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Ask the Reports: ATR Answers Your Baseball Questions – March 25th, 2012

Sunday March 25th, 2012



Jonathan Hacohen:  Posted every Weekend: Your top baseball questions from the past week are answered. E-mail all questions to mlbreports@me.com, message us on Twitter and post on our Facebook Wall!

Let’s get to your top questions of the week:


Q:
Joba:  Horrible tragedy or comeback story of the decade, scene 3?  Barack

MLB reports: Oh Barack. If only this would end well. Joba Chamberlain, one of the biggest prospects for the Yankees once upon a time appears to have a rain cloud hanging over his head. After so many setbacks in his career, the hope was that he would recover well from Tommy John surgery and resurrect his career. Now he will likely get a great deal of grief for the source of his latest injury, as he was apparently playing on a trampoline with his son this week. The result is a dislocated right ankle, an open flesh would and a season/career at risk. From early reports, it is believed that Joba is done for the year and quite possibly for his career. At this point in time, I am going to call it a horrible tragedy. While I would love to see him come back and be stronger than ever, the odds are that a comeback may not be in the cards. Let’s see where things are at by season’s end. But for now, the best we can do is pray for Joba and his family.

Q: I have a question. Do you think that sometime soon there won’t be enough salary space for 20mil+ players on any teams?  Martin

MLB reports:  Great question Martin and an interesting take. There are two schools of thoughts on the subject. The first one is that there could be 1-3 players on each team earning $20 million plus, with at least 20% of the team needing to earn around the league minimum. Or, there is the option of many players per team earning high salaries ($5 million+), with few if any players earning anything close to $20 million. I see more the former, rather than the latter happening. As players’ salaries continue to escalate, I see the rich getting richer…and the poor, getting poorer. Part of the reason that we are seeing players like Vladdy and Matsui on the sidelines is that teams are getting maxed out and choosing to go with younger, cheaper players. If teams want to pay key players $20 million+, then the salaries have to come from somewhere. In the majority of the cases, it means that the more fringe players are getting squeezed. I don’t see teams stopping to pay star players like drunken’ sailors anytime soon. Sports economics dictates that we will likely see almost every MLB team with at least one $20+ million player of their own. We may not agree with it or recommend teams spending like that. But that is the world of Major League Baseball.

Q: What are your odds on Zack Greinke returning to CY Young numbers this season?  Adi

MLB reports: Hello Adi. I see Greinke having a very big year this year in Milwaukee. The 28-year old Greinke absolutely dominated his way to the AL CY Young award back in 2009. While his numbers the last two seasons haven’t been at the same level, they have not been far off. Greinke has been striking out hitters at a strong clip while keeping his walks low. This tells me that in the right environment, with good run support and bullpen behind him, another CY Young award could be in the cards. Going into his 9th season, Greinke will be a free agent at season’s end (pending an in-season extension). He has shown a great deal of confidence in the last few seasons and is enjoying his time in Milwaukee. The bottom line is that Greinke wants to get paid and score “the big contract”. He knows that in order to do that, he has to pitch to the highest levels. So while I can’t guarantee an award winner, I will give Greinke a 92% chance of returning to his old dominant self this year.

 

 

Q:  Which guys you expect will be closing in Oak, LAD, and Chi (Sox)?  Pat

MLB reports:  Let’s play the closer carousel game. This a fun discussion that happens year after year, throughout the baseball season. An important position, as the closer is to finish off the 9th inning and bring home the save for his team. But with the volatility of closers (based on injuries and poor performances), about 70% of closers to start the year- do not end up having the job by year’s end. For fantasy baseball players and baseball fans in general, closers are a giant source of stress and trauma. You picked three interesting teams, who are not fully settled in their closer decision. Going into Opening Day, here are my thoughts on each team:

(1) Oakland Athletics: Grant Balfour has been named the A’s closer going into the season, with Brian Fuentes as the alternate choice. Neither one has been particularly strong this spring (but then..do spring stats mean much?) In my mind, when you are fighting for a job- those stats could make or break a player. In 6 games each, neither Balfour or Fuentes have looked sharp- with their 7.00+ ERAs. My money is on the experienced Fuentes taking the role by mid-April at the latest. He has the closing experience and while he can be frustrating, he knows how to get the job done and would have the highest trade value at the deadline.

(2) Los Angeles Dodgers: With Jonathan Broxton out of the pictures, Dodgers fans are wondering who will be the 2012 closer. This one will also be a battle. Javy Guerra is seen as the favorite going into the season, with Kenley Jansen as being the next-in-line. I think this one is a very tight race. Both have enjoyed good springs and produced strong numbers, but Jansen has shown better control. Guerra may be the sexy pick, but my money is on Jansen. More dependable in my book- but when the regular season hits, you never know. This one will be interesting.

(3) Chicago White Sox: Oh Kenny Williams. You trade Sergio Santos and leave your team with yet another question mark. What are the White Sox to do? Chris Sale has given up a ton of runs this spring, but his control has been outstanding. The White Sox will continue to give him a long look as a starter, at least to start the year. Addison Reed will eventually get a shot, but he is very young and still inexperienced. I can’t see him being thrown into the fire…just yet. Jesse Crain may get a look, but the job right now is clearly Matt Thornton‘s to lose. He has the experience and the ability to get the job done. Thorton is the most obvious choice of the three teams you named.

Q:  With the WBC tourney coming up:  How important is it for “growth” of the game; and do you see more international guys in MLB?  Old Man Mack

MLB reports: Old Man Mack…you have done it again with this great question. There is no doubt in my mind of the importance of the WBC. We even have a page just dedicated to this great tournament (check out http://wbcreports.com). That the World Baseball Classic is an essential component of baseball around the world. Take a look at the countries that are involved in the qualifying tournament coming up later this fall:

  • Brazil (new)
  • Canada (holdover- needs to qualify)
  • Chinese Tapai (Taiwan) (holdover- needs to qualify)
  • Columbia (new)
  • Czech Republic (new)
  • France (new)
  • Germany (new)
  • Great Britain (new)
  • Israel (new)
  • New Zealand (new)
  • Nicaragua (new)
  • Panama (hold0ver- needs to qualify)
  • Phillipines (new)
  • South Africa (holdover- needs to qualify)
  • Spain (new)
  • Thailand (new)

Baseball is very smart to reach its game to so many new boundaries around the world.  Countries such as Germany, England, Israel and New Zealand, for example, are not typical areas that you would think of as baseball hotbeds. The WBC tournament will prove two key functions in this regards.  It will get fans in the countries excited about baseball in general, which will help extend the MLB brand and popularity to those regions. That helps in all areas of selling the game, including merchandising and televising. Then once the awareness and popularity of the game increases, so will participation in the sport. The more athletes that can turn to baseball around the world, the greater the pool of talent will be for MLB teams. Countries, that traditionally favor soccer and basketball for example, will see over time an increase in baseball participation. A greater pool of talent is great for the game and can only increase the competitiveness and strength of MLB teams. Plus more baseball participation around the world could lead to sister leagues for MLB teams throughout the globe. The possibilities are endless when the entire world becomes baseball crazy. While it may never reach the level of the World Cup of soccer, the World Baseball Classic is a thousand steps in the right direction for the game of baseball. I love the tournament and cannot stress its importance enough. Thank you for your question!

Final Q (also on the WBC) –  I do have one observation:
While it is true that March may be the most convenient month for organizers to schedule the Classic, this period of the year is not the best for US baseball players.  MLB players are out of “baseball shape,” which can result in (a) poor timing for hitting, (b) poor conditioning for pitching, (c) season/professional career ending injuries. In the meantime, Japan, Korea,Cuba players are all coming out of their regular season to play in the Classic. Seriously, does anyone think that during the MLB All-Star Break period any team in the world could beat the National or the American league teams?

Heck, that is what the All-Star Break should be all about!

The top 4 teams of the World Classic against the National and the American league teams during the month of July!!! Every US player would have an interest in playing because somehow it would become part of their contract.  Gus

MLB reports: An interesting idea Gus. For sure. Since the start of the WBC, the scheduling of the tournament has been put into question. A big debate has centered around the safety of the players to play “all out” during that time of the year, when many are coming off an inactive offseason. Especially pitchers, the concern is that the WBC is likely to “wreck” pitchers arms, by throwing the hurlers into a playoff atmosphere prior to the start of the season. I agree and disagree with you though. I agree that the All-Star break would be ideal. Players are in mid-season form and that would be the ideal time of the year for the tournament. But given the importance of the All-Star game to Major League Baseball (big corporate sponsor event), it is unlikely that they will cancel the All-Star game every 4 years to accommodate the WBC. The end of the season also doesn’t really work, since players are exhausted and broken down, and unlikely to want to participate at that time. But I do like the current format as it is. The expansion of the field based on the number of countries included in the qualifiers is good. The more countries that are involved, the higher the interest in the tournament. I believe including the All-Star teams will dilute the importance of the WBC and go against the principles of the country vs. country format. It could work well for exhibition games, definitely. But as a regular format- I can’t see it working. Until MLB is willing to schedule the WBC in mid-season, we are stuck with it in March. That is the reality of the situation. Thank you for your question and for reading the Reports!

 


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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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About Jonathan Hacohen

I practice daily yoga. Most foods are organic. If you catch me in the supermarket, it will be in the produce aisle. Warrior 1 Yoga was born from my wish to help people be healthy and happy. I preach the 4 key's to life: nutrition, exercise, water and sleep. This is my journey - I am hope to meet you along the way to share a similar path!

Posted on March 25, 2012, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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