Let’s Get Real

There were two major pieces of baseball news in the last 24 hours, both of which caused me to shake my head in disgust.  I find myself doing that a lot lately, and not just about baseball.

The first piece of major news was the announcement of the contract extension of Miguel Cabrera.  The Tigers forged an extension for Cabrera reportedly of 10 years in length for an estimated 292 million dollars.  That’s a lot of cash.  It’s also crazier than a bowlegged man trying to walk a tightrope across the Grand Canyon.

Cabrera will turn 31 years old in a few weeks.  He’s a big guy, with a body type that screams breakdown.  He’s also a one dimensional player.  Cabrera can hit, perhaps better than any other player in MLB.  But that’s all he can do.  He can’t run, and he plays defense at a very poor level.   His future is as a DH, because he has no other tool other than the hit tool.  Paying a one tool player almost 300 million dollars is simply pathologically insane.

Some will say if the team can afford to pay a player that much why not?  Because what Team A pays for Player A affects what Team B has to pay for Player B in the future.  Not all the teams have the financial resources of the Tigers.  The ever escalating player salaries will undercut all of the efforts put in to making baseball more fair and equitable.  Parity will disintegrate.  Teams with smaller payrolls will have no choice but to raise ticket prices in order to have the payroll to compete.  As ticket prices increase, attendance will decrease.  It is basic economics of supply and demand.  As prices go up, demand goes down.  It may not seem like that now; baseball is making record profits and people are still going to games.  But that peak will be reached at some point, that point being where revenue is maximized and the demand for baseball becomes increasingly elastic.

There has to be a ceiling if baseball is to survive.  Maybe when Mike Trout makes 500 million dollars, folks will start to wake up and smell the coffee.

The second piece of news that had me shaking my head was the announcement of the changes to baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement.  The essentials are that the penalty for a first offense is being raised from 50 games to 80 games.  The penalty for the second offense is increasing from 100 games to a full season without pay, and the third offense will result in a lifetime ban.

My response to these changes is one word:  lame.  Does MLB and the MLBPA seriously think that 30 more games of suspension is going to solve the problem?  First of all, 80 games is only half a season.  If MLB is in earnest about deterring PED use, then give some teeth to the penalty, by keeping the offender from playing baseball and getting paid for it for most of, if not all of, a season.  Secondly, why should a player who intentionally violates the rule get a third chance?  If he does it a second time, he should be out of baseball.  Period.

If you want to stop PED use rather than pay lip service to the problem, make the consequences really, really, really hurt.  Make it agonizing where it counts–in the wallet.  These changes don’t even come close to doing that.  On the pain scale it’s about a 4, maybe a 5 on a bad day.  Make them need morphine, not Advil, for the pain.  Anything less is just nibbling at the problem.

There isn’t enough Advil on the planet for my disgust.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Bench Debate

Every year during Spring Training the talk starts concerning what 25 players are going to make the roster to start the season.  Often the debate centers less around the starting eight, or the rotation, or even the bullpen, and more around who are going to be those five players on the bench.  There is always going to be a back up catcher in one of those bench positions; for the last few seasons that catcher has been Tony Cruz, and likely will be again this season.  The remaining four spots are generally divided among infield and outfield spots, depending on where the need is the greatest and the best allocation of resources can be made.

This season is no different, though the players themselves always have a different mix.  This season, the likely faces on the bench will include newly signed infielder Mark Ellis, and probable 4th outfielder Jon Jay.  Jay, the starting center fielder for the last two seasons, has a history of streaky hitting and less than admirable defensive skills, possessing a weak throwing arm and limited range.  Enter Peter Bourjos, arguably the best defensive center fielder in baseball; his career Universal Zone Rating per 150 games (UZR/150) of +20.2 leads all of MLB since 2010 among center fielders with at least 2000 innings.  Bourjos also possesses a strong arm, and blazing speed, a talent the Cardinals have lacked for many seasons.  Bourjos has been hampered on the offensive side by injuries that have sidelined him for the past two seasons.  His last full season, 2011, leaves with the promise of what he can do at the plate if he’s healthy.  Bourjos is having a good Spring Training, hitting a robust .343/.425/.486, with 3 doubles, a triple and 3 RBIs in 35 ABs.  Jay has not fared well at all this Spring, hitting .174/.208/.196, a performance that will likely relegate him to the bench as the back up outfielder.

With Cruz, Ellis, and Jay on the bench, there remains two additional spots left to fill.  One of those spots, per manager Mike Matheny, is going to be another outfielder.  With Oscar Taveras out of the mix, and Stephen Piscotty likely returning to the minors, Shane Robinson looks to be the fairly obvious choice to return to the bench this season.

Now we get to the crux of the bench debate, that 25th man.  Is it going to be utility guy Daniel Descalso, or glove man Pete Kozma?  As we get closer to that inevitable decision, it appears that choice has already been made, just not officially.  Due to his weak bat, Kozma will be returning to Memphis rather than making the trip to St. Louis for Opening Day.  This move will be welcomed by most of Cardinal Nation; however, I won’t be one of them.

No doubt you are thinking I must be crazy.  Well, I’ve been called worse, but no, I am quite sane.  You see, I value defense in the infield more than most, and I value it highest in the shortstop position.  Despite Kozma’s glaring deficiencies with the stick, he is by far the best defensive shortstop the Cardinals have had since they shoved Brendan Ryan out the door.   Kozma’s career UZR/150 at shortstop is + 9.9.  Daniel Descalso on the other hand, sports a career UZR/150 at shortstop of -19.4.  Even giving Descalso a little leeway for less total innings at the position than Kozma, the difference is still rather stark.  Daniel Descalso is a bad shortstop, let’s not even quibble about it.  Yes, he hits better than Kozma, but not significantly better; if he did, I wouldn’t even be writing this.

Now, for those who care not for sabermetrics, or believe defensive metrics are just not that persuasive, this argument is going to fall on deaf ears.  Those who care not for defense at all, well, then we are not even on the same planet anyway.  It’s not going to matter to the Cardinals, they’ve made their decision already.   It’s going to be Descalso, terrible fielder that he is, backing up Peralta at shortstop.  A starting shortstop who was signed for his offense, not his defense, Peralta is going to look good to me with the specter of Descalso as the alternative.

Now lest you think I am being overly harsh toward Descalso, I say none of this with malice in my heart.  I don’t know Descalso personally but he seems like a nice guy who I would probably like if I did know him.  I just don’t want him playing shortstop on my team.  But play it he will, and I will not like it, but I will lump it, as my mother used to say.

The bench debate, as it were, is for all intents and purposes, over.  If were a judge I would bang my gavel and say “next case”.

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to My New World

The first post on a new blog must be one of the most difficult things to write.  It’s like the opening line of a novel; you want to say something profound and breathtakingly interesting, in order to capture your readers’ attention and make them want to read more.  So far, I think I have failed in that task, but this isn’t a novel and I am not trying to sell anything—except maybe myself as a blog writer.  If you are a reader of Redbird Rants, you would be familiar with my writing.  I was a staff writer there for two years.  I recently left in order to start this blog and become my own boss.  If you have never read Redbird Rants, then welcome to my writing universe.

What can I tell you about myself?  I am a passionate St. Louis Cardinals fan, and I like to think I am fairly knowledgeable about baseball.  I have loved baseball and the Cardinals in particular since childhood.  There have been periods where baseball was put away in the storage bin of my life for a while, but I retrieved it some five or so years ago and have kept it front and center on my life shelf ever since.  A foray into social media some years ago, and sharing my passion with others of a like mind, created a desire to extend that communion on a bigger scale–blogging.  I started with a couple of guest posts on The Cardinal Nation Blog, a site where I continue to be a frequent commenter.  I guess I can credit my friend Brian Walton for getting me started there and whetting my appetite for blog writing.  I took those guest posts and turned them into my two year stint at Redbird Rants, which has now led me here, to this place.  I don’t think I could have done this without the experience and the support I received at Fansided.  I will always be grateful for the opportunity they gave me.

So enough about me.  This blog is intended to be about the Cardinals.  I will warn you I have very strong opinions about the Cardinals, opinions that I intend to share most vociferously at times when I am moved to do so.  I am basically an old school baseball fan and my writing will often reflect that.  But I am also a newcomer to and an embracer of sabermetrics.  I am not an expert, far from it, but I continue to learn everyday, and I will be using the sabermetric stats frequently in my posts.  If you are a saber-hater, be forewarned.

I hope you enjoy what I bring to the table.  My next post will be entirely about the baseball.  I promise.

 

 

Follow me on Twitter at   @Marilyncolor

 

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