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Ask the Reports: Saturday November 19th

Saturday November 19, 2011

Jonathan Hacohen:  Ask the Reports is back! After some thought and re-branding: we have decided to drop the E-mailbag moniker and to keep this section as “Ask the Reports”, which will appear every weekend.  E-mails is but one form you can reach MLB reports. You can follow us on Twitter  and tweet and direct message your questions and comments.  You can “Like” us on Facebook and write on our wall.  You can also leave all questions and comments at the end of each article and page on the website. With social media exploding as it has, we are truly connected in so many ways.  

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Let’s get to your questions:

Q:  If a modern-day MLB pitcher won 20 games for 20 seasons, he would still be 111 wins short of Cy Young’s win record..  From Eric, LA
 
A:  Great comment.  A true reflection on the evolution of the game.  Let’s start by taking a look at the career of Cy Young:
Denton True Young (aka Cy Young).  Born March 29, 1867 in Ohio.  Threw right-handed, stood 6’2″ and weighed 210 pounds.  He played for 22 seasons: 1890-1911.  He finished his career with a 511-316 lifetime record.  He actually had 5 seasons of 30+ wins.  36 in 1892 and 35 in 1895 being the career highs.  The man pitched in 906 games, starting 815 of them.  He threw 7356 career innings.  Ponder that one for a minute.  He had 5 seasons of 400 + innings and a dozen more seasons of 300-399 innings.  17 years of 300+ innings pitched.  If a modern-day pitcher were to pitch 200 innings per year for 20 years, he would reach 4000 innings.  About half of Cy Young.  That says a lot to me.  In the modern age, the only person that will come close to pitching those kind of innings was Nolan Ryan.  The Ryan Express pitched for 27 seasons.  807 games, 773 starts.  5386 innings pitched.  Career record:  324-292.  So to win as many games as Cy Young, you would need to win 25 games per year for 20 years.  An impossible feat in today’s modern game.  A pitcher would need to start 35-40 games and pitch 300-400 innings per year.  With closers, middle relievers and the stats of MLB bullpens, teams will not allow their starters to go deep into all those ballgames.  A “quality” start is 6 innings pitched.  At 30+ starts per year, most starters today are lucky to crack 200 innings.  Without the starts and innings, starting pitchers have less and less chances to stay deep in games to win.  Plus pitchers need offensive support and health to stay on the field and have a chance to gain wins.  Teams have 5-man rotations and also skip  or push back starts during the season.  We will never see another Cy Young.  Not the way baseball is played today.
 
 
Q:  What do you think Pat Burrell will do after he retires?  Fans of Pat Burrell
 
A:  I could see Burrell taking time off from the game.  Counting his dollars and maybe taking in a party or two (rumor has it that he is somewhat of a ladies’ man…).  But given his quality eye at the plate with pop, Burrell clearly knew a thing or two about hitting in his day.  Almost 300 home runs and 1000 walks do not happen by accident.  When Pat the Bat is ready to return to the game, he will join the Giants or Phillies likely as a minor league hitting instructor, or full-time hitting coach.  If he can show he can coach in the minors, you could see him as a hitting coach or 1st base coach one day in the major leagues.  Pat the Bat has a future in baseball- provided that he can teach and work well with the kids in helping them develop their abilities at the plate.
 
 
Q:  With 8 years and $160 Million, is Matt Kemp worth Manny Money or did L.A. pay a $30 Million premium to keep him off the open market next year?  Or both?  From Jason
 
A:  They did call Matt Kemp “Baby Manny” for a reason.  The Bison has always been highly touted coming up with the Dodgers.  For the last 2 seasons going into this year, some of that promise was starting to show.  Campaigns with 26 and 28 home runs respectively will catch people’s eyes.  Kemp looked like a .290 hitter with 20+ home run pop.   Pretty good- but not a superstar.  Then in 2011, Kemp simply exploded.  He led the league with 39 home runs and 126 RBIs, a difficult feat considering he had little support in the lineup and played his home games in a pitcher’s park.  With a .324 average, we nearly had a triple crown winner.  Kemp had a .399 OBP and .586 SLG.  Superstar numbers.  I am torn in analyzing him.  He was a year away from free agency.  Is he worth $20 Million per year for 8 years?  That is all relative.  Here is how I can best put it: what if Kemp would have hit .290, with 25 home runs with 90 runs and 90 RBIs in 2012 and hit free agency?  Would he have received the same deal?  Very likely.  At that point would the Yankees or Red Sox given him 7 years and $140 million to sign?  Carl Crawford got that same deal last year.  At 28 years of age, Kemp has shown good health and appears to be in great shape.  To say he is able to keep this pace until 35-years of age is not a stretch.  At worst, Kemp would have landed $15 million per season for 7 years, a total of $105 million.  So my thoughts are that the Dodgers would have needed to pay him $20 million for 2012 regardless.  By signing him early, they may have overpaid by $35 million over the life of the deal.  Or Kemp could have signed for $5 million per season on the open market (if no other alternatives) and cost an additional $35 million.  In a perfect world, it would have been nice to have seen more 2011-type seasons from Kemp before handing him this type of contract.  But given his fairly strong track record, health and young age, the Dodgers needed to lock him up now or risk very much losing him after 2012?  Did they overpay?  Not much by free agency standards.  Even if they overpaid by $30 million over the life of the contract, as long as Kemp continues to stay healthy and produce great to strong numbers, this was a deal that had to get done.  With the ownership turmoil and inability to attract and keep key players, this signing sends a message that the Dodgers are “back in business.”  Exactly what the fans want to hear.
 
 
Q:  Thoughts on Cespedes and Darvish? Any chance Blue Jays sign ‘em?  From Thomas
 
A:  There are approximately fans from 30 MLB teams that are hoping their teams will make a push for the 2 likely biggest international free agents.  Yu Darvish from Japan and Yoennis Cespedes from Cuba.  While Darvish will need to be posted and bid upon, Cespedes once declared would be free to sign with any team.  At 26-years of Cespedes is reported to be major league ready.  Viewers of his YouTube video are excited at his abilities at the plate.  He will reportedly cost in the $50 million range to sign.  Darvish, at 25-years of age, is one of the most highly touted pitchers ever to come from Japan.  If he is posted (which is still a big-if at this stage), Darvish is likely to cost north of $100 million (with the posting fee) to sign.  Will the Jays sign either or both?  My answer: no.  Not because the team is not competitive.  Far from it.  But because they will not throw a lot of money on risky propositions.  Neither player has played a single inning of Major League Ball.  No matter how each has fared competitively to-date, few could predict how their games will translate to the major leagues.  The Jays are already stacked in the oufield, with Bautista, Rasmus, Snider and Thames to choose from.  Edwin Encarnacion is even being tried out in the outfield in winterball.  Anthony Gose is also a young hot-shot prospect that will be landing in Toronto soon.  The Jays do not have a strong need for an outfielder and certainly will not want to devote a large portion of their budget to an unknown like Cespedes.  Especially given the mixed track record of Cuban hitters thus far in the majors.  The Jays’ budget would be better spent on pitching.  But to pay $50 million to win the Darvish posting and then sign him for another $50 million, that could translate to $20 million per season for 5 seasons.  That is insanity money.  At that point, I would rather sign C.J. Wilson for 5-years $100 million.  A far more certain return.  The Jays will pick up a strong DH bat this offseason, perhaps a new first baseman and 1-2 new starting pitchers.  They will be shopping.  But no mail-order-players are likely coming anytime soon to Toronto.
 
 
Final Q:  Psychology professor asked what our biggest stressors in life are. I said Brandon Inge still being a Tiger. Everyone looked at me weird.  From Ashley
 
A:  Time to change schools?  If any of your classmates are baseball fans, they must not watch the Tigers very often or simply fail to grasp the horrible play of Inge.  I rarely use the word “hate”. But as a Tigers follower (yes…they are my team), I do not have the time of day for Inge.  The team has him signed for 1 more season at $5.5 million and a team option for $6 million in 2013 or a $500K buyout.  Expect the buyout.  I get that he is a great team guy, and blah blah blah.  In 144 games in 2010, he hit .247 with 13 home runs.  Looking at his numbers, he had a great year in 2006 and 2009.  That is it.  But yet the Tigers have him signed through to 2012.  Last year, Inge hit .197 with 3 home runs and earned himself a trip back to the minors.  At 34-years of age.  He is done.  Done as dinner.  Stick the fork in him.  One of the most gifted defensive players that I have ever watched, he could do it all with the glove.  Perhaps he sticks around as a late-inning defensive replacement.  He is a good emergency catcher and strong third baseman.  But his career as a full-time player is over.  If the Tigers are prepared to leave him on the bench and mentor the young players, I am all for it.  But otherwise, they need to hang onto Ramon Santiago and simply let the Inge-era end.  Brandon Inge has cool tattoos and has provided some spark hits through his career.  Its time for the Tigers to thank him for his contributions and move on.   Thank you Ashley for understanding.  I feel your pain.
 
 

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Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)


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Mike Maddux: The Next Great MLB Manager and the End of the Rangers

Saturday November 5, 2011

 

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  I rarely get excited about coaches in the game.  Not for the reasons that you may think.  Many coaches are great at their craft.  But most MLB coaches work behind the scenes and are rarely heard from or spoken to.  In the MLB revolving door game, it seems that many players, as well as coaches, are seen be teams as interchangeable commodities.  When teams hit slumps or fail to meet expectations, it is easier to change the coach(es)/manager than it is to replace twenty-five players on the roster.  So when a coach stands out and gets me excited, you know that he is a game-changer in my opinion.  Two such coaches currently exist in the ranks.  Both are pitching coaches and both are being reviewed for changes in employment.  The first is Dave Duncan in St. Louis and the second is Mike Maddux in Texas.

With the retirement of Tony La Russa in St. Louis, many have wondered as to the future of his former pitching coach, Dave Duncan.  Widely seen as one of the best in the business, Duncan’s control and shaping of his pitching staff is seen as one of the overriding factors in helping Tony La Russa achieve his success in the game.  No Duncan = inferior pitching = no championships.  This is the man who took Jeff Weaver and Joel Pineiro and made them into the second coming of Cy Young.  Ok…so many Duncan isn’t such an effective miracle worker.  But the man is damn good at what he does and all else being equal, there would be 29 other teams that would love to discuss employment if he was available.  But rather than seek a managerial position, Duncan- who start coaching in the late 1970s with Cleveland, has indicated that he will be honoring his contract and remain the pitching coach in St. Louis.  The man clearly knows his strengths and his goals in the game.  For the future manager of St. Louis, he will be inheriting a right-hand man to guide his pitchers like no others.

Well…with the exception of one man perhaps.  While Duncan is seen as one of the game’s greatest pitching coaches of all time- Mike Maddux has grown into the being the next best coach, if not “the” best.  In his 9 seasons as pitching coach, Maddux has successfully transformed the Brewers pitching staff (during his time in Milwaukee) into one of the best in the game.  From there, Maddux has taken a Rangers squad that has been known seemingly forever as being all bats and no arms.  The Rangers have had one of the worst statistical pitching staffs for much of its stay in Texas.  Maddux has successfully lowered the team ERA every year in the past three years and has helped transform the Rangers pitchers into stars.  C.J. has gone from middle reliever/occasional closer into the staff ace.  Alexi Ogando excelled in the rotation, as has Neftali Feliz as closer.  Some may argue that the Rangers have more pitching talent in the history of organization.  That may be true on many levels, but the team still plays half of its games in one of the most dangerous hitters’ ballparks in baseball.  By working his magic with the Rangers pitching staff, considering its home ballpark, Mike Maddux is a miracle worker to me.

It is my understanding that Mike Maddux is the highest, or one of the highest paid pitching coaches in the game.  To get him to leave his status in Texas, he would need to be offered a strong position that presented a challenging and rewarding opportunity in the game.  As the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox both come calling this week, Mike Maddux will likely be choosing soon whether he is ready to take on the top leadership on the field of one of the two top franchises in the game.  The Rangers have already granted Maddux permission, as Nolan Ryan and company do not wish to stand in the way of Mike Maddux’s success.  With Ron Washington leading the Rangers to two straight World Series appearances, the managerial position was unlikely to be offered to Maddux any time soon in Texas.  So the draw will likely come down to Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer in Chicago convincing Maddux to lead the Cubs, while Ben Cherington does the same in Boston.

Is Mike Maddux up for the role?  Hard to say.  A great pitching coach won’t necessarily lead to success as a manager.  But Maddux has many of the essential intangibles for success.  He is known as a hard worker, dependable, well liked but respected by his players.  For all the years I have watched him, he always seemed to be a calming influence over his pitchers.  If he can exercise that same attitude for the other coaches of a team and its players, we may be forming the next great MLB manager.  Other managerial positions may open up, but for the time being, it appears that the Cubs and Red Sox have the edge in luring him away from Texas.  Both are major markets and present the chance to build/groom winning ball clubs.  The Red Sox have more talent, but also have the older squad with referenced difficult players and personalities to manage.  The Cubs, while younger and less talented, may be more moldeable for Maddux if named manager.

Mike Maddux did pitch for the Red Sox over two seasons.  While he never played in Chicago, he will know the Cubs and Wrigley well from his Brewers coaching days.  Mike’s younger brother, Greg was a star pitcher for many years for the Cubs and can give him much insight into the team.  The decision will boil down to fit.  Does Mike Maddux want to manage?  Likely, the answer is yes.  With his experience and reputation at the game, it will be difficult to not want to take on the job of a lifetime.  Money will be no object, as both squads could offer Maddux 3-5 year contracts at approximately $3 million per season.  So the answer will come down to where Maddux would most want to manage.  The answer will likely be Chicago.

Having coached in the division for some time and having his brother’s experiences as a strong influence, I see Mike Maddux being attracted to being a manager in Wrigley.  For all its talent and fandom, the mix of veterans and difficult personalities will likely be more than Maddux as a rookie manager will want to handle.  The Cubs, with more youth present a bigger challenge for Maddux.  Yet, the team will also likely be more moldeable under him.  Mike Maddux looks to me like a long-term thinker.  After taking the Rangers youngsters and turning their pitchers into stars, Maddux will likely want to do the same in Chicago.   Both teams will go aggressively after him, but at the end of the day, I expect Maddux to be wearing the “C” cap by opening day.  Theo Epstein started the groundwork for Mike Maddux while still running the Red Sox.  He seems to be a sharp guy and what Theo wants, he usually gets.  As the Jays denied the opportunity for John Farrell to be available, Epstein will now need to seek another former pitching coach turned manager.  Mike Maddux appears to be his man.

What does this all mean for the Texas Rangers?  I can’t say they will regress back to the old poor pitching squad of yesteryear, but I certainly think the team will suffer greatly if Mike Maddux departs.  As today’s MLB is strongly built on pitching, the Rangers would be losing their not-so-secret weapon if Mike Maddux was to jump ship.  This is a loss that the team most cannot afford to occur.  All else being equal, retaining Mike Maddux in my opinion is more important than having C.J. Wilson on the squad.  This is the value of Mike Maddux.  But after giving Maddux the biggest coach’s contract to come Texas, there is little the Rangers can do to keep Mike Maddux as they cannot offer him a promotion.  Nolan Ryan would need to be very creative if he had hoped to keep his pitching coach.  But at the end of the day, money is one factor.  Job title is another.  The Rangers clearly have realized this as they granted teams permission to talk to Mike Maddux.  While showing good faith in rewarding their pitching coach for a job well done, the team is likely shooting itself in the foot and risking its long-term viability if Mike Maddux does end up leaving.

I expect Mike Maddux to be successful wherever he goes.  If he joins the Cubs or Red Sox, it is almost guaranteed that the team will have a fantastic pitching staff.  Will the rest of the team excel and contend?  A good question, which will come down to whether Mike Maddux surrounds himself with smart coaches as a manager.  For the 50-year old Maddux with the younger brother who is a future hall-of-famer, he is clearly building his own legacy in the game.  My expectation is that we will have an announcement in the next 7-10 days,  confirming Mike Maddux as the new manager for either the Cubs or Red Sox.  If that is the case, expect those teams to be playoff regulars in the near future.  In the same token, expect the Rangers run of World Series appearances to end as soon as Mike Maddux to leave.  He may not have been their everything, but should he depart, the secret weapon of the Rangers will disappear as well.  Good luck to Mike Maddux:  he has exciting but difficult decisions to make in the near future.

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Baseball Book Review: Taking the Field by Howard Megdal

Saturday June 18, 2011

TAKING THE FIELD (A FAN’S QUEST TO RUN THE TEAM HE LOVES)  BY:  HOWARD MEGDAL

(Bloomsbury:  2011)

MLB reports:  You will find on MLB reports a page dedicated solely to baseball book reviews.  We created a baseball books review section to encourage readership, thought and analysis on the books written about the greatest game in the world.  While baseball fans enjoy watching games as they happen, books are a very important component of baseball fandom as well.  Reading baseball books fosters understanding and advancing one’s baseball knowledge.  Baseball books can be an adventure through time, recapping games and players of years gone by.  Other books educate and train on specific components of the game.  Some are devoted exclusively to statics.  The possibilities are endless.

Then there are those baseball books that deliver information and insights into the many components of the game.  Those special books, when completed, leave an impact on you as a baseball fan and person.  You walk away with a wealth of baseball knowledge to further discussions with other fans.  In watching games from there, you will have a better appreciation for the sport and understanding of the “game within the game.”  While I have read many great baseball books in my day, I have found few authors that have been able to speak to me and truly leave me wanting more after completing their literary works.  Today I can say with confidence that I have found such an author.  His name is Howard Megdal and his recently published book is titled “Taking the Field:  A Fan’s Quest to Run the Team He Loves.”

Taking the Field is Megdal’s second baseball book, with “The Baseball Talmud” representing his initial leap into the baseball publishing world.  Megdal has hit a home run with Taking the Field.  No sophomore jinx here.  Taking the Field is basically three books in one.  The main premise of the book is Megdal’s campaign to become the General Manger of the New York Mets.  But the book is far more than that.  Taking the Field is a historical review and analysis of the history of the New York Mets baseball club and many of the players that have been a part of the team over the years.  It is also an autobiography of Megdal, from growing up as a Mets fan in Philadelphia to writing about the team to this day.  Taking the Field is everything a baseball book should be.  I read it page-by-page and simply could not put it down.  After completing Taking the Field, I was left with many ideas and thoughts on the Mets and baseball.  I was left craving more.  A sign of a talented author that excels at his craft.

Let’s make this point clear.  Howard Megdal is first and foremost a fan of the New York Mets.  He does not try to hide his eternal devotion to his favorite team.  Megdal lives for every game, every pitch and every at-bat of the Mets.  Rather than try to mask his bias, Megdal embraces his love for the Mets and has turned the team into a lifestyle.  We learn in Taking the Field about Megdal watching games with his father and turning his wife, Rachel and young daughter, Mirabelle, into fellow Mets disciples.  He introduces us to the world of baseball blogging and the growth of baseball websites in recent years.  Megdal spoke to me in the book as a writer and fan of baseball, but also as a person.  He really is a “real” person and his genuineness and compassion come across in his writing.  Many books can turn off readers, when the authors choose to talk down or above its readers.  That is not the case with Howard Megdal.  Reading Taking the Field, I got the sense that Megdal is a down to earth person.  He truly appreciates being able to cover the team and sport that he loves for a living.  Megdal does not take any part of his success and journey for granted.  Reading his words, I felt like I was in the car with him in his younger days, driving to watch the Mets in Shea for the first time.  I was there at Bard College with Megdal and his roommates when they watched the Red Sox win their first of two World Series titles in recent years.  I came to care about Megdal and shared all his emotions for the Mets.  The love of the team, the successes and bitter defeats, I was there with him every step of the way.  Even though the Mets are not my team of choice, they became my team during my read of Taking the Field.  Not an easy task to accomplish, but Megdal did it.  From there, Megdal was going to graduate from fan and writer, to baseball executive and I was along for every step of the ride.

Taking the Field captures the journey of Megdal as a fan campaigning to become the General Manager of the Mets by internet and campaign promotions.  By advocating “logic”, “transparency” and “passion”, Megdal looked to turn the Mets front office into a baseball democracy, with voted leaders holding accountability to the team owners but most of all, to the fans of the team.  A humorous and tongue-in-cheek inspired effort, Megdal was successful in making a political statement as to how baseball teams are run and laying out the criteria that is necessary to turn a baseball team into a contender and eventual champion.  Every baseball executive at all levels of the game would be well advised to reading Taking the Field.  It is an autobiography of Howard Megdal on one level.  It is a baseball manual on the other.  As a “how to run a baseball team for dummies” type book, Taking the Field brings together an original concept in its pages.  Hopefully many teams adopt the Megdal mantra and create the successful organization that Megdal envisions in his preachings.

While I enjoyed learning about Howard Megdal and his path to attempting to become the General Manager of the Mets, the component of the book that I most enjoyed and appreciated was the history.  Taking the Field covers substantially the history of the Mets, from inception to the recent hiring by the team of new General Manager, Sandy Alderson.  While the book covers too many topics to list them all, some of the highlights for me were:

  • Drafting, development and trading of Nolan Ryan
  • Tom Seaver trade
  • John Rocker incident
  • The chronicles of the 1986 World Series Champions Mets
  • The Tenure of Omar Minaya as GM
  • The legend of Benny Agbayani

The list literally goes on and on.  Megdal in Taking the Field has armed me with as much Mets history and information as I ever imagined possible.  After reading this book, I feel confident that I can enter a discussion/debate/argument with any fan bleeding blue and orange and not miss a beat.  All Mets fans have to buy this book.  That is a no-doubter.  It is literally impossible to love the Mets and not enjoy this book.  But even the most casual baseball fan can appreciate what Taking the Field has to offer.  Anyone starting off in baseball would appreciate Megdal’s take on the game and will advance to an intermediate level after completing the book.  On the flip side, even the most advanced baseball junkie will enjoy the book.  There are tidbits of information spread throughout the book that many “experts” likely never knew or forgot long ago.  Taking the Field will work for anyone who enjoys baseball.

The ironic component of this book is the amount of news surrounding the Mets since Megdal completed Taking the Field.  Bernie Madoff.  The Wilpon interview with the New Yorker.  David Einhorn being introduced as minority owner of the Mets.  Much has happened in New York in very recent times.  But even with the amount of  Mets news and changes, Taking the Field has not become outdated or irrelevant.  Far from it.  To fully understand what the Mets are going through today, one needs to understand the history of the Mets up till now.  This history is recounted eloquently by Megdal in his book.  All the recent happenings of the Mets shows that time never stands still and the history of tomorrow takes place in the present.  The New York Mets of today are proving that Megdal’s preachings in Taking the Field were bang on correct.  After completing Taking the Field, I look forward to Howard Megdal’s next literary works.  Stick with baseball Howard.  The baseball community is lucky to have you as a member.  Theo Epstein made his mark in the game.  With Taking the Field, you have now made yours.

*** To learn more about “Taking the Field” and Howard Megdal, you can follow Howard on Twitter and click here for Howard’s website.***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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