was a three-bedroom home in Sherwood Forest, a neighborhood among elite St. Francis Wood, Miraloma Park and Mt. Davidson . . . Mays, according to reports, offered owner Walter Gnesdiloff, $37,500 cash for the home at 175 Miraloma Drive which had views of the Pacific. Gnesdiloff accepted. Willie Mays, then 26, was not accepted.

Martin Gaewhiler, who lived a few doors away, told reporters, "I happen to have a few pieces of property in the area, and I stand to lose a lot if colored people move in."

There's much more to the story. Read the whole thing.

Braves to do Something Big?

Thanks to a reversal of recent financial misfortunes, the Braves are apparently poised to jack payroll a bit. So far their offseason moves have, if anything, lowered payroll (Jones and Renteria gone in exchange for a full year of Teixeria and a non-insurance subsidized Hampton soon to join the roster).

Most assume that Glavine will sign. My guess is that the new-found wealth will be channeled into trying to extend Teixeria, but maybe something else fun will come out of it too.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A-Rod Kabuki (with update!)

Japanese kabuki theater is is known for its highly-stylized drama and for the elaborate make-up and costumes worn by its performers. It's also a term Mickey Kaus has used to describe those occasions when politicians make grand gestures and pronouncements so that they will appear to care a great deal about issue X, only to abandon issue X once the public has satisfied itself that that issue X has been sufficiently cared about, even if nothing is ever actually done about it.

I have no idea if the A-Rod coming back to the Yankees story can be believed, but it smells like kabuki theater to me for a number of reasons:

1. The quotes about the Yankees bringing him back "on our terms" seems silly. Their terms were to bring him back before he opted out and when the Rangers were still subsidizing them. Anything they do now is not on "their" terms, they're on A-Rod's terms, and negotiating any further only serves to obliterate any credibility Cashman can over hope to have in future negotiations;

2. If I worked for the Yankees and I knew I wasn't going to be bringing A-Rod back or replacing him with someone like Cabrera, I would certainly want to have a story out there portraying me as doing all that I could to at least try -- and talking up the notion of a below market deal -- so that when I ultimately ended up with nothin' at 3B next year, the story would be about how unreasonable A-Rod was, not how I was unable to get the player I needed to keep the postseason streak alive;

3. The whole "keep Scott Boras out of the room" stuff strikes me as part of the above calculation (i.e. "let no one say the Yankees got played by Boras!"). Sure, the Yankees are saying that so that Boras can't simply take whatever offer they make out to Anaheim in an effort to up the bids there, but what's to stop A-Rod from telling Boras what the offer was and then Boras shopping it to Anaheim? Rodriguez has been repped by Boras for half of his life. He will remain loyal. This seems to be more about the Yankees trying to create a political position in which they can later say that they did not cave, they did not compromise, they kept their honor.

4. The "A-Rod came to us first" angle may or may not be true. If it is, isn't it very likely that such an approach was to lure the Yankees back into the talks so that they could serve as a threat to Arte Moreno (or whoever), causing them to up the offer? Wouldn't the Yankees have to at least assume that was what was happening?

5. The stuff at the end about A-Rod trying to rehab his image over Game 4-gate seems really self-serving by the Yankees, and isn't all that credible. It's self-serving because it opens the door for wholesale A-Rod trashing if he ends up signing with someone other than the Yankees (i.e. "By coming back to us to talk A-Rod seemed, for the first time, to care about his image more than money; the fact that he didn't sign with us shows us that he really is just Pay-Rod. Good riddance!"). It's not credible because A-Rod has had far worse image problems in the past and has never gone all that far out of his way to try to rehab the damage. Indeed, one thing that seems to be a central personality trait of A-Rod is being completely oblivious to what constitutes good P.R. and what constitutes bad P.R. Now he's an image doctor?

6. Finally, the whole bit about New York being the only place where A-Rod could "see his face everywhere" is laughable. He's been in New York for four years, and its still Jeter's town. Why would that change going forward? Has the anonymous author of those quotes ever been to Los Angeles? They put up giant billboards for Rob Schneider movies. Don't you think they'd do the same for Rodriguez?

There are many, many reasons why both the Yankees and Rodriguez would want the story that they are seriously negotiating to be out there, all of which have nothing to do with him actually being in pinstripes and at the heart of the Yankees lineup in 2008, and all of which give the parties an incentive to put on a little kabuki makeup.

My view -- which I've held since last summer -- is that Rodriguez and/or his wife are done with New York and will go almost anywhere to escape. I also think that the little Boras/Rodriguez southern California retreat held just after the end of the season was designed to sell him on going to Los Angeles, and I wouldn't be surprised if during that retreat Boras and Arte Moreno had a cocktail one evening to discuss life, the universe and everything while Rodriguez himself sat in the next room to maintain plausible deniability. I think everyone involved -- Angels, Yankees, and Rodriguez -- needs the Yankees to at least appear to be in the mix for their own particular purpose (Yankees and Rodriguez for reasons stated; Angels so that it doesn't look like it was a done deal a long time ago).

Crazy? Maybe. I'm just riffin' here. But that makes way more sense to me than the notion that the Yankees are suddenly hot for Rodriguez and he willing to go back to them.

UPDATE: Many stories now leaking out that, yes, A-Rod and the Yankees are going to happen. Frankly, I'm astounded. Astounded that the Yankees would reverse themselves so quickly (does anyone ever take them seriously in a negotiation again?). Astounded that Rodriguez would willingly subject himself to the New York media for another decade. Just, well, astounded. Part of me still believes that Boras will hold a press conference tomorrow to say "Psych! The Angels just outbid the Yankees by an extra million a year and we signed!" but at some point you have to stop going with your gut and go with the evidence, and the evidence coming in tonight suggests the Yankees will remain the home of A-Rod.

I don't think I'd do it if I were him, but in terms of our abilities, situations, motivations, and just about every other conceivable measure, I'm closer to being my coffee pot than I am to being Alex Rodriguez, so what do I know?

More later, if and when it becomes official.

A Word on Awards

You'll notice that I haven't weighed in on the Rookie of the Year or Cy Young award announcements. You'll also soon notice me not weighing in on Manager of the Year and MVP awards.

The reason for this is that, in my view, the only thing worth writing about such things are "did they deserve it" columns, and the only way to make those worth reading is to engage in some kind of objective analysis that raises the conversation above the level of mere bar argument. Beyond pointing out the bleedin' obvious things that others have said over and over again -- Sabathia pitched more innings! Braun had too many errors! -- I'm not really capable of doing such an analysis. Well, not as capable as many others who do that sort of thing much, much better than me.

More broadly speaking, the subject of who should win awards, along with a few others -- "Generic Spring Preview" and "All Star Snubs" come to mind -- fall into that category of evergreen baseball column that don't aren't really all that fun to read or to write. Sure, every baseball writer in the world writes these, but I get the sense that they do it mostly because they feel they have to, not because they're particularly inspired. Telling in this regard is that Deadspin's Will Leitch -- a guy who has done more to pick up and shake the beer can that is sports writing than anyone -- even posts these kinds of things from time to time, even if he dresses them up with his patented irreverence ("Pants Party" etc.). Even then Leitch often farms these pieces out to other people. I don't know Leitch, but I'm guessing he, like me, finds them kind of boring too.

So I probably won't be saying much about the awards. And I probably won't have a preseason predictions bit either. Well, maybe I will, but if I do it won't look much like the usual sort of preseason predictions column (I wrote a few in 2002, and they tended to go off in decidedly non-baseball tangents).

OK, between that and last night's ode to Neyer, I have written enough about myself to last a couple of months.


The Mets are reportedly going after Yorvit Torrealba to fill the catching vacancy, and "are willing to make him an offer they do not expect him to refuse."

Hmmm, if the best catcher in baseball is worth lunch at Le Cirque, I presume that means a guy who posts a .255/.323/.376 in Coors field is worth a sack of ten at White Castle, right? Wait, since it's supposed to be an "offer he can't refuse," better make that a Crave Case.

Does Omar realize that, playoff heroics aside, Lo Duca hit better than Torrealba last year? Sure, Lo Duca is, by most accounts, a major league jerk, but is a personality upgrade really worth unloading so much money on a guy who isn't necessarily going to do much to improve your team?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Thanks, Rob

Normally, if a big site like ESPN or Deadspin links to ShysterBall, I know where the hits are coming from immediately, because my stat counter shows the referring link. At around 12:30 this afternoon, however, I looked at my counter and noticed that about 500 people had more or less simultaneously clicked on this blog, all as a result of a simple Google search for "ShysterBall." Over the course of the afternoon, a few thousand more popped in for a visit.

Uh-oh, I thought. I must be in trouble. Since I'm a lawyer, I'm a natural pessimist, so my first thought was that someone was saying some very bad things about me somewhere, and folks were coming to gawk and mock. A few minutes later I realized that the traffic uptick was attributable to Rob Neyer who, during his usual Tuesday chat, said that ShysterBall was his favorite baseball blog.

To say I am flattered is an understatement.

While Rob has no reason to know this, ShysterBall would not exist were it not for him. It was 1998, and I had just finished seven years of schoolin' and was about to start the day shift. Somewhere during those seven years baseball and I had gone from dear friends to mere acquaintances. Sure, I watched a lot of games -- watched my Braves win the World Series even -- but it wasn't the same as it had been when I was a kid. I was a passive fan, with the things that had charged my enthusiasm for the game in my youth -- baseball cards, computer simulations, and actually playing the game -- in my past.

That all changed when, less than a month after taking the bar exam, I discovered Rob's column on what was then called "ESPN SportsZone." It was a revelation. Five days a week, this voiceless man in red faux flannel would challenge nearly every lazy assumption I had about the game. Telling me things like RBIs weren't the most valuable measure of a hitter. That strikeouts weren't the worst thing in the world. That Dante Bichette wasn't really any good.

What's more, unlike all of the talking heads I'd known to that point (and most since) Rob didn't make his pronouncements from on high and expect you to take his word for it. He showed his work. He encouraged you to run the numbers yourself. Not that it was all numbers, of course. Sure, they drew me in at the beginning, but it was the prose that kept me coming back. Rob could friggin' write. Still can, by the way, in a clear and uncomplicated voice that made even the most complicated concepts seem quite simple, which was extremely important to a mathophobe like me. I read Neyer every day.

Flash forward to late 2001. Barry Bonds is about to pass Mark McGwire, and I get an email from my buddy Ethan, forwarding an article Bob Costas had written for, complaining that Bonds' achievement (and McGwire's before him) had "ripped baseball from its historical moorings." This wasn't a steroids column -- if Costas claims today that he always knew about juicing he's lying, because he didn't go there in the 2001 piece -- but rather a simple rant about how the numbers didn't mean anything anymore because they were out of whack with what he, growing up in the age of Maris and Mantle, had come to consider normal.

I read the article a few times. A few short years before I would have taken it at face value, but knowing what I knew by then -- what Rob and others with whose work I had, through him, become familiar, had taught me -- I knew it was horse shit. Costas was too focused on raw numbers. He made no effort to appreciate the differences in eras and contexts. He was using his voice of authority -- and the popularity of his recent book Fair Ball: A Fan’s Case For Baseball -- as a bludgeon with which to bash away dissension against his particular brand of sepia-toned orthodoxy. As a thinking fan, I felt insulted.

So I wrote a screed. It was just a sloppy, expletive-filled email back to Ethan, explaining all of the reasons why I thought Costas was wrong, drawing on the basic sabermetric concepts I then knew as support. Ethan forwarded that screed to a friend of his who was starting a webzine, and that friend emailed me, asking if I was willing to come down out of the bell tower for a minute, edit the screed into a coherent article, and allow him to publish it in what would become Bull Magazine.

So I did. And then I wrote another article and another, and kept writing them throughout the 2002 season. Some people even read them. Joe Dimino -- who I knew only as "Scruff" at what was then Baseball Primer -- was the first guy to link anything I wrote. Then Repoz (secret identity: Darren Viola) played up my scribblings. I didn't have the keys to Bull so I have no idea how many people read my stuff, but I do know that Rob read it, because he sent me a nice note, telling me I did a good job. It pretty much made my year.

Circumstances (i.e. Bull going dark, my legal career getting screwy, and my wife having kids) led me to quit writing in 2003. At the time I thought it would be a brief hiatus, but it stretched on for years. Which would have been fine if I had never gotten that praise and encouragement from guys like Joe, Repoz, and especially Rob. I'd go months without so much as thinking about baseball during those years, only to one day see something that I felt I should be writing about because, dammit, I knew I had the chops to do it, because some smart people who knew from crappy baseball writing had once said so.

It all came to a head back in April, when I revved up my engines again and started ShysterBall. Writing little posts about Alyssa Milano wasn't exactly the same thing as Batman hitting the streets again in The Dark Knight Returns, but it was huge for me in that for the first time in over four years, I had a creative outlet.
Writing the blog for the past seven months has brought some added focus and structure to my life that had been lacking in recent years. More importantly, I've been enjoying the hell out of it.

But I wouldn't be doing it if it weren't for Rob Neyer.

Thanks, man.