ATR: Ask the Reports Answers Your Baseball Questions: Lowe to the Yankees, Mauer Before Head and Shoulders, Extend Wright, Jose Canseco is Bankrupt (again) and Creative MLB Realignment

Sunday August 12th, 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, post on our Facebook Wall and leave comments on our website! There are many ways to reach us and we will get to your questions from all social media outlets!

Jonathan Hacohen: I am off to the Rogers Centre today to watch the Yankees battle the Jays. This game matters little in reality. The Yankees are in first place, with a 14 game lead over the last place Jays. The Yankees are on a 4 game winning streak, while the Jays have lost their last 5. Given the Jays bulging disabled list, they will likely be fielding a team that will more resemble a AAA squad. But I still go. I go because I love baseball. I go because it is the Yankees and I love the history and pride of the franchise. The truth is: I don’t care who is playing and where the game will take place. I go because I love baseball.

Speaking of the Yankees, I have something important on my mind. Derek Lowe. I will never stop thinking him as a member of the Red Sox, so today’s news took me somewhat by surprise. Lowe is now a member of the Yankees. So this is not your dad’s version of Derek Lowe. No, the 39-year old Lowe is nearly done. Unless he discovers the fountain of youth…or learns to throw a knuckleball. Lowe started off hot in Cleveland, but fizzled out quickly. Going to New York, his record on the year sits at 8-10 with a dismal 5.52 ERA. He has an unsightly 1.689 WHIP. He has walked more batters than he has struck out. But yet I hold out faith. Lowe was still very good as of 2010, but the wheels came off last year and never returned.

Apparently Lowe has accepted an assignment to the pen. Heck, for the league minimum- the Yankees have nothing to lose. Pettitte may not return and now Sabathia is having elbow issues. As the Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Rangers and many other teams have proven this year- you can never have too much pitching. Pitchers get injured. Pitchers become ineffective. Remember how many Yankees fans were booing Bartolo Colon last year? Bet those same fans would love to have him back this year. Look at Ben Sheets on Atlanta. What’s old is new again. As long as Lowe’s arm is still intact, I say throw him in there. If he can get hot for even 2 weeks- that’s all what it might take in this game. Great signing by Brian Cashman. Derek Lowe could end up being a winning lottery ticket- or simply a lost dollar. Low risk, high reward is the name of the game folks.

For our Batting Stance Guy featured video of the week, we bring you Gar’s All-Star compilation titled: “Best Batting Stances By Position”  

For bonus points this week: Tell us which former MLB player Gar is hanging with…and which stance he is imitating? First correct answer gets a secret prize: e-mail your answer to mlbreports@gmail.com

Now let’s get to your top questions of the week:

Q:  I have an old picture with Joe Mauer after he was drafted.  Harrison http://pic.twitter.com/7iy0x4tV

JH: This was one of my favorite tweets of all time. I take it that this Joe Mauer is pre-head and shoulders. He still has the sideburns, but Mauer’s hair is much flatter. Much like what Seinfeld, George and Kramer looked like when their shower heads used low water pressure.

In all seriousness though, it is fun to watch rookies grow up right before our eyes. When they go from scrawny kids to baseball beasts. The Joe Mauer we see in this picture is young and full of hope. A 1st overall pick, he was to become the cornerstone of the Twins. Which he did end up becoming and was instrumental in the team getting a new park. But now looking at Mauer’s huge contract and drop off in power, it is debatable if he has become the player that Twins fans hoped for. Will he stay behind the plate? Is he destined to remain a batting champion? We still ponder these questions. But when he was a rookie, little did we know what Joe Mauer would become. He had hope, dreams and promise.

Always love a walk down memory lane. Thank you Harrison!

Q:  The amount of talent in the minor leagues is amazing. Quite possibly the best ever. Just look at what the Athletics are doing this year with very young talent. Really, it’s time for expansion. Heck, the AL rookie of year could quite possibly also be the AL MVP. It will be difficult for the Astros; but I also believe they will not be the doormats in that division in 3 years.  Kelly

JH: You just said a mouth-full there Kelly! Let’s go through your points, one by one:

1)  The talent is very incredible in the minor leagues. I completely agree. There are countless players in AAA and AA ready to play, except for the fact that they are blocked at the majors.

2)  The Athletics have been a wonderful story this year. Building around talented young hitters and having a nice young rotation has really pushed the A’s to the top of the baseball world. Welcome to the genius of Billy Beane.

3)  I agree on expansion. I think baseball should add 2 more teams, and have a 16/16 split.  4 divisions of 4 teams each works for me. The talent is there, together with the demand for more teams. Bud Selig needs to add 2 more teams. It will lead to expansion fees for the existing teams, more jobs for players further realignment to help finally “get it right”.

4)  Mike Trout is almost a shoo-in for the A.L. Rookie of the Year award, together with the Most Valuable Player. In any other year, we would be talking non-stop about Yoenis Cespedes. But Trout has been so amazing that Cespedes has fallen off the map in voting talks. Just watching these two along makes me very excited about the future of baseball.

5) On your last point, not so sure on the Astros. They have gutted their team for a complete rebuild.  Think they can compete with the Angels and Rangers in only 3 years? Very tough to say. Both of those teams have an incredible core of players, through the draft/trades/free agents. To be in line with those squads, I think the Astros will need at least another decade. Rebuilding can be difficult. But if done right, it can pay off for years. Just ask the Rays. If we go by that model, the Astros will need at least 5-7 years. Time will tell…but I think the Astros are in for many lumps and growing pains until they right the ship.

Q:  Do the Mets extend David Wright??!!  By Kevin Mets

JH: The key Mets question that I hear every week. I have mixed feelings on this one Kevin. I have considered it for a while and have really gone back and forth.  So let’s consider several variables. Firstly, did you like the Jose Reyes contract? I didn’t. 6 years and $106 million for a 29-year old injury-prone shortstop. Most analysts agree that Reyes will not stay in Miami throughout his contract. To me, that is the sign of a regrettable deal. 

But let’s say that you don’t think that Reyes is comparable. What about Joe Mauer? Another 29-year old, he is signed to a 8-year, $184 million deal. After a down 2011 campaign, Mauer has pulled up his socks this year. .317 AVG, .412 OBP, .439 SLG, 24 doubles, 64 runs, 57 rbis, 63 walks to 60 strikeouts. Another All-Star campaign. A great year, no doubt. But is it worth $23 million this year and for every year until 2018? Think about that one for a minute. Can Mauer keep this level or higher until the age of 35? I doubt it. I think if given the choice, the Twins could go back, they would not have sign that contract. It is a big strain on their payroll and creates an extreme situation of inflexibility. Sure, the Twins have Mauer. But they become less capable to surround him with other star players. There is only so much money to go around.

In my opinion, most teams (given the choice) would not go back and sign most $100 million contracts if given the choice. Too many of them end up badly. The list is long. Jayson Werth. Carl Crawford. Vernon Wells. Barry Zito. Some of these deals work out well, but many end up falling much short. Which brings us back to David Wright. The Mets third baseman is 29-years of age this season, turning 30 in December. After a down year last year, Wright has rebounded nicely this year (sound familiar…Joe Mauer?) Wright is hitting .324, but his power has also returned to the tune of 16 home runs. Overall, Wright has a .415 OBP, .532 SLG, 33 doubles, 68 runs, 74 rbis, 65 walks to 79 strikeouts. Translation: Wright has forced the Mets’ hand. He has given the team no choice. Last year, he had 14 home runs with a .771 OPS. Translation: he was affordable. Now Wright is playing again at an elite level and has become very expensive.

After losing Reyes this past offseason, Mets fans will scream to the heavens if Wright goes as well. How can you lose the franchise they will ask…and to some degree, there may be some truth. The team has unexpectedly contended this year, which has created to some degree false expectations and the drive to win today. You can’t win without Wright. That is the bottom line. But are the Mets a true contender? Tough to say. Take out R.A. Dickey and the team suddenly becomes very average. Some other things to consider. Now I’m sorry to bring up a sore subject, but remember Jason Bay? At age 31, the Mets signed him to a 4-year, $66 million deal. How did that one work out? Not so great. Take a look at his free agent year in Boston. 36 home runs, 119 rbis, 103 runs scored, .921 OPS. He gets to New York…and the wheels fall apart. Now Bay’s troubles stemmed for several reasons, including injuries, an allergy to Citi Field and an inability to gel in New York. Factors that Jason Bay will hopefully avoid.

But here is the bottom line for me. It will cost likely 10 years and $200 million to get David Wright. Let’s say he takes a “hometown discount” and signs for 7 years, $175 million. $25 million a year for a player in his 30’s. The law of probability says that he will have a couple of good years left before the regression kicks in. Maybe 4-5 good years, but not those great years that he once had. These types of contracts are paying for past performances. Not the right move for a team that really has more rebuilding to do. But again, this year has created much hope and the fans demand for Wright to stay. If the team can get a 5-year $125 million deal done, I guess I can live with it. Not the best scenario, but one that is at least time limited. But Mauer’s 8-year $184 million deal is the benchmark. Mauer even plays a more gruelling position and will likely have to move to first one day, while Wright still plays a strong third base. For owners that are still recovering from financial issues, a contract near $200 million is tough to swallow. This is not the Magic Johnson led Dodgers. This is the New York Mets led by Fred “Will Pawn”. 

If I was a betting man, I do say that the Mets extend Wright and give him near Mauer dollars. I also say that the contract will be a mistake and that Mets fans will be screaming for his head in 2-3 years. I’m sorry Kevin Mets, but welcome to the economics of baseball. Dollars and contracts make much of the decisions. If the Mets do not extend Wright, they will be making the right financial decision, but an extremely unpopular one. If they give Wright “what he deserves”, they will be appeasing the fans right now, but to the detriment of their franchise. 

Q:  Take it from me, bankruptcy sucks. Read all about it in my new VICE column.  Jose Canseco  http://www.vice.com/read/jose-can-say-so-im-broke-and-its-the-governments-fault?utm_source=vicetwitterus

JH: Sorry readers. I apologize in advance. Love him or hate him, we can’t stop following Jose Canseco. He really has become like a train wreck that you can’t help but stare at. Much of me wants to love the guy and feel sorry for him. A man who hit home runs like we had never seen before. Once upon a time, he was a sure-fire hall-of-famer until “Juiced” was launched. Now he is a baseball nomad, even kicked out of the Mexican league. Why Jose…why? It didn’t need to end this way. Now he has gone from baseball god to baseball joke unfortunately.

In many ways, Jose and Pete Rose have much in common. Financial issues. Selling off much of their baseball memorabilia and attempting to attract attention wherever they go. These are former MLB stars who were deserted by the game and its fans. Maybe its the human within me (grin), but I definitely wish it ended better for each.

For Pete Rose, I would have sent him to rehab. Major League Baseball should have acknowledged that the man has a problem. A gambling problem. It is a disease and he needs treatment. If he was an alcoholic, he would have been in AA. But gambling? Ban him from baseball and forget about him. It’s not that simple my friends. If you ever studied gambling addictions, you will know that Pete has an illness, a sickness that needs treatment. Unfortunately, without taking true accountability, you can’t help someone who doesn’t help himself. If Pete had just admitted from day one his issue, cried and begged for treatment, he would have been a hero and gone to Cooperstown. He would have been the spokesperson for Gamblers Anonymous and had left a productive and lucrative end of his life. But instead, he will remain a baseball outcast for the rest of his days. Again, sad but true.

Then we come to the aforementioned Jose Canseco. What can we say about Jose that hasn’t already been documented. Fast living and home run hitting. Juicing. Fast cars. Faster women. Jose definitely led the “high life”. After shunning the game and ratting out his peers, Jose is a baseball outcast like never seen before. While not officially banned, Pete has a better chance to end up at Bud Selig’s dinner table than Jose. Now with news of yet another bankruptcy, Jose is in the news yet again. 

My gut on this one is that Jose better turn his life around…and fast. After a reality show, playing indy ball and attempting MMA stunt fights, I think he has to get his life in order. Tell a real “tell all” book where he apologizes, documents the true story of his life and makes amends. He needs to start the process of healing. Writing a book where he discusses that A-Rod hit on his ex-wife doesn’t cut it (Vindicated…barf). Be a man Jose. Apologize, get your life in order and move ahead in a professional way. Taking the Charlie Sheen route of ranting and raving may work for Sheen, but it is unlikely to get you your own television programs. Rather, it will make fans, the media and the baseball world more alienated from you.

Here is the start of Jose’s entry on VICE:

You might’ve heard that last week I filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The government has drained my bank accounts, and the way they hit you with penalties and interest makes it almost impossible to pay anything back. And it’s my duty to warn you: It can happen to anyone.

Things spiraled out of control for me due to a combination of being hit with judgments and liens and taxes and my income being cut short because my wages were garnished. When you owe the government—whether it be state or federal—they are relentless when it comes to getting their money back. They institute incredible penalties and interest that almost makes it seem like they want to enslave you.

Shaking your head already? Me too. While some people just want Jose to go away, I want him to return. But as a person. A real person. One that apologizes for his mistakes and is ready to be a part of our baseball world again. These rants will not cut it. If you are not convinced, here is the sad ending to his blog entry: 

Realistically, they couldn’t do one single thing about it if we all said, “Nope, you’re not getting taxes this year,” and the saddest part is that the deficit would still be the same. But maybe, if this happened, the government would just downsize and we’d stop giving money to individuals who don’t want to work and expect handouts. The other insane thing is that people say, “OK, I bought a house. It cost me half a million bucks. I paid for it with cash.” Do you realize that you don’t own the house because you don’t own the land that the house is sitting on top of? You can technically own that property, but if you don’t pay taxes the government comes and takes your property! So, really, you don’t own anything. That’s just sad.

For me, it’s real simple: The government controls you psychologically as religion controls you psychologically. “In God we trust” also means “In government we trust.” Think about that for a minute and get back to me. @JoseCanseco

Q: My idea of an all Canadian division got shot down a while back on another post; but I can still dream it. The four expansion cities would be Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Edmonton. Jays would move out of the AL East. I think putting that division in the National League would be better; but not sure the Jays would go for that. Then add a team in Hartford, western NY (Buffalo,Rochester,Syracuse), or New Jersey to replace the Jays.

The Rays need to be in Tampa. The A’s should just go to Sacramento. That seems like the simplest thing to do.

Now the other league needs another 5 team division. An Asian division? I get the feeling lately that the bigger pro league in Japan (Central league is running the show over there) would rather not compete directly with MLB. They’re even threatening to boycott the WBC, again. Three teams in Japan and two in Korea would be perfect; but that’s a BIGGER pipe dream than having a division in Canada. SK Wyverns and Lotte Giants (easily change to Busan Seagulls) in Korea; and in Japan….maybe one team for each of the 3 biggest islands. Could be Hokkaido Fighters, Fukuoka Hawks, and Seibu Lions. I know. Pure fantasy.

A southern division of Omaha,NE; Baton Rouge,LA; Birmingham,AL; Durham,NC; and Louisville, KY. Sorry, I just don’t see Portland or San Antonio as baseball towns. I do think those two could be future NFL cities, though.

Oh, for the guy who said baseball can’t expand because there are not enough minor league cities to fill in the losses taken from teams entering the big league…. Well, at last count, there are at least 56 independent pro teams in America without any affiliation to MLB. And that number is rising. Plus 16 teams in Mexico w/o any affiliation who have been given AAA status.  KG

JH: My man KG is at it again. Thinking big, love it. Listen: you will likely not find a bigger fan of MLB expansion and realignment than right here. We have written many articles on these subjects in the past. Adding 2 more teams. Complete realignment. Adding a team in Mexico. Expanding rosters. Adding another Canadian team. Even creating MLB Dominicana and other MLB leagues. Here is the article on a global MLB which I think you will find most interesting: https://mlbreports.com/2011/07/14/mlb-global/.

For the reasons that I have stated before, I do not see Major League Baseball bringing anymore teams to Canada. Quite frankly, I don’t believe that there is sufficient demand and American fans won’t buy into it. We have to think about everything, including television and attendance to decide if a new site makes sense. Based on attendance figures, the Rays and A’s are in big trouble. Which is a shame, considering how competitive they are. But then look at Cleveland, sitting last in attendance. With a fairly new park and great fans, I would have expected better. Which goes to show you, one never knows what will happen. 

I would love to see a team again in Brooklyn, not New Jersey. But think that the A’s have an issue with San Jose? Imagine what the Yankees and Mets will do if a team tries to relocate to Brooklyn. Territorial rights are huge in baseball, so I do not see this scenario happening either. Western New York? With the Bills already playing part of their schedule in Toronto, I do not see a major sport moving into that area. Especially not baseball. While you may not agree with Portland or San Antonio, financially those areas make the most sense. Make no mistake- again, dollars will drive this thing. Population base. Wealth of the ownership group. Stadium. Television, Merchandise. Which locations will make the most financial sense.

While I can dream of a team in Mexico City, based on travel alone- it is unlikely to happen. Bud Selig and the owners will look in the next few months at fixing the Rays and A’s, either finding new stadiums or relocating both teams. From there, long-term, they need to look at expanding by two more teams, to make an even 16/16 split, with 4 divisions per league of 4 teams each. Many cities will be considered, including Las Vegas, Durham and Memphis, just to name a few. I will continue to guarantee you that Canada will not see another team. From there, Major League Baseball needs to do a better job in partnering up with key countries like Japan and the Dominican Republic to foster better baseball relationships. Invest strongly in those countries, so that the partners feel like MLB is working with them, not draining them. For the future success of the WBC and baseball as a whole, international baseball partnerships is the way to go!


(*The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com*) 

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

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!

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