The Gap Narrows

We’ll skip a recap of last night’s events, though they were sweet: Small now at 3-0, Ubercaptain Sheff homered, the Twinkies bombed the Sox. A good way to begin the weekend, and today the Yanks throw out RJ while Boston faces Santana. So things bode well.

Consider this an open thread for today’s action (though, admittedly, we won’t be around for most of it.)

25 comments… add one
  • Unit malfunction, again.

    SF August 6, 2005, 6:21 pm
  • Malfunction, or just not the pitcher he once was? At this point, it looks like we’re not going to get that second-half charge we’d been hoping for. There’s still time, but this is beginning to look like one very, very disappointing aquisition, and it’s frankly hard to blame anyone for it save the baseball gods, for even most sabermetric analysts saw his dominance continuing, given reasonable health, at least for a year. (And we assume he’s been reasonably healthy.) Of course some pitchers take a year to “get comfortable” with a new team and/or a new league (Clemens coming to the Yankees, is often cited as an example on this front), but given Johnson’s age it’s hard, very hard, to be enthusiastic about the future of his very large contract.

    YF August 6, 2005, 7:21 pm
  • But “given Johnson’s age”, even considering last year’s performance, wouldn’t the move to the AL along with a very simplistic and amateurish piece of risk analysis related to his age lead us to believe that the overall contract given to Johnson was ridiculously irresponsible? Or is this just a case of the Yankees knowing what they can afford, and throwing away $30M+ was just part of the bigger picture, and in the grand scheme of things that money is just a pittance? I thought this first year would be a great one for Johnson – run support, at least average defense behind him, and he’s the Unit. I picked him as the MVP, to that end. So there’s egg on my face in that respect.
    But the latter portion of the contract he signed is what should be in question, not this year’s portion, which seems, at $16M, to be a reasonable risk expended. The extension the Yankees gave him had to be for this year, symbolically, as far as I can tell. The Yankees must have assumed that the nearly $50M they guaranteed to Johnson would win them a World Series in 2005, 2006 and 2007 be damned. Otherwise they would have called Arizona’s and Johnson’s bluff and not given him two more years.

    SF August 6, 2005, 7:34 pm
  • I’m not sure we’re in a position to decide what was and was not “irresponsible.” If RJ performed to (reasonable) expectation the Yanks might well be in first place right now, with a bright future for at least this year and probably another. Just what that is worth in dollars to the Yankees is hard to know. This was inarguably a high-risk transaction, and it may have back-fired, but that doesn’t make it irresponsible. Taking these kinds of risks is one of the ways the Yankees can exploit their economic advantage. In a way, it would be irresponsible for them NOT to make moves like this one. Like Doyle Brunson, the played an aggressive, high stakes game. Sometimes that strategy doesn’t work. But when it does pay off, it can pay off big.

    YF August 6, 2005, 8:15 pm
  • One more thing worth noting. You assume AZ and RJ were bluffing. But the on-and-off negotiations all winter indicated they were not, in fact, bluffing. The Yanks were not playing from strength on this score.

    YF August 6, 2005, 8:20 pm
  • I agree with you, about not knowing if it is responsible or irresponsible: I allude to the Yankees’ finances in my comment, and how this probably clouds any sense of the real value or cost of the transaction. As to the “bluff” of RJ and Arizona? We don’t know if it was a bluff, you are right. But the scenario was such that it really seemed like a pretty strong bluff – aging Cy winner trapped on a loser with no hope, being offered up to a perennial winner and storied franchise. I’d call that a scenario ripe for slow playing, to extend your Brunson metaphor.

    SF August 6, 2005, 8:37 pm
  • But the issue is that you’re dealing with three parties, not two. The Yanks might have slow-played Arizona, but that still left RJ with a no-trade clause and all the leverage in the world. And at some point “slow playing” isn’t an option; if you’re not going to get the deal you want, you need to go ahead with contingency plans before those windows shut. It’s a fluid market, with many “players” and a lot of needs. Some times you have to take less-than-perfect or be stuck holding your hand. It’s a difficult situation; unlike, say, tossing huge dollars at Pavano or Wright. Those deals were dubious from the outset, no question.

    YF August 6, 2005, 8:50 pm
  • hahah. No matter how the two of you analyze it, it’s just funny to me.

    Brad-SF August 6, 2005, 8:56 pm
  • Oh yeah, Sam – how about that consistent “ace” the Yankees have over the Red Sox?

    Brad-SF August 6, 2005, 8:57 pm
  • That was an ugly ninth inning.

    Laura August 6, 2005, 10:04 pm
  • Is the Schilling deal/contract similar to the RJ situation? The Sox took a risk by giving an expensive extension to an aging great pitcher while letting go of some much heralded prospects. In that case, the deal could only go through if Schilling approved it. Undoubtedly, he took advantage and now the Sox have him, his ankle problems, for two more years at a high price. It worked out. Rich teams can afford to take such financial risks.
    Anyway, thanks for the interesting analysis from both you guys. Who knew such civil discourse could exist between you guys?

    Nick August 6, 2005, 11:16 pm
  • Yeah, Nick, the Schilling deal is almost a perfect mirror. Very good point. I could point out that there is a $10-12M difference between the two deals, and that there was a 4 year age difference between the two guys, but that’s pretty much irrelevant. Both guys qualify as “old”, and $10M to either of these two teams is pocket money.

    SF August 7, 2005, 7:42 am
  • Both teams could afford both players, and while both players have not performed to expectations this season for differing reasons, the fact remains that neither team has been crippled by either player. This just illustrates the growing economic disparity that exists in my favorite sport. Could the Twins afford to spend this type of money and then get little in return? No…well, yes, but Carl Polad is a tightass, so they don’t.
    I know I had a point around here somewhere…

    mattymatty August 7, 2005, 7:12 pm
  • The point is that baseball needs a salary cap.

    Sox Fan in VT August 8, 2005, 1:23 am
  • Which it never Will have , as long as the current players union exists.

    TonyC.25 August 8, 2005, 4:49 am
  • Yeah I agree. But, on the other hand, how boring would it be for the
    likes of the people who freqent this site? We’ve all grown so used to
    having what it takes that if we were forced to lower the expectations
    of our teams, I think it would probably be terrible for all of us.
    It may be the silent cry of the Kansas City Royal Fan, but for those of us who have grown to brush off the high dollar free agent signings and under-performing assignment designations, it would be too much of a gut-check to see the entire league nibbling at .500.
    Football and basketball seem to get away with it because of the shorter seasons, but over the entire 162+ games, having every team in the league be just average would be painful to watch.
    If this site was Tampa fan v. Brewers fan, we could all debate this with real passion, but since it’s not, and our teams currently reside heads and tails above the rest, we don’t have a leg to stand on – nor
    do any of us really, really want to stand on it.
    Our respective baseball teams’ desire to win has infected all of our heads with the notion that the “do whatever it takes” approach to the game is the only real way to get it done without too much sacrifice in
    the middle, and we no longer have the patience to do it any other way.
    Imagine a year when Toronto and Tampa bay were fighting out the divison lead in September…we’d all lose our minds.
    It’s great to have a team filled with our own AAA great potentials,
    but in this day, it’s just not going to happen too often, and if it did, we’d all have to freqent a new blog called “really pissed baseball fans”.
    The Red Sox and the Yanks MAKE a lot of money from the likes of us, and we all deserve to have at least some of it put right back out on the field – no matter what.
    If fans in Tampa and other like managed cities want their teams to spend more money, try going to some games
    every now and then, show some enthusiasm and demand more from the owners…like we do.

    Brad-SF August 8, 2005, 8:16 am
  • Brad: you’ve got the right idea there, but don’t necessarily blame the fans. It’s management’s responsibility to put a decent product on the field. If they do, then people (should/do) show. That’s how it works. But your implicit point is that big markets deserve a better product because they pay for it and because more people benefit (both directly and indirectly), and that’s true. Why should a rinky-dink red-state town like KC be floated by NYers? Every team has a legitimate shot to win, if run appropriately. If it’s extra hard for small markets to win, too bad. Baseball is a reflection of an American systeman that guarantees only a shot, not a “level playing field,” whatever that means. Anyway, the salary cap leagues have been more prone to “dynasty” than MLB. Patriots? Lakers? Spurs? Pass.

    YF August 8, 2005, 12:47 pm
  • YF, so conflicted. On one hand, he showcases his bona fides as a stereotypical northeast liberal elite towing the populist line (“rinky dink red state” and “don’t blame the fans blame management” are the dead giveaways). On the other hand, he reveals his truer baseball-rootin’ self: an entitled, arrogant, and Ayn-Randian tyrant who thinks that anyone, with the right kind of panache, can pull themselves up by their bootstraps, all the way to the top of the league (the “baseball as a reflection of the American system” blather shoots to the front).
    Next up on the firing line for YF: Social Security, Medicare, and then the Endangered Species Act (hey, it’s all about the food chain, baby!).
    Ladies and Gents, I give you this site’s very own social Darwinist, YF.

    SF August 8, 2005, 1:04 pm
  • SF, so right on. YF, were you trying to provide a caricature for the Right in its cultural war against the Left? People, enough with the Red State-Blue State paradigm! We have a common bond: Most of us are struggling to make it in the great U.S. of A. And baseball is a refuge for us.
    That said, it is irony of the highest degree that the greedy bastards who run baseball teams beg for luxury taxes and salary caps whilst most them grew rich (or their ancestors grew rich) exploiting an inherently unfair and classist system that was/is American capitalism. While the Boss is a sociopath who tried to save money by cutting dental plans of stadium workers, he does have the redeeming quality of actually really trying to put out a team that wins and spending for that purpose. The Devil Rays ownership deserves more scorn that Georgie.

    Nick August 8, 2005, 1:22 pm
  • Darwinist, yes, but not of the social variety. SF, by comparison, would seem to be an advocate for Intelligent Design. (As ill-conceived a theory when applied to MLB as to science). We prefer evolution and analysis and a certain clear-eyed pragmatism based on history. SF prefers a magical utopia of divine construction. Good luck with that.

    YF August 8, 2005, 1:42 pm
  • I’m with SF on this one.

    Carl Everett August 8, 2005, 1:51 pm
  • YF also prefers absinthe in the early afternoon, it seems.
    Your comment is full of strange contradictions which you simply don’t acknowledge, and instead you try to deflect the attention back to me, though my positions aren’t the issue here. Yours are. Are you a populist, someone who believes in reasonable regulation to protect the unempowered? Or are you a free market-economics kind of guy? The two aren’t mutually exclusive, but you seem to be putting yourself in the position of the populist liberal, while at the same time espousing the greatness (and fairness and opportunity) of the purely free market. I’m no economist, but I do know that free markets aren’t ever perfect, that they don’t occur in a vacuum, and that externalities make what you purport to be the reflection of the American system, however limited in metaphorical terms, to be nothing of the sort. Seriously: how do you proclaim that baseball is some sort of mirror of our greater system when it contains none of the protections within it’s structure that our own economy contains?
    You are all over the place on this one, YF.

    SF August 8, 2005, 2:00 pm
  • It contains “none of the protections?” I’d say it contains FAR MORE protections. But let’s not push these analogies too far. The argument is not that the status quo is ideal, but that engineering parity for the sake of parity is both impossible and undesirable. Liberalism and (reasonably constrained) captialism are not antithetical imperatives.

    YF August 8, 2005, 2:09 pm
  • wow, did this thread take a wrong turn.

    Brad-SF August 8, 2005, 9:28 pm
  • I thought this was a baseball blog.
    They shouldn’t have brought Embree out for the next inning.

    jetes August 9, 2005, 10:09 pm

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