Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

I did this last year and no one complained, so it seemed appropriate to once again give you ShysterBall's official list of the things which teams -- or their fans -- should be thankful for as we head into the deep dark winter of the 2008-09 offseason. Before you read that, however, please go watch this.

That never gets old. Now on to the thankfulness:

The Rays can be thankful for so many years in the wilderness, which allowed them to have so many recent high draft picks. If guys like Jose Canseco, Greg Vaughn, Travis Lee, and Casey Fossum had been even mediocre, Tampa Bay may never have gotten a crack at the players they needed to get this operation off the ground.

Red Sox
The Fenway Sports Group, which constitutes a big ol' infusion of non-sharable revenue with which the Sox' very bright front office can play. Of course, it may one day serve as the spark of a giant civil war between the rich owners and the poor owners. But I'm a silver lining guy, so my response to that will be "Cool! Two leagues!"

The success of the Rays. If their failure to make the playoffs were simply a function of being outspent and out-thunk by the Red Sox, the Yankees would have no choice but to triple down on payroll and free agents. At least now Brian Cashman has an argument that it's better to develop at least a few players in-house. Sure, they may spend a gazillion dollars on free agents anyway this winter and cut bait on Hughes and Kennedy too early, but at least such a course will be the result of a decision rather than some unbending imperative.

Blue Jays
The return of Cito Gaston which, whether he caused it or not, coincided with a stretch of baseball in which the Jays were 14 games over .500. Eighty-six wins was nice too, though in the AL East that may be a curse in that it's not enough to compete but not enough to justify a tear-down either.

That the offense came through better than expected. Before the season started most folks assumed that Baltimore would wind up near the cellar in runs scored, and instead finished remarkably mediocre in that category. Yeah, that still amounted to a distant last place, but things looked historically bleak for the Orioles this time last year, so run-of-the-mill crappy is worthy of thanks.

White Sox
White Sox fans should be thankful that the Arizona Diamondbacks gave a dumb contract to Eric Byrnes, which in turn made then feel like they had to trade Carlos Quentin.

The Twins should be thanking their lucky stars that letting their star centerfielder go and trading one of the best pitchers in baseball for a guy with a sub-.300 OBP didn't result in an utter collapse. Not that luck is the real factor here. The Twins have made something out of seemingly nothing for so long that maybe we shouldn't have been surprised that they were in the race until the waning days of the season. If only they had let Livan go a few weeks earlier than they did . . .

Injuries. If Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner (and many others) weren't hurt and/or ineffective this year, there's a chance they would have been in the race this summer. If they were, would they really have traded Sabathia and, in turn, received Matt LaPorta? Would they have realized that Kelly Shoppach could be an everyday catcher if given the chance, thus allowing Victor Martinez to move to first base or DH, thus displacing black holes like Hafner and Garko? No, the stars didn't align for the Indians in 2008, but things look pretty darn bright for 2009.

The month of September. As a result of that 18-8 record, the year ended up looking far prettier than it felt.

The financial crisis, the impending collapse of the Big Three, the Lions and the 3-9 Michigan Wolverines. All of these catastrophes combined to quickly erase the memory of the 2008 Detroit Tigers, perhaps the most disappointing and uninspiring squad in team history.

The A's basically throwing in the towel last season. Sure, the Angels still would have cruised to the division crown, but the lack of any serious competition sure gave them a nice calm September.

Their really damn fine offense, which helped balance the worst pitching staff and worst defense in the league.

The icy hand of death. Specifically, the fear of it, which I'm guessing is what has caused owner Lew Wolff to go after Matt Holliday and put the pedal to the metal on the stadium in Fremont. The guy probably realizes that no matter how sound the decision making has been in Oakland during the Beane regime, sometimes you gotta push the limits a bit in order to accomplish something before you freakin' die.

New blood in the front office and in the dugout. Both Jack Zduriencik and Don Wakamatsu are breaths of fresh air for a franchise that was damn close to suffocating.

A front office team that realized that Geoff Geary, Michael Bourn, and Michael Costanzo were expendable. Oh, and the World Series title was nice too.

As God is my witness, I can't feature any Mets fan giving thanks for a single thing at the moment. Johan. OK, there's Johan. Other than that, man, it's been two pretty bleak winters in a row, hasn't it?

The economic collapse. It's hard to get a publicly funded stadium built in even the most prosperous of times, and when times are tough, you may as well forget about it. But when times are as catastrophically bad as they are now -- when things are so awful that serious-minded people routinely use the word "depression" when discussing the economy -- public officials get all New Dealy on us and decide that a new ballpark isn't a gift to billionaire baseball owners, it's a public works project.

Jair Jurrjens and Jorge Campillo, who did everything they could to hold the fort after all the grownups in the rotation went down. Braves fans may also soon be able to thank Jake Peavy's representation, who have so damaged the bargaining power of Padres management this offseason that Jake may find himself in a Braves jersey next season in exchange for a package that even a doubter like me can live with.

That seemingly no one in Virginia, Maryland, or the District of Columbia gives a flying falafel about baseball. You've seen the bumper sticker that reads "If you aren't outraged you aren't paying attention?" I think that was first made for the the seven Nats season ticket holders. No one is really outraged, by the way.

No matter how disappointing the playoffs turned out, Cubs' fans should be thankful for the best Cubs team in, gosh, maybe 73 years. Unlike pre-2004 Red Sox Nation, Cubs fans have always stayed just on just the acceptable side of the line dividing genuine misery from overwrought victimization. Here's hoping that, as the Cubbies achieve greater success, they similarly outperform Yankees' fans in dealing with feelings of entitlement and unrealistic expectations.

Carston Charles Sabathia, who took that team, placed it on his back, and carried its butt into October. No matter where he goes in 2009, CC gave Milwaukee fans a season -- well, a half season -- to remember.

That the success of a season is judged by the team's record in real games as opposed to the Pythagorean record, because they had a pretty good year measured by the former and a pretty bad one measured by the latter. Unfortunately, a team like Houston is also inclined to plan based on the former rather than the latter, which means that it could be a really ugly 2009 for Astros fans.

It's an obvious one, but Cardinals fans are making a gigantic mistake if they don't wake up each morning and thank whatever deity they believe in for Albert Pujols. When the MVP vote causes all kinds of yelling and starts all kinds of arguments simply because your guy's margin of victory wasn't large enough, you know you have a special player in the fold.

The end of the Ken Griffey, Jr. Era. Not that it's not sad to see player of Griffey's caliber go, but this has been a franchise and, more specifically, a fanbase, that has been unable to take anything that has happened since February 10, 2000 at face value. Good things have been soured by the feeling that they could have been so much better if Griffey had been healthy or 1990s-productive. Bad things have been truly wretched for much the same reason. I usually take Andy Dufresne's side of things, but when it comes to Griffey in Cincinnati, I have to agree with Red: "Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane." Now that Griffey is gone, maybe the Reds can operate within the bounds of reality rather than lament what could have been and damn what never was.

It's a rerun from last season, but once again, Pirates fans should be thankful for Neal Huntington, who just over a year ago cleaned house on the player development side and announced that objective measures of player performance were going to rule the day. The Nady/Marte and the Bay trades may or may not end up yielding Major League talent, but they were the right moves to make. It's a long climb back for the Pirates, but Huntington is the guy they need as their mountain guide.

Management that understands the concept of sunk costs. Sure, they wouldn't need to understand that concept if they hadn't gone out and grabbed Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones in the first place, but better to overpay useless players and trade for Manny Ramirez than wrongly-play useless players and watch the Diamondbacks win the division.

Diamondbacks' management should be thankful that most folks aren't that good at math, because if they were, their fans would all be aware of the following depressing little statistic first observed by Matthew Carruth at Fangraphs: "A sad season for Arizona fans as they saw their team race off to a 9-2 start and if they had simply played .500 ball for the remaining 151 games they would have at least tied Los Angeles’ 84 wins." Oy.

Colorado should be thankful -- and will be, for many years -- that they won the pennant in 2007, because it probably bought a lot of goodwill for a team that isn't as close to consistent contention as many thought before the season began.

That they get to watch Tim Lincecum pitch every fifth day. Cain and Sanchez are no slouches either, so after 15 years of BarryBall, San Francisco may soon have a team that contends based on its pitching. That is, if they can find anyone who can hit. You know, just a little bit?

Family. Friends. The fact that no matter how dark these days may seem, there is someone or some reason worth waking up for and facing the day. That the human race has frequently stared into the abyss and found the wherewithal to not blink, to beat a strategic retreat, and build up its strength for another fight, another day.

What, you think I'd mention something about baseball? This is the Padres for cryin' out loud!

And once again, I offer my thanks to you. I don't write this blog simply to satisfy myself with how clever I am. Well, not mostly. I write it because you guys read it and, unless you're yankin' my chain, you like it. I'd have thrown in the towel a long time ago if you didn't.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving. Enjoy some time with your family, your friends, or if neither of those are around, enjoy the peace and quiet that none of us with family and friends will be getting. I think I'm going to take the rest of today and Friday off and, as per usual, I'll be quiet on Saturday and Sunday too. Tryptophyn, pie, and wine will do that to a guy.

On Monday morning we storm the pages of The Hardball Times. I hope to see you there.



Jason @ IIATMS said...

Have fun stormin' the castle! See ya there.

It's been a helluva year so far. Thank YOU

Pete Toms said...

I'll be at THT as well, but the selfish part of me kinda wishes you weren't going.

I like being a member of this little digital tree fort, I don't know if it will be quite the same...

Happy Thanksgiving to y'all south of our border. It's my favorite US holiday because of the additional NFL games!

Sara K said...

Happy Thanksgiving, pal. See you on THT bright-n-early Monday, a few pounds heavier...

Tom said...

I'm thankful for finding this blog during the past year.

Happy Thanksgiving.

tHeMARksMiTh said...

I second that, and as I read last year's, I liked the prophetic comment about the Rays.

Grant said...

I'm thankful for Matt Wieters. Even though he hasn't actually done anything yet.

rob said...

Thanks to all, of course.

You know, for all the hand wringing and populist rhetoric that gets spilled about outside revenue sources like the Fenway Sports Group, there's no reason why every team can't take advantage of the loophole. Unlike television revenues, there's nothing about being a small market team that would keep the owners of the Indians, or Pirates, or Twins, or A's from having the rip-roaringist and most-profitable NASCAR group, or EPL franchise, or Arena Football team.

Maybe the Red Sox have more capital to invest, but would it seem so inequitable if it were the Kansas City Royals who were raking in the extra cash from a NASCAR team?

RoyceTheBaseballHack said...

I'll jump on with Tom's assessment and share that I'm thankful for finding this blog during the year.
You really helped us have more fun with the season, Shyster.
I suggest we add a well-stocked bar to the digital tree fort.

mooseinohio said...

Another soul thankful for finding Shysterball this past year as I may not have survived my transition to working in a office fulltime without the escape to the land of Shysterville.

Looking forward to annexation Monday and all the spoils that come with being part of a larger metro area.

Mike said... God as my witness, I thought turkey's could fly. :-)