Sunday MLB Insider Report: Our Views on the Latest Baseball News
Sunday August 28, 2011
MLB reports: Here is our weekly look at Major League Baseball and the latest news, together with analysis and opinions:
First our condolences to the Flanagan family, as the baseball world learned of the loss of ex-Orioles and Jays pitcher Mike Flanagan. Mike was a baseball lifer, having played the game and remained active as a coach, broadcaster and executive. The part of the ordeal that makes the story most tragic is how quickly speculation and then reports surfaced that his death was a suicide. In this age of social media, it is difficult to impossible to mask the facts behind a story. When rumors begin that are untrue, it is then often too difficult to bury them when they are later proven untrue. Once a story is put out into the world on the internet, it often remains there in people’s minds, if fact or faction. So when we think of Mike Flanagan, let’s remember him for the star pitcher that he was in the later 1970s and all the contributions he made to the game in all different capacities. Without having walked in his shoes, none of us could ever understand what was in his mind and the factors that led to his unfortunate passing. We cannot change the past. So when remembering Mike Flanagan, let’s remember him for his role in the game and not for the manner in which he passed away. I’m sure the Flanagan family would want it that way.
From a sad story to a literally bizarre tale, Lenny Dykstra is in the news once again. And for all the wrong reasons, again. The former World Series hero for the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies apparently was arrested for soliciting women on Craig’s List for fake jobs and then exposing himself to them. Looking to hire women for roles such as assistants and cleaning women, Nails according to reports has hit a new low. Once heralded as a business genius in business magazines, for his many business ventures including a string of car washes, Dykstra is now bankrupt and at the bottom of the barrel. I had a reader write in that questioned why ex-players like Dykstra and Flanagan pull stunts to get themselves into the news and cannot get away from the limelight. After my jaw dropped and blood boiled, I took some time to think about this comment. Overall, my response is that there is a difference between Flanagan, Dykstra and a publicity hound like Jose Canseco. Mike Flanagan passed in an unfortunate manner, but I think any reasonable person would not associate his death with a publicity stunt. Flanagan was a troubled soul but in no way looking for attention. Rather he was moving away from attention, likely looking for peace. To say that Flanagan was seeking publicity is extremely disrespectful to his legacy and family that was left behind. In the case of Dykstra, if the recent allegations are true, I also do not believe that he was seeking attention. To commit such crude and strange acts indicates that the man is disturbed and in need of professional assistance. Perhaps in some ways it is a cry for help, in other ways he may just have a giant ego and believes that he can do whatever he wants without repercussions. But it is extremely unlikely that Dykstra was hoping his actions would be publicized to the world and bring his name back to the spotlight. In a way it all comes back to Jose Canseco. In his truest form, Canseco only acts in a manner so that he will get his name into the public spotlight. From reality shows, boxing matches, independent baseball games, tell all books etc, Canseco’s singular purpose is to get attention. So while there are many ex-athletes out there in the world, let’s not all be so quick to group them into the Jose Canseco category. Some may have troubles, some may keep clean and we will never hear about them. But just because a story emerges about an ex-MLB player, let’s not be so quick to think that all of them are publicity hounds. Some want the exact opposite and enjoy their private time since their careers have finished.
Don’t look now Texas Rangers fans, but the Angels are hot on the heels of your team. The Rangers’ lead in the AL West is down to a mere 2.0 games with the Angels suddenly on fire. In their last 10 games respectively, the Rangers are 3-7 while the Angels are a mirror opposite 7-3. With the teams set to face-off today against each other, the gap could close even more. It seems that the Angels have caught fire at the right time, while the Rangers have cooled off. The Rangers are still scoring runs at a large clip, as they normally do in August in Arlington. But while the Rangers pitching is starting to fall short, the Angels pitching is on fire. Led by dual aces Jeff Weaver and Dan Haren, the Angels pitching looks unstoppable at this point. The Rangers will be tough to beat, with one of the best offenses in baseball led by Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, Michael Young and Mike Napoli. They also have a very deep end of the bullpen led by closer Neftali Feliz. But as the San Francisco Giants showed last year, strong pitching can beat good hitting to win at all. The Rangers have the bats and the Angels have the arms. While the Angels have some good bats, including Torii Hunter and Mike Trumbo, they are nowhere close to the level of the Rangers. It will be an AL West dogfight right to the end of the season. Baseball fans everywhere look forward to the September AL West showdown.
I read a really good article this week on the Sports Illustrated site. It was a look at the large contract signed by Jered Weaver and the Angels and analyzing the rationale behind it. The article made many strong points that I wanted to touch upon. While many analysts have argued that Weaver left tens of millions of dollars on the table, such is not always the case. Looking at the worst case scenarios of such a deal, the article brought up the Carlos Zambrano deal in Chicago and Brandon Webb not signing a contract with the Diamondbacks. Zambrano signed at the time a “team friendly” deal which the Cubs are now working very hard to get out of. On the flip side, Brandon Webb did not end up signing a long-term deal in Arizona and ended up getting hurt and costing himself millions. I would throw in as well the failure of Nomar Garciaparra to sign a long-term deal with Boston that ended up costing him millions due to later injuries suffered and likely saving the team in the long run. In the case of starting pitchers, you never know when one will get injured and waiting until free agency could result in injuries and lost wages overall. So while some view Weaver as having lost millions, others could look at it as gained millions and take the sure road to a rich contract and not gambling on what the future could bring. The bottom line is that Weaver is comfortable where he is and being paid handsomely to play the game he loves at home. Both the team and player are happy with the deal and everyone wins as a result. If Weaver gets injured or falters, the player will look as the victor. If Weaver dominates over the next five years, the team will appear as coming ahead. Without looking into a crystal ball, we will say that this was a fair deal for a player not yet eligible for free agency and we will call it a tie. As Chone Figgins in Seattle, Adam Dunn in Chicago and Jeff Weaver also in Seattle can attest, the highest dollar isn’t necessarily the best one for a baseball career. Staying in a productive situation can often best further a baseball career and lead to the most years played and quite often, the most dollars overall earned as a result.
Finally, one of our favorite baseball topics: prospects. From the explosion in exposure of the MLB draft to the countless websites devoted to tracking baseball prospects, baseball fans are hot on the heels of future “stars’ like never before. In addition to the social media available reporting on prospects, teams have pressure to develop and call-up prospects at a quicker pace due to the dollar amounts involved. With top prospects earning bigger bonuses than seen back in the day, executives are feeling the heat to rushing these bonus babies to the majors. So the combination of big bucks and fan pressure is resulting in prospects climbing early to the majors at very young ages. So while Brett Lawrie may appear to be an early success for the Jays, teammate Travis Snider has failed to reach his potential yet and is doing the trek from the minors to the majors and back. Alex Gordon similarly came to the majors with a mountain of expectations and took many years to develop. Colby Rasmus burnt out in St. Louis for many reasons and found his way to Toronto. Matt LaPorta was traded by the Brewers to the Indians in the C.C. Sabathia trade and has failed to live up to Indians’ fans expectations thus far. But on the flip side we see a Paul Goldschmidt come up with the Diamondbacks with little fanfare around the majors and find success. We can look at hit and miss prospects all day, but my point is as follows. Baseball prospects take the longest to develop out of all the major sports. While the NBA and NFL do not have a minor league system per say and the NHL has one minor league level, Major League Baseball has several minor league stops. It is rare to impossible for a baseball prospect to make it to the show without spending time in the minors. While most baseball prospects realistically need 2-4 years in the minors to develop their game, many top prospects are being rushed like never before. I do not see this as a positive in the game and in many cases a hinderance to the development of the players. But with the baseball media machine at full blast and money being thrown at top prospects at record high levels, I cannot see the rushing of top prospects stopping any time soon. But I think we all need to step away for a moment and really think about what is best for these players careers. For every Brett Lawrie, there will be hundreds of failed prospects that will take time to develop. Alex Gordon this year is one of the few lucky ones, that has been able to turn around his career. But it took a position change and many failed attempts to get to this point. Analyzing and watching prospects is one of my guilty habits, I will admit it. I just hope that major league teams will give their top prospects the tools and ability to succeed, rather than set them up for failure. It is a fine line and one that many teams are still learning to walk on.
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Posted on August 28, 2011, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged abbott, angels, baseball, cubs, diamondbacks, dykstra, flanagan, jays, mets, mlb, orioles, phillies, rangers, weaver, webb, zambrano. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.