Ten Stray Thoughts On A Friday

For many, Friday represents the end of a long work week that was filled with heavy doses of sludging and drudging. It’s my hope that at the end of every week during the baseball season, at that moment that only occurs on a Friday afternoon when it’s too far away from closing time to leave work early, but too late in the day to start anything new, you’ll join us here to check out some random observations and contribute your own opinions to ten stray thoughts on a Friday.

So, without further ado:

About Intangibles

I wrote a piece today in response to Ken Rosenthal’s assertion that it was a lack of team chemistry causing the Los Angeles Dodgers recent struggles. I touched on this briefly in the piece, but the thing that bothers me the most about lazily suggesting intangibles as an answer for anything is that in order to do so you have to attach some sort of magical quality to it. Nakedly suggesting that intangibles are the root of anything is akin to believing that angels are helping the Baltimore Orioles win or that the Boston Red Sox are hindered by devils.

That’s not to suggest that intangibles don’t play a role. I’m certain that they do. But we should be able to see what role they play by examining what’s happening under whatever the circumstance that’s deemed to be the cause of the success or failure by the narrative. For instance, if an off field issue is bothering a player, we should be able to see that his timing is off at the plate or that his plate discipline isn’t quite right.

We can’t say that the personal issue is the cause of the bad timing or swinging wildly, but we will be able to have a pretty good idea that the bad timing and swinging wildly is why the player’s bat is suddenly terrible. And the cause of the struggles is far more interesting than the cause of the cause of the struggles anyway.

Here’s my personal feelings on intangibles over the course of my development as a baseball fan.

Kenny Ken Ken Rosenthal

I wonder if for someone writing as much as Ken Rosenthal does, being wrong once in a while is sort of a sign that you’re doing something right. At the very least, it proves a willingness on his part to get out of his comfort zone and not mail in the exact same style of article every single time.

I’ve written before about Rosenthal being the very best reporter in baseball and how he makes what he does look easy, so easy in fact, that I might credit a good portion of the “I broke a trade on Twitter” craze to him.

I’ve often said that in baseball, more so than other sports, it’s difficult to gain the right level of appreciation for what’s happening on a diamond without actually playing on a diamond at one time. There’s so much gracefulness on display at a baseball game that it simply looks so easy to catch, throw and swing. The reality of course is that it’s incredibly difficult.

I wonder if reporters like Rosenthal and Buster Olney might share this characteristic with the athletes that they cover. Instead of a diamond though, they put their talents on display on Twitter, and we see the end result of their hard work and network building without the process. In other words, they make what they do look so easy that others believe they can imitate it without doing the hard work.

Buster Olney’s Eery Fascination With Mike Trout

Speaking of Buster Olney. He’s the subject of a none-too flattering photograph taken by Los Angeles Angles starter C.J. Wilson while he was attempting to speak with Mike Trout.

The number one factor in the Los Angeles Angels not offering Mike Trout a contract extension is centred around the likelihood of him being maimed in a kidnapping attempt by Buster Olney.

The Mike Trout Extension

In sussing out whether or not it’s a good idea or bad idea for the Los Angeles Angels to sign Mike Trout to a contract extension at the conclusion of this season, one has to figure that the money involved would have to set a record for a player of his service time. However, even though an offer like that might be available, it would still be full of enough concessions to make it worthwhile for the Angels to sign.

As Tom Tango points out, Major Leaguers signing their first contract aren’t typically interested in a deal that takes care of their grand children or even great great children. They look for a contract that can take care of themselves for life first, and then they’ll go from there. Because of this, there’s little motivating Trout to sign a massive extension when the probability of setting himself up for life via arbitration already exists.

I think the pattern is pretty clear, in terms of the behaviour of MLB players: if they have little, they want enough to put them into a solid comfort zone.  And if they are comfortable, then they want their first huge payday, and structured so they can come back with a second huge pay day.  Unless of course they hit free agency, at which point they may simply want the biggest pay day they’ll ever get.

That makes sense to me, but the thing about Trout is, and this is something that benefits an Angels team that would be interested in making a deal, he’s not even scheduled to reach arbitration for at least another year. Can you imagine if Trout wins the American League MVP this season, he could very well be making close to the league minimum on a renewable contract next year.

The Ned Colletti Extension

While we’re talking about extensions, it seems as though Ned Colletti, the often mocked General Manager of the the Los Angeles Dodgers is in line for a prolonged stay with the team despite a recent change of ownership. Colletti has been highly mockable over most of his term as GM in L.A., but he should be given a certain amount of grace by those of us who are quick to judge his transactions, considering the limitations and policies that must’ve been in place under Frank McCourt ownership.

Under the ownership group, Colletti has appeared highly competent as a GM with a big budget. While some have pointed out that the Dodgers astronomical payroll commitments for next season mean that they have no budget at all, and Colletti can swoop up anything that’s available, it should be remembered that in all the mid-season acquisitions that the team made, they didn’t have to give up their top pitching prospect. I’m also fairly certain that the value they have gotten in return for the contract that they were willing to take on isn’t far off what they’re paying for, if at all.

So, good job by Ned Colletti this season, and if I was Dodgers ownership, I’d be doing the exact same thing. Also, doesn’t he totally look like an off-duty cop?

Wild Card Playoff Scheduling

Almost as soon as the new playoff format was announced, baseball fans wondered what would happen in the event of a tie, and how MLB was going to implement the new playoff format for 2012 even though the schedule had already been put in place with the notion that the old system would be utilized.

Jayson Stark of ESPN informs us that if a tie was to occur, we’re unlikely to see a team play three games in three days in three different cities without MLB stepping in to rearrange something. However, there are other scenarios that could be incredibly messy, like the Yankees, Rays and Orioles all finishing with the same record.

According to Stark:

Their first order of business would be to decide the AL East champ. That would take two days.

If nothing significant changes in the next few weeks, the Rays (who have the best head-to-head record against the other two teams) would get to decide whether they want to play two home games to break that tie or let the other two teams play and face the winner on the road.

Once the division is decided, if the AL East “losers” were tied for the second wild-card spot, they would have to play again to break that tie. So it’s possible the Orioles, for instance, might have to play Wednesday in Tampa Bay, Thursday in New York, Friday in Baltimore, Saturday in Oakland/Detroit/Anaheim/Chicago and (depending on game times and logistics) Sunday in Baltimore.

I wonder what would happen if multiple teams are tied for the division title, while simultaneously tied for a Wild Card spot with teams outside of their division. I’m not so sure that the postseason schedule we’ve seen will be the final one.

Popular Players

Yesterday’s five most popular player profiles at Baseball Reference were:

  1. Derek Jeter
  2. Miguel Cabrera
  3. Albert Pujols
  4. Alex Rodriguez
  5. Cal Ripken Jr.

Over at FanGraphs, the last 24 hours have seen these player profiles visited the most:

  1. Mark Reynolds
  2. Brian Matusz
  3. Clay Buchholz
  4. Todd Redmond
  5. Bryce Harper

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The Toughest Team

Last night I was amazed to witness the Chicago Cubs provoking some of the larger members of the Washington Nationals during the heated finale of their four game sweep. Looking at the size of Michael Morse and even third base coach Bo Porter, I wondered if they were the scariest team in baseball with which to pick a fight.

Looking up the data, which is notoriously inaccurate, the Nationals are middle of the road in terms of the average weight of their roster, even if they are tied for the tallest average height of 6’2″. However, there is another reason you’d do well to avoid picking fights on a baseball diamond, and that’s due to Washington’s pitchers throwing harder than any team in baseball. The staff’s fastball averages 94 miles per hour, half a mile per hour faster than the Tampa Bay Rays.

Still Alive

If there’s one thing more surprising about the Baltimore Orioles than their improbable run to the playoffs, it’s the fact that their former manager Earl Weaver is still alive and well. He was in attendance last night at Camden Yards as part of a pre-game ceremony, now at the age of 82.

It’s fitting that Weaver, a manager who had no reservations about using every player on his roster, should see a successful Orioles team that’s gotten to where it has at least in part because of its willingness to manipulate its 25 man roster. According to Baseball Prospectus, the Orioles have made 324 transactions since Opening Day, which is second-most in baseball.

This conjures up a mental image in my mind of a barely damp wash cloth being squeezed for every drup of water than can be drained out of it.