More thoughts on my dream team, Papelbon's future and much more
Last week, I made my choices for
My list was pure fantasy, but even in reality, more and more teams are emphasizing youth as never before by trying to lock up their young stars to contracts that will buy out not only their arbitration-eligible years but also some years of free agency, as well. The result has been that homegrown stars are spending more of their prime years with the team that drafted them, which should make those teams more competitive while at the same time shrinking the available pool of free-agent talent. For instance, next winter's free agent class will still have some big names in it --
In fact, of the 10 players I chose for my team, eight of them have already been signed to long-term contracts and none of them have tested the free agent market. (Only Upton and Papelbon lack long-term deals.) What's more, only one player has a contract that runs out anytime soon: Mauer's four-year contract expires in 2010. Pujols has a club option for the 2011 season at a very reasonable $16 million that, barring any unforeseen developments, would almost certainly be exercised. The rest of these young stars will not be heading to the open market before the end of the 2012 season at the earliest, and Ramirez (2014), Braun (2015), Pedroia (2015) and Longoria (2016) will take even longer to become free agents. So to answer your question, Joe, unless the Yankees are willing to make some trades, the only player they could realistically make a play for is Mauer, but since he's a beloved figure in Minnesota and a Twin Cities native, it's likely the Twins will do everything in their power to keep him in his hometown.
This team was certainly not built with any practical purposes in mind, which is why choosing a lineup would be so difficult. For instance, the only pure leadoff hitter in the group is Sizemore, who has struggled so significantly this season that he was dropped from the top spot in the order. With that in mind, my lineup would probably look some thing like this:
Not a lot of lefties in there to balance out the right-handed threat, but I'd still like my chances at winning a few ballgames with that group.
As noted above, Papelbon is one of the few young stars in the game who has not signed a long-term contract. He'll be eligible for free agency after the 2011 season. While it would be neat to see Bard (a fellow Tar Heel) thrive at the major league level, it's more than a little premature to be suggest that he's ready to replace an All-Star like Papelbon. My hunch is that the Red Sox will see where both players are physically and in their development as pitchers before making a decision one way or the other. Bard was a fantastic starting pitcher during his collegiate career at North Carolina, so with Papelbon locked into the closers role for at least a few more years, he could still be used in that capacity if the need arises. And although the Red Sox have embraced some of the tenets of the Moneyball philosophy, a willingness to just hand the closers role to almost anyone doesn't seem like one of the ways they've followed that model. Nor should they. In Papelbon, they have a closer who has good enough stuff to last a very long time in that role. The Yankees have shown with
It's certainly possible that a bad game can rattle a player's confidence, but that was an exhibition game, hardly the sort of thing that should destroy a player's ability to perform. What's more, it was a defensive nightmare, and if Uggla's stock is dropping, it's not because of his glovework, which has never been particularly stellar, but rather because of his bat. Uggla has cooled off remarkably since a torrid start to last year that had him being talked about as a possible MVP candidate. Since the All-Star Game, Uggla has played in 109 games, batting .216/.336/.402 with 17 home runs and 63 RBIs (he had 23 homers and 59 RBIs in 81 games last year before the All-Star break). Uggla claims to be a victim of bad luck as much as bad play, saying recently that several hard-hit balls were not falling for him. If that's true, it would only seem to be a matter of time before he turns it around, but the Marlins may not be able to wait that long for him if a team is willing to make them a decent trade offer.
Joel, you may be a closeted stat geek yourself, since you almost perfectly described a stat that is already in existence. The stat you're looking for is Close & Late, defined as any at-bat from the seventh inning on in a tied or one-run game, or with the tying run either on base, at the plate or on deck. So far this year,
The numbers for each decade of the modern era (1901 forward) are below, and as you might guess, they follow the trends of the rest of the game. The Deadball Era, which ended in 1920, was the only time pitchers walked fewer than three hitters per game. The number, which had risen to peak levels in the 1940s (due partly to the fill-ins during the war, no doubt) and 1950s, dropped dramatically in the 1960s, as pitchers returned to prominence thanks in part to the expanded strike zone and raised mound. The walk rate increased again once the designated hitter came into being in 1973. This decade has not been especially wild, and even during the 1990s, arguably the height of the Steroids Era, pitchers were still not walking batters at historically high rates.
Walks per nine innings by decade:
Perhaps no manager in baseball gets as much heat year after year as Dusty Baker. When he was in San Francisco, critics were quick to credit
No, I'm just saying that none of those players is the best young star at their position. Having won the NL West last year and already out to the best start in the game this year, that core is deserving of praise. But this may be a situation where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. While none of them are yet superstars, each of them has the potential to play in multiple All-Star games, giving the Dodgers a nucleus that pretty much every team in the game is envious of.
First of all, the Tigers didn't win the most games in that decade, the Yankees did. (Detroit won 839, the Yankees 854, although the Yanks were the only team in the top five in wins that did not win at least one World Series from 1980-89). Secondly, Whitaker has already fallen off the ballot and Trammell, who got just 17.4 percent this year, has almost no hope left of getting in since he's never broken 19 percent in his eight years on the ballot. If you want the case for Trammell to be in Cooperstown, you're better off asking my colleague
Morris is one of the most intriguing holdovers on the ballot, since support for him seems to be growing (always a very odd phenomena to me; I mean, the guy's numbers don't change from year to year, so how should his vote total change so dramatically over time?). Here are Morris' vote totals, rounded to the nearest percentage, since he first appeared on the ballot in 2000: 22, 20, 21, 23, 26, 33, 41, 37, 43, 44. He's got the highest total yet, but he's still a long way from the 75 percent needed for enshrinement and he's only got five years left to get there. It doesn't look good for Morris to get the votes he needs. For instance,