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ATR: Ask the Reports Answers Your Baseball Questions: Strasburg, Valentine, Rolen to Cooperstown, Josh Hamilton to the Red Sox and More

Sunday September 9th, 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: Many great questions this week people, as always. With the playoffs and WBC qualifiers around the corner, people are baseball crazy! Every week it is getting harder and harder to select the questions for ATR. People are feeling baseball fever and I see it in every corner. From the comments on our site, your e-mails, tweets and posts on Facebook, we hear from each of you in so many ways. Ah….gotta love the age of social media! Make sure to keep the questions and comments coming every week. You never know when your baseball insight will appear on MLB reports!

Before I get into this week’s questions, a quick comment. Saturday become lockdown day for Stephen Strasburg. From the second I jumped into my car yesterday and turned on MLB Network Radio, all I heard was Davey Johnson shutting down Stras for the year. I like Davey, but I have to say that blaming the media pressure is weak. In case you weren’t aware, Strasburg was supposed to have one more start next week before officially being shutdown for the season. Now, he is done for the year.  Just like that.

People ask me all the time if I think the Nationals are doing the right thing. My response is a clear: NO! I cannot ascertain for the life of me what the Nats are thinking. They are committing the equivalent of baseball suicide in my book. When you have the chance to go far in the playoffs, you go for it. Period. There is no medical evidence of any clear cutoff point for Strasburg’s season. The reality is that any innings limit is a guess by the team. There is no true merit for shutting him down. Even Dr. Lewis Yocum has indicated that there is no clear sign of whether Strasburg should not pitch further. But let’s say we are even going to say that 160 innings was Strasburg’s limit. The Nationals knew this for some time and could have arranged their rotation to fit the limit. Skipping starts earlier in the season and limiting innings per start would have allow Strasburg to pitch further into the year, including the postseason. What was the use of having him pitch into games when the Nats had a commanding lead in the NL East? 

The Nats have a 5.5 game lead as of today. If the lead gets cut any further, wouldn’t it have been nice to have your team pitching for you at the end of the year? What about a Wild Card one-game sudden death playoff? NLDS? NLCS? World Series? The bottom line is this: if the Nationals do not win the world series, Johnson and GM Mike Rizzo will have Strasburg-Gate hanging over them for the rest of their lives. Never mind the fact that the kid is upset and may never forgive the team for not letting him compete. There is a roster full of guys busting their behinds for a championship. Removing one of their top weapons for the playoffs hurts team morale, confidence and the ability to compete. We never know what next year or future years will bring. 2012 is a special year for Washington. You always go for it when you can.

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

Q:  What will Washington do if their lead slides to inside 2 games and they face the Braves? Do they rethink the SS decision? N&N

JH: A great start to ATR. After I started off by bashing the Strasburg decision, let’s discuss what happens if the Nats do start to slide in the standings. This is an easy one, straight forward. Here is the way it goes down:  there is no going back. No way. The Nationals have made their bed and now they have to lie in it. A beautiful season, with so much hope and promise has now been put into risk. Frankly, I don’t see the Braves even coming that close to the Nationals. But they could. Truthfully, that could happen with or without Stephen Strasburg. But it is much less likely to happen with him. The kid is upset and I don’t blame him. My gut is that he was hoping the team would keep pushing and extending the deadline, and eventually come to grips with the fact that they need him. But the team has made its decision and will keep the course. It is a terrible shame that this season will likely be remembered for the year that Strasburg was shut down too early. But it likely will. Losing their ace will make a World Series championship that much more difficult. 

Let’s say the Braves get hot and in 2 weeks, end up within 2 games or less of the Nationals. I am telling you now, there is no way that Strasburg is warmed up and brought back into games. The rest of the way will be fought without him. It’s a shame and I wish they would reconsider. But baseball management can be a stubborn bunch. The decision has been handed down. So there is no more looking back. Going forward, the Nats need to do it without Strasburg.  Plain and simple.

Q:  A non-baseball question (sort of)… How many man-hours go into making “The Reports” the “THE PLACE 2 GO” 4 baseball news/info?  Old Man Mack

JH: One of the top fans of ATR, Old Man Mack knows how to bring it.  Love the question, a real challenge when I think about it. I couldn’t even begin to describe how many hours going into MLB reports, with all the work behind the scenes it takes to happen. The hours put in from each writer in putting together their reports. The research. Editing. A typical article I would say takes at least three hours from start to finish. From there, it is updating the website. Answering emails. Tweeting. Maintaining all of our social media, including the website and all the pages, Facebook and Twitter. Talking to industry people. Interviews. Administrative items, including working with suppliers. Reading baseball books for reviews. Trying out baseball technology and gadgets. The amount of baseball articles that each writer will read in a typical day. Our own staff meetings/discussions. Assigning topics. Reviewing resumes and requests. Truly, there is always so much to do and never enough time to do them. Between all of our staff, if I had to approximate a number- I would say at least 100+ hours every week at least. Probably closer to 200 hours many weeks. Like anything in life, the more time you put into something- the stronger the resulting product. Every member of MLB reports is committed to bringing the readers the best possible baseball news, analysis and discussions. We do this because we love it. After all, it is baseball!!!

Q:  Any chance Rolen goes to the Hall of Fame wearing a Reds cap?  (And) Tell me the Rays aren’t going to trade Price…  Lonnie

JH: Another great reader is joining us this week! Lonnie, to tell you the truth- I don’t see Scott Rolen making the Hall of Fame. Much talk of his future candidacy has been circulating recently. I just don’t see it. Yes, he does have some impressive achievements to note. 8 gold gloves. Rookie of the Year Award. A silver slugger award. Named to 7 All-Star Games. But when I think of Scott Rolen, I just don’t think Hall of Famer. Definitely a superstar. Injury plagued. He will have whispers about him for playing in the “Steroid Era”, as I already heard on more than one his occasion his name thrown around. But even without the cloud of the time that he played, I just don’t think Rolen has enough to pull it off. At 37 years of age, he does not have much more left in the tank. He had a great 2010 season, but it has been one thing after another since then. Scott Rolen has only enjoyed a half a dozen or so truly healthy seasons. He currently has 314 career home runs, to go along with a .281 lifetime average, .365 OBP and .491 SLG. Cooperstown is reserved for the game’s very best. Not the very good. Rolen is good, but he was never able to achieve that true greatness to warrant the hall. He was never a guy that led the league in any offensive category. Never won an MVP. When you think of the best third basemen of all time, he is not in the top ten. Top twenty. Maybe top fifty…maybe. 

If he ever did make the hall, no chance that Rolen enters as a member of the Reds. Unless he all of a sudden finds the fountain of youth and has 5 career years in Cincinnati. No, if he enters- he goes as a Cardinal or Phillie. Based on where Rolen achieved his best results, I would say Philadelphia is his cap of choice. You can make an argument for St. Louis well.  But let’s not count our Hall of Fame chickens until they hatch.

As far as David Price staying in Tampa Bay…well…that is up to Mr. Price. He is currently only signed through 2012 and under team control for another 3 seasons. David and his agent need to sit down and make a decision. Does he want to stay with the team that drafted him or search for the big almighty dollar? Maybe he signs a team friendly deal that keeps him with the Rays for another 5 seasons. But if Price is determined to reach free agency, there is no chance he stays. A player of his magnitude is worth astronomical dollars. He would reach free agency at age 30 and demand at least a 7-year $175 million deal. He has been an unbelievable pitcher during his career, with 2012 representing his shining moment. A league leading 17 wins and 2.54 ERA puts Price at the top of the CY Young discussions. If the Rays cannot retain him, they will have no choice but to trade their ace in another year or so. With 2 years of team control, he could still bring in a huge haul. But the longer the Rays wait, the less they will get back for a rental player. Remember, baseball is a business. If it were up to the Rays, David Price would stay in Tampa Bay for his entire career. But for a team on a small budget, dollars and cents often have to rule the day. Personally, I would love to see him stay. But if I was a betting man, I would wager that David Price is out of Tampa Bay by the end of 2014. Unless the team gets relocated or receives a new stadium, these types of trades unfortunately look to continue.

Q:  This was one of the best articles that I have read all season in regard to the Red Sox. My issue with the reporting in regard to the Red Sox, I feel most of the reporting Media has never given Bobby V a chance almost from the beginning .In regard to who is responsible for he mess it’s clear to me that Bobby V inherited from the beginning the culture of the clubhouse and the players who needed to move on. I believe both upper management and Ownership are responsible. They hired Bobby V because he was the biggest Name out there. They however failed to give him the support he needed to be successful.Therefore they are responsible for this mess as they did nothing to clean it up. What was done with their previous manager was repeated with Bobby V. They won’t be any worthwhile changes in Boston until ownership understands they must support the Manger they both put out on the field. One additional point: Bobby V is no Saint. He isn’t perfect but not to acknowledge that he was set up from the beginning is clearly dishonest & unethical.  JLB 

JH: Glad you enjoyed Bernie Olshanksy’s report this week on the Bobby Valentine fiasco and who was/is to blame. We all know the tale of the 2012 Boston Red Sox, so I won’t repeat it in this forum. I have my thoughts on Bobby Valentine which I have expressed repeatedly, in a recent edition of ATR and countless times on Twitter. We are on the same page JLB, but unfortunately, we are also in the minority. Bobby Valentine is a convenient scapegoat and Boston fans are essentially ready to tar and feather him. Why I normally say when I speak to a Bobby Valentine basher normally goes like this:

  • Remember Fried Chicken and Beer?
  • The 2011 September collapse- how is Valentine responsible?
  • The Carl Crawford signing- not his fault
  • John Lackey– not his fault
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka– not his fault
  • The Boston owners love to chirp to the media- not his fault
  • Theo Epstein’s sudden departure, leaving the team near shambles- not his fault
  • Taking David Ortiz to arbitration
  • Trading Reddick in the Bailey deal

I think you start to get the picture. The Red Sox were a mess long before Bobby Valentine showed up. Essentially, he was the new prison warden run by the inmates. Translation: Bobby Valentine was in a no-win position. Anyone else in that environment with the same key players had no chance of creating a new culture- unless the who production was blown up and started again. My gut was that the Red Sox had a winning streak in them this season and that Valentine could turn things around.  All he needed was a couple of more reinforcements and the team might be fine. But such was not the case.

In my opinion, the only real mistake Bobby Valentine made was questioning the heart and commitment of Kevin Youkilis at the start of the year. But the situation could have been easily resolved if management had taken the initiative to sit everyone down, bury the hatchet and move forward. But alas, Ben Cherington did not have the grapefruits to make that happen. As a result, the Youkilis saga turned into a baseball dump trade and the team has spiraled ever since. But what about the owners talking to the media? The players talking to the media? The players talking to the owners? This is a ship without a captain. Bobby Valentine can only control what is on the field, but the whole organization needs to be managed by a strong voice and leader. That is supposed to be Ben Cherington. But without the authority and prescense to right the ship, I would look at Cherington and team ownership long before I look at Valentine.

The bottom line is that in the next few weeks, the Boston fans and media will get their wish. I can only see Bobby Valentine losing his job and the team looking in another direction. For the amount that he has been left out to dry and take the brunt of criticism for this circus, the end will come as a relief. I hope that the Red Sox are smart in looking for the next manager. Coming soon, I will reveal who my pick is to take over the manager’s role next year in Boston. It will surprise you. Clearly a Bobby V type leader cannot work in this environment. But unless the circumstances change, few people will be able to do it. A miracle in my book that Terry Francona was able to succeed for as long as he did. Remember how that turned out? Even if my pick, or any other future manager does right the ship- it is time limited. To have a successful baseball team, you need an owner that doesn’t meddle, a strong GM and manager, as well as players that work within the requirements of the team. Until the Boston owners stop meddling and either Ben Cherington takes control or is replaced by an experienced GM that can run a baseball team- the next manager of the Boston Red Sox, and all future managers, will be doomed to fail. Love him or hate him- the Boston Red Sox saga will continue long after Bobby Valentine departs. Think future free agents won’t take notice of the mess before deciding whether to sign with Boston? Chew on that one for a while.

NOW:  For the Question/Comment of the Week:

Q: The economics of the sport have dictated that nowadays if you want to sign a premier free agent, you are going to have to offer them 6+ years. Their agents won’t settle for anything less…and they will receive what they want from someone eventually. Tends to usually be worth it for the first half of the contract…and not so good of a deal after that.

Just to be frank…I would think that going to Boston would be the WORST thing for Josh Hamilton’s baseball career. Sure, he is guaranteed the money whether he performs on the field or not…but Boston is a party town, infested (or blessed) with hot, drunk, co-eds.

If you are Nomar Garciaparra, David Ortiz, or even Weasel Boy Pedroia…you can be certain that around every corner there is some drunk college “bro” offering to buy you a drink and offer up his girlfriend as a sacrificial lamb.

Boston is a FUN place filled with twenty-something debauchery and all the fun that comes with it…Think of it as a New Orleans North…but with more children of privilege drinking and doing drugs with their parents money and not a care in the world.

Boston would be a horrible place for Josh Hamilton…temptation around every corner…a great place to be famous and live a rock star lifestyle. A horrible place for an athlete who relies on his body and has the shadow of “relapse” constantly poking him in the shoulder.  Alex

JH: Alex.  Alex…Alex…Alex. That’s a little cruel, ain’t it. I see you are responding to the Sam Evans report on Josh Hamilton to the Red Sox. Much like Sam, I see that you agree that the signing would likely not be the best move for the player or team. But as far as how you view Boston, I’m sure that many will be very amused while others will be terribly upset. In this golden age of internet of ours, it is easy to put out messages to the world to get a reaction. Sometimes it will be positive, other times not as much. While I will admit that I have never been to Boston, I will say this about my thoughts on the city and team. Red Sox fans are some of the most knowledgeable bunch of baseball fans that you will ever meet. They love the game and their team. They are passionate about the sport. They live and die with every Red Sox win and loss. That is part of the reason for our “Curse of the Youk”. Kevin Youkilis was a heart and soul guy. The town adored him. Losing him was like ripping out the guts of the franchise. Especially in the manner that he left, it just had a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. So before we speak on the influences of the City of Boston, let’s consider that to most- it is a great baseball town, with the team playing in one of the sacred shrines of the sport.

The reason that I personally do not like the idea of Josh Hamilton to the Red Sox is the media and fan pressure. For a recovering addict, the pressures of playing in Boston I feel are too immense. Yes, there is pressure everywhere in baseball to a degree. But in a city like Boston, the pressure cooker will be too much for Josh Hamilton. There are bars and clubs in all baseball towns. There are colleges, kids that are having a good time and can lose control. Let’s face it, Josh Hamilton can plastered in Milwaukee or Toronto just as easily as he could in Boston. It is the environment that surrounds him that will most dictate how much pressure he has and how he chooses to react to it. Remember, this is a kid that was drafted by Tampa Bay and started his path to destruction in the minors. All it takes is a local bar, some cash in the wallet, and the rest is history. Let’s hope wherever he ends up, Josh Hamilton makes good choices and continues his great baseball career. But by the same token, he should try to avoid the influences that are most likely to drive him to destroy his life. That is why I cross out Boston and New York as his future baseball homes. 



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Jonathan Hacohen is the Founder & Lead Baseball Columnist 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!

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