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In God we trust. Everybody else needs data. - Rick Peterson

Saturday, January 24, 2004

 

MY FAVORITE REFERRAL LINK YET

ICHIRO Board. You've got to scroll down about halfway. Both USS Mariner and Mariners have links to stories about Sasaki.

 

CATCHING THE BLOGOSPHERE TRADE WINDS

If the Bremertonians go for this trade to add Jason Michael Barker to their staff, they ought to fire David and bring in Bavasi to manage their site. At the very least, they need to ask to renegotiate Jason's contract and get Jason to agree to some performance clauses. The Big Board should also come along with him.

Haven't those Bremetonians learned anything yet about VORB??

 

HE DROOLS FOR TOOLS

I'm really not sure I should thank the Bremertonian's for pointing to this link about a trade offer that Toronto reportedly made for Rafael Soriano: Toronto Sun: SPORTS - Now, it's Carlos' turn:
Recently, the Jays offered highly regarded catcher Kevin Cash and outfielder JaysonWerth, a former No. 1 pick of the Baltimore Orioles, to the Seattle Mariners for pitcher Rafael Soriano.
This is at least the second trade offer that Ricciardi in Toronto has made for Soriano.

Here is part of the write-up from the current ESPN.com scouting report on Jayson Werth:
Hitting, Baserunning & Defense
Despite his 6-foot-5 frame, Werth has been a contact hitter who didn't start tapping into his power until 2001 in Double-A ball. His power trend was slowed by his injured wrist last season. His plate discipline is promising, but he also struggles with a swing that sometimes gets long, and the strikeouts will mount. Werth was drafted as a catcher, but he's so athletic, has a good arm and runs well enough that he has made a seamless transition to the outfield. He's posted double-digit steals in Triple-A ball in 2002, so he can steal a base.
In other words, he's got tools. Now let's see what he's done with those tools.


Year Lg. Age Avg G SLG OBP OPS
==== ===== === ===== === ===== ===== =====
1997 GCL 18 0.295 32 0.398

1998 SAL 19 0.265 120 0.387
1998 East 19 0.158 5 0.263

1999 Caro. 20 0.305 66 0.394
1999 East 20 0.273 35 0.355

2000 Caro. 21 0.277 24 0.386
2000 East 21 0.228 85 0.355

2001 FSL 22 0.200 21 0.329
2001 Sou. 22 0.285 104 0.499

2002 IL 23 0.257 127 0.445 0.354 799
2002 MLB 23 0.261 15 0.348 0.340 688

2003 FSL 24 0.371 18 0.645 0.388 1033
2003 IL 24 0.237 64 0.441 0.285 726
2003 MLB 24 0.208 26 0.417 0.255 672

MLB Totals: 2 years
0.234 41 0.383 0.298 681

Minor League Totals: 7 years
0.265 701 0.420
Data source: Jayson Werth - MLB and Minor League Statistics - The Baseball Cube Stats

Just as we thought - no no real numbers yet to go with the tools. (Don't get too excited about that brief stint last year in the Florida State League. That is A-ball, and appears to have been a rehab assignment.)

Jeff over at Fire Bavasi (A.K.A. LeoneForThird) has already summarized the situation with Cash, and I won't rehash that here. Let's just say that Cash is not the second coming of Pudge Rodriguez.

Jayson Werth looks a lot like a Ben Davis redux - a once highly regarded "toolsy" early round draft pick whose tools don't translate into performance. Davis is 27-years old, which means he is arriving at his peak as a ballplayer - it's very unlikely that he is going to suddenly find something he hasn't shown yet. As I pointed out about a week ago (BEN DAVIS' BAT), Davis has never consistently put up good offensive numbers at any time in his career. Yet, the Mariners value him for his tools. As Assistant GM Lee Pelekoudas said when they signed Davis to his new contract several days ago: "'We see untapped resources screaming to get out with Ben" (Tribnet.com - Story). I guess it isn't relevant that Davis is hitting his peak as a player but has never really tapped those "resources".

It's clear that GM's have figured out that Bavasi starts slobbering and drooling when they dangle "toolsy" prospects in front of him. Smart GM's are beginning to realize that the Mariners might be a great place to clear their systems of prospects that haven't developed as expected, swapping those players for Mariners players with proven records of performance.

So the future according to Bavasi begins to reveal itself, it's a team of 30- to 40-year old veteran players on the downsides of their careers, supported by toolsy players in their late 20's who have "untapped resources screaming to get out".

 

AN OUTRAGEOUS WASTE OF PUBLIC FUNDS!

Two related stories in our hometown newspapers today:
  1. The Seattle Times: Nation & World: Lunar helium seen as clean energy source

  2. Tribnet.com - Sports/Baseball - "M's should choose sanity, eschew Pudge and Maddux" by DARRIN BEENE; The News Tribune
As a suffering taxpayer, I must ask why we should waste public money investigating lunar helium mines when there is a limitless source of helium right here in Tacoma inside Mr. Beene's head??

 

TODAY'S SLOPPY NEWS WRITING ENTRY

From the UPI wire service: Rockies ink Shawn Estes - (United Press International):
"Estes' specialty is the ground ball, which will come in handy at homer-friendly Coors Field if he makes the team. Since the start of the 1997 season, he has induced a major league-best 1.24 ground balls per nine innings."
Let's see, 1.24 ground balls per nine innings. And every nine innings he probably has about 38 balls in play.

Sounds to me like that's a major league worst for ground balls per nine innings! Maybe this explains some of the Rockies pitching woes.


Friday, January 23, 2004

 

BASEBALL PROSPECTUS INTERVIEW WITH DR. GLENN FLEISIG OF THE AMERICAN SPORTS MEDICINE INSTITUTE

Baseball Prospectus is running a 2-part interview with Dr. Glenn Fleisig of the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Alabama. This is the facility started by Dr. James Andrews that the Oakland A's use for their pitcher prehab program.

From today's article, Baseball Prospectus - Prospectus Q&A: Dr. Glenn Fleisig, Part I:
"Dr. Glenn Fleisig is the Smith and Nephew Chair of Research at the American Sports Medicine Institute, an organization founded by noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews dedicated to improving the understanding, prevention, and treatment of sports-related injuries through research and education. Fleisig has worked closely with players and coaches at all levels, from youth leagues to the big leagues, teaching performance optimization and injury prevention methods. With the 22nd annual 'Injuries in Baseball' course starting Jan. 29 in Orlando, Fleisig chatted with BP about the growth of ASMI, warning signs for pitching injuries, and the challenge of generating awareness among major league teams
Today's article has interesting information on what biomechanics is and some overview of pitcher injury prevention. The second article should have some good descriptions of their program.

This article is for Baseball Prospectus Premium subscribers only. If you're not a Premium subscriber, you should become one. It only costs $35, and you get great baseball information year round. Click here for information about BP Premium."

 

PROFESSOR LOU ON HITTING

Alex Belth at Bronx Banter has a short excerpt today from Geoffrey Stokes' "Pinstripe Pandemonium", featuring Lou Piniella talking about hitting.

 

PUDGE SIGN-AND-TRADE DEAL??

ESPN has a story that raises the possibility of Pudge returning to the Marlins via a sign-and-trade deal: ESPN.com - MLB - Pudge 'serious' about Tigers ... or Marlins?.

Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, if a team does not offer arbitration to one of its free agents, the player cannot resign with that team until May 1 of the following year. The article mentions a scheme to bypass that requirement by having Pudge sign with another team, then that team trading Pudge back to Florida for the coming season.

I think the Players Union will try to kill that trade as fast as they can. If sign-and-trade deals of this type were to be allowed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, there would be a giant loophole for teams to avoid offering arbitration to players they want to keep. The current arbitration system was devised and negotiated as the identified process for teams to retain their free agents. The union fought hard for arbitration, and they are not likely to passively allow owners to subvert the arbitration process.

If a sign-and-trade is proposed, I believe the union would initiate a complaint under the Grievance Procedures provisions of Article IX of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Since the union would be intiating the complaint, the case would go directly to the Commissioner's office. If Slithering Bud does not kill the deal, the union then would send the matter to arbitration. Looking at the timeframes in the Agreement, this would probably require a maximum of 60 days to get from initial filing of complaint to final decision. The process can go much faster if all parties expedite things. The union usually wins these hearings, because it's the owners who are constantly trying to devise devious ways to get around the Bargaining Agreement. My inexpert opinion is that the Players Union would have a pretty good case in this circumstance, since it is such a blatant attempt to bypass the Agreement.

These types of devious behaviors by owners continually poison the labor relations between owners and players, and set the stage for baseball's difficult contract negotiations. As long as the owners constantly try to find ways to circumvent the basic procedures and principles that were negotiated, the union understandably is cautious and careful in its reactions to circumstances involving player movement and contracts. These activities by owners also make the players less willing to settle during labor negotiations until all details are hammered out, and encourages the players to hold out for more so that they will have more to give up when the owners start trying to undermine the Agreement.

There is a difference between what a person is allowed to do, and what is right to do. In my life, I, and the clients I work with, have always focused on adhering to basic principles of what we agreed to in a contract. I get rid of clients who are always looking for loopholes they can exploit. It is a much happier and more productive way to live.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

 

UPDATE ON ARM AND SHOULDER INJURIES TO MARINERS PITCHERS

Mariners Wheelhouse continues to track and document the questionable performace of the Mariners team medicine program. See the links in the right sidebar to my principal previous posts on this topic.

The Mariners have an abominable history of destroying young pitchers arms, and there is no evidence that the Mariners are acting aggressively to address this issue. My January 15 article on THE MARINERS PITCHING MEDICINE MESS contrasted the almost complete absence of arm injuries in the Oakland A's organization with the large number of injuries in the Mariners organization. I also discussed some of the preventive medicine programs that the A's use to prevent arm injuries. Subsequently, the bloggers at Elephants in Oakland sent a list of some additional arm injuries in the Oakland organization, which I presented in my last post on this topic, UPDATE ON OAKLAND ARM INJURIES.

I have a couple of additional items to add at this time.
  1. I discussed the list of Oakland pitchers with Will Carroll, a sports medicine columnist at Baseball Prospectus. Will did not feel that any of the pitchers listed should have their arm injuries attributed to the A's. Accoring to Will, all had mechanical issues prior to coming over and Peterson couldn't save them (ie Fikac), they got worked over elsewhere and came in damaged (literally), or were collegiate/HS damage cases that they're learning to avoid.

  2. Jason Michael Barker at USS Mariner provided some additional data on minor league pitchers in the Mariners' organization that I didn't mention previously but that are shown on the DL in his Big Board. According to Jason, RHP Mike Steele -- had Tommy John surgery in July 2003; RHP Phil Cullen -- broke his pitching arm in late 2002; RHP Rusty Gray -- don't know what his deal is, but he was placed on the DL in April and didn't pitch again. I did see that the M's re-signed him this winter, though, so he must be relatively OK.
So Oakland has fewer injuries than I presented before, and the Mariners have more. The contrast between the two organizations is starker yet.


 

WILL CARROLL MARINERS' TEAM HEALTH REPORT

Will Carroll at Baseball Prospectus will soon be starting his annual Team Health Reports. Will graciously offered to do a short Question and Answer session for each MLB team the day after that club's Team Health Report appears. Mariners Wheelhouse is pleased to be hosting the Question and Answer session for the Mariners.

Here's how it will work. The day that Will posts his team health report, you can e-mail to me questions that you would like Will to answer. Will has asked me to pass along to him the five or ten best questions, and he will provide SHORT (his emphasis) answers to the questions. After I hear back from Will, I will post the questions and his answers here at Mariners Wheelhouse. In relaying the questions to Will, I may combine several similar questions into one single question to help us get as many topics covered as possible.

Will is still working up the schedule for the Team Health Reports. The Reports will appear at Baseball Prospectus in Will's "Under the Knife" column.

I'll also post more information here when it's available.

 

NO MAELSTROM HERE

Maels Rodriguez reportedly does not top 90 mph in his workout today. Sounds to me as if it's time for everyone to go home.

Villar (Rodriguez' agent) is doing his best damage control, saying the purpose of the workout was simply to show Rodriguez was healthy. Note to Villar - everyone knows the purpose of the workout was to start a bidding war for your clilent's services. There was no reason for him to not do his best.

At this point, I can't see Rodriguez getting much more than major league minimum.

Move on. Nothing to see here. Kevin Jarvis can sleep securely once again.

 

TIME TO BUDGE ON PUDGE

I've been mulling over whether I think it makes sense for the Mariners to pursue Pudge.

First, I think we need to make some bounding assumptions. From available information, I think the following assumptions seem appropriate:
  • With the Detroit offer on the table, Pudge will not take anything less than three years, with an automatically vesting option for the fourth year based upon a parameter such as plate appearances or games played.

  • The contract will average $10 million per year.

  • Adding Pudge means that Ben Davis gets traded. (Ideally, Wilson would be moved and Davis would stay as the backup, but Wilson can't be traded without his consent because he is a ten-and-five man.)

  • The Mariners will get more for Davis than a choice between a case of used athletic supporters and two 25-year old toolsy prospects who never should have been promoted above high-A ball.

  • Pudge is in good physical condition and his back is as healed as can be expected for a catcher of his age and experience.

  • Pudge will probably provide about 130 games per year for the first two years, and play progressively less in the remaining year or years of the contract.
When the Mariners acquired Davis, the Mariners hoped that Davis would be the long-term solution for the Mariners after Wilson's tenure ended. The trade for Davis was a good trade. I recall Gillick commenting at the time that catcher is a position that a team should fill when opportunities arise; i.e., acquire young catchers when they are available, not when you need one. Two years ago San Diego had a surplus of young catching (or thought they did - I'm sure they wish now they hadn't dealt Davis), and the Mariners had expendable young players to deal that fit the Padre's needs. Although catcher had not been identified as a priority to fill at that time, catcher was clearly a future need. Gillick was wise to acquire Davis when the opportunity presented itself.

So far, Davis has not developed as the Mariners had hoped. As I posted several days ago, in reviewing his career offensive stats, including his minor league stats, I don't see much reason to expect more from Davis than he has shown to date.

Up to this point, I have felt the Mariners should make Davis the main catcher this year, with Wilson as backup. Then at the end of the year, the Mariners could decide whether Davis truly was a long term solution.

With Pudge being available, though, another option emerges. In signing Pudge and trading Davis, the Mariners would strengthen the catcher position for at least the next two years and abandon the plan to install Davis as the long-term solution at catcher. Thus, the Mariners would also need to restart the process of finding a new catcher-in-waiting, with about a two-year period in which to achieve that goal.

As I mentioned above, I concur with the Gillick notion that catcher is a position a team should fill when the opportunity arises. If the Mariners were to give Davis next year to prove himself, there is very high probability Davis will prove he doesn't have more to offer than he has shown so far. In that case, after next season the Mariners would have a stuation at catcher requiring direct attention.

Acquiring Pudge, however, fits with the concept of addressing catcher needs before they become critical. It would not be risk-free; it could turn out that the Mariners gave up on Davis too soon, and the search for a new catcher-in-waiting fails. There is also the possibility that Pudge will go down with a major injury, and the Mariners are left with Dan and mini-Dan. But a Dan and mini-Dan situation might not be that much different from what we would have by keeping Davis. So on field performance might not be much different; the big risk is the additional payroll that would be tied up if Pudge went on the DL for a protracted time.

I would be willing to end the Davis test one year early for the sake of having Pudge for several years, and trying to find a new catcher-in-waiting. Properly done, and with some luck, the Mariners will substantially upgrade the catcher position for the next two to three years with Pudge, and identify a successor to Pudge who will offer more potential than Davis. Overall, I think this approach has signficantly more upside potential for the Mariners, with an acceptable amount of additional risk.

Go for it, Mariners, as long as you don't do a stupid contract. Don't leave Bavasi in a room by himself with Boras; bring Gillick in to help him out.

 

FINDING CHEAP TALENT

Tom Ayers at Ballpark Analysis has an excellent article on smart moves made by several GM's to pick up cheap talent. It's worth a read.

I have been quite impressed with many of the moves that Kevin Towers has been making this offseason. I would like to do an analysis of the various moves he has made, contrasting them with Mariners moves, but I don't think I have the time. If anyone readers are motivated to do something like that, send me an e-mail and maybe we can work something out for you to do a guest column.

 

SALARY ARBITRATION FIGURES

For those who are interested, SI.com (Sports Illustrated) has a listing of MLB Salary Arbitration Figures for the upcoming hearings. The table lists both players and team offers and players 2003 salary.

One situation that jumped out at me is Jack Wilson. Why are the Pirates going to pay $1.4 million minimum to a player with a line of .246 / .292 / .330? Good glove, no hit shortstops are readily available on the free agent market for no more than $500,000. For example, less than a week ago Rey Ordoñez signed a minor league contract with the San Diego Padres. He has a training camp invitation, and if he makes the 25-man roster he gets $650,000, with a chance to make $125,000 more in performance bonuses. I suspect that Ordoñez would have signed for less for a major league contract.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

 

GO, TEAM!!

Tyler Bleszinski, the mad genius underlying Athletics Nation, ran an entertaining piece on Monday about alternative promotions the A's could try.

My favorite is the Mark Kotsay's Wife's Photo Day. As Tyler explains the concept,
… every boy between the ages of 12-18 would receive a 8 1/2 by 11 inch glossy of Charlotte Dodds (see her here-scroll down to the bottom). Maxim, Stuff or FHM would jump at the chance to sponsor this day at the park to get at a largely male audience and expand their readership.
Better yet, the M's should feature a Mark Kotsay's Wife's Photo Day when the A's come to town.

In fact, if A's management were smart, they would cross-promote this with other teams, and insist on getting a larger cut of the gate revenues when the A's come are in town. This has the potential to turn the A's into a large market team, and enable them resign some of those free agents they let get away.

With all of his shrewdness I can't believe Billy Beane hasn't jumped on this. I'm also quite anxious to see what kind of stats Voros McCracken might suggest we use to, uhhh, quantify her value to the team.

 

THE TANGLED WEBS WE WEAVE

As I've mentioned before, I believe the Mariners' ownership will do whatever is necessary to ensure that the Mariners remain the pre-eminent MLB team in Japan. I've also mentioned that I thought the Mariners should have retained Rhodes instead of Hasegawa. (Coupling Rhodes with Guardado would have solved the Mariners long search for second left-handed arm out of the pen.)

Now there is rampant speculation about what the Mariners knew about Sasaki leaving, and when did they know it, fueled by this quote from Larry Stone's article in the Times about Sasaki's departure:
Guardado's three-year, $13 million contract was structured for him to succeed Sasaki as closer next year, with reported escalations of about $2 million in each of its last two years. He also had the ability to opt out of the contract after the 2004 and '05 seasons if he wasn't projected as the closer. Guardado apparently could profit from a change of roles in the upcoming season, with a clause calling for an extra $1 million if he finishes 60 games.

But interestingly, Guardado's agent, Kevin Kohler, said yesterday that the subject of Sasaki's potential departure was broached during negotiations. In late November, news reports had surfaced that the Yomiuri Giants had contacted Seattle about a trade for Sasaki. Guardado was signed two weeks later.

"The timing and the way everything came down is a surprise," Kohler said of Sasaki's departure. "But everyone kind of knew it was a possibility. Some things were out there earlier (in the winter). There were some discussions about that, definitely, during the negotiations.

"Because of where they started, and where we ended up in negotiations, I think there was some definite concern from the Mariners' standpoint whether Sasaki would be back, or maybe not completely healthy again."
All of this leaves me wondering if the Mariners placed a higher priority on signing Hasegawa to bolster the Japanese player count on the roster, knowing or suspecting that Sasaki wouldn't be back? It wouldn't be the first time that type of priority intruded into the Mariners baseball operations.

 

STATS ALL, FOLKS!

For readers who may be a bit confused by all of the different types of stats mentioned in various places, Alan Schwartz at ESPN.com has a nice entry today in which he provides his take on the stats that matter:

"This is my encapsulation, after consulting with both front-office personnel and sabermetricians, of the statistics that matter most in the game today. There are two important considerations before we start:

1) By 'matter,' we mean vital to the people evaluating talent, whether they be executives, fans or media. Each group has its own considerations, because ...

2) There are two kinds of baseball statistics -- those that evaluate what has happened, and those that evaluate what will happen.

They are vastly different, and confusing one for the other leads to disaster. For example, if someone has a fantastic batting average with runners in scoring position, he was most assuredly valuable. Writers and fans will cast him as a hero. Studies show, however, that his GM had better not count on him being so clutch again next year. On the other side of the coin, while GM's look for good strikeout rates in pitchers in projecting toward the future, other stats tell more about present effectiveness.

We will look at reasonably mainstream statistics only. (Though they are quite interesting and valuable, statistics such as Bill James' Win Shares and Clay Davenport's Equivalent Average remain too esoteric for the masses.) For context, after each one I have listed the 2003 leader in the category and last year's average for regular players -- defined as the 165 hitters and 92 pitchers who qualified for the batting title.
For the rest of the story, follow this link: ESPN.com - MLB - Schwarz: Special OPS.

 

JAY JAFFE AT "FUTILITY INFIELDER" PICKS UP ART THIEL'S COLUMN ON SLITHERING BUD

Slithering Bud has been a faovorite target of Jay Jaffe at Futility Infielder. I sent along to Jay the link to Art Thiel's column yesterday about Bud, and Jay featured it today in his AROUND THE BASES posts.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

 

THESE ARE THE TIES THAT BIND MENS' SOULS

Well, the ones that bind Daimajin to the Mariners anyway.

Buried within many of the news stories about Sasaki is the interesting note that the Major League Ball Players Association (MLBPA) will be involved in Sasaki's case. This note presages some complications for all baseball fans to consider, and highlights that Sasaki's departure will be a lot more than just a case of a player who wants to go home.

First, a bit of background. MLBPA will get involved in Sasaki's situation because the Collective Bargaining Agreement and player contracts apparently do not have provisions clearly addressing this situation. Hence, Sasaki's departure will involve interpretations of existing provisions and language. When such matters are being considered, MLBPA is involved because the players cannot and will not allow owners to interpret the Collective Bargaining Agreement and Player Contracts unilaterally.

This is a valuable and important role for MLBPA. The players and MLBPA fought very hard to get guaranteed contracts and the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, and MLBPA zealously guards this victory. To understand what this means, consider football players in the NFL, where players have not been able to obtain guaranteed contracts. In the NFL, teams frequently cut players with large contracts or pressure them to renegotiate their contracts downward to stay with the team. Those ploys don't happen in baseball because baseball contracts are guaranteed.

If MLBPA did not police this, owners, aided and abetted by Slithering Bud, would find every way they could to move money from players pockets to owner pockets. In general, the MLBPA wants to ensure that if terms of a contract are reworked, the contract should not lose value. Thus, the union's involvement in the Alex Rodriguez trade discussions this winter.

Sasaki's case has an interesting twist, however. Sasaki doesn't want to change the contract; he wants to end it. This will probably make the union very nervous. If Sasaki is allowed to simply walk away from his contract, what is to prevent teams from pressuring other players to walk away from their contracts?

I believe the following basic principles should guide Sasaki's situation:
  1. Because workers are not indentured servants, any worker should be able to leave any type of employment at any time. Forcing Sasaki to stay in a situation he wants to leave voluntarily is untenable.

  2. By walking away from his contract, Sasaki appears to be breaching the contract. When a contract is breached, the breaching party is the one that is obligated for damages. Thus, I have a hard time seeing how the Mariners might be forced to pay "termination pay" or other compensation to Sasaki when Sasaki is the one breaching the contract. (For more discussion on termination pay, scoll down to my note at the bottom of this post.}
I'm also curious that this situation is seemingly without precedent. Has there never been a player with a major league contract who has decided to simply walk away from it all (perhaps after being optioned to the minors)?

In the Alex Rodriguez negotiations, I suggested that MLBPA really ought not to care if a player freely and voluntarily decides to alter the terms of a contract. (See my post of December 18, "THE HEIGHT OF IRONY - BALLPLAYERS ARE NOW UNION CHATTEL INSTEAD OF OWNER CHATTEL".) As I stated then, the ultimate goal should be player happiness, and if a player voluntarily and unilaterally elects to change the terms of an agreement, he should be free to do so.

This would not eviscerate guaranteed contracts in baseball; rather it would give the player more options under his contract. Unlike the NFL, baseball teams could not simply cut a player to reduce payroll. The player would still have the power in determining whether or not the restructuring was to his benefit; nothing could be forced on a player without his consent. In this case, Sasaki is apparently freely and voluntarily deciding that he simply wants to do something else with his life.

The negotiations and discussions about Sasaki's case will assuredly involve his status as a free agent if he leaves the Mariners. I think everyone will easily agree that, for the remaining period of Sasaki's contract, Sasaki would not be able to play for another Major or Minor League baseball team without the Mariners consent. There will be negotiations about how that will be accomplished. Most likely, it will involve Sasaki being placed on a suspended list in which he is still subject to the reserve clause, but is not getting paid.

There is another twist in Sasaki's case that could be very interesting, though. If a player does walk away from a contract as Sasaki would like to do, what is his eligibility to play in other countries? Major League Baseball and Japanese baseball have working agreements that prevent Japanese baseball players from simply walking away from their contracts in Japan and becoming a free agent in the US. Presumably, these agreements are reciprocal, so players in North America can't just decide to switch to a Japanese baseball team while they are under contract to a North American team.

Certainly baseball owners would want to prevent players from simply leaving a North American team to play in Japan, but what would the union's position be in Sasaki's case? MLBPA could easily go either way on this. The most intuitive course is to allow maximum freedom in player movement, setting up owners and players on opposite sides of the issue. But if MLBPA is going to argue that baseball has a continuing obligation to Sasaki even if he walks away from his contract, MLBPA would also find it hard to argue that Sasaki is not still under Mariners control.

It's a very interesting situation, with some novel concepts. And as I've tried to point out, there's a lot more involved than just one player's desire to go home.

================

A quick note about "termination pay". There is a provision in Articl IX of baseball's Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows a team to release a player who "who is tendered a Uniform Player’s Contract", but the team needs to provide termination pay. "Tendered" sounds to me like this applies to players who are either under team control (i.e, first two years in the major leagues) or are offered arbitration). An example of this situation is when the Mariners released Brian Hunter during Spring Training several year ago. Since Sasaki has less than six years of service time, this provision could apply if the Mariners released him.

 

MISSING IN ACTION

Matthew Pouliot at Rotoworld.com put up his his Top 100 Prospects list. I looked and looked, but I couldn't find either Vince Faison or Juan Gonzalez. Where, oh where, could they be?

Monday, January 19, 2004

 

ART THIEL HELPS OUT WITH THE SELIG SLIME

Other bloggers, notably Derek at USS Mariner, highlighted Art Thiel's column, Ethics issue for Selig, too, in today's P-I.

Regular Wheelhouse readers know that one of our recurring topics is the state of news media coverage of baseball. In addition, we've thrown a few of our own barbs at Selig about his questionable ethics as Commish of Beisbol.

Art does a nice job. If you haven't read the article, follow the link and check it out.

 

CONTINUING WITH THE RAMPANT POST-SASAKI SPECULATION

You go out for dinner, have couple of Hammerheads at McMenamin's, and anything becomes possible!

It occurred to me that if Sasaki goes back to Japan, the Mariners will be anxious to pick up another prominent Japanese player. Without Sasaki, the Mariners will no longer be the preeminent team with Japanese players, and I suspect that maintaining preeminence in the Japanese market is very important to ownership. So the Mariners will want to replace Sasaki. And, when it comes to Japanese players, the Mariners apply a different set of rules.

So here it is readers, Winn, Garcia, Olerud, and cash (to balance the salaries) heading to the Yankees for Godzilla, Aaron Boone, and one or two pieces of detritus ( toolsy minor league players who have shown a complete inability to play baseball).

This works on a number of levels:
  • The Mariners get another popular Japanese player to maintain their visibility and popularity in Japan.

  • The Yankees get pitching and a better solution to centerfield than what they've got right now.

  • It allows the Yankees to put Bernie Williams in left field, and return Giambi to DH.

  • Tony Clark and John Olerud make a good platoon at first base for 2004, while giving the Yankees the option to go out get another marquee player at first in next year's free agent market.

  • Olerud is still popular in New York, so going to the Yankees will be good PR.

  • Bavasi trades players with good stats for toolsy players that every other GM (except maybe Jim Hendry) knows have no future.

  • With Boone on board, Spezio can move to first base.

  • Another team gets the opportunity to pick from the Mariners roster in return for players that they don't want.

  • Picking up Boone allows the Mariners to complete the trade they wanted to make last year.
It's scary; the more I write about this the more sense it's making. As much as it pains me to write this, part of me knows that Bavasi may be put Soriano in a deal such as this instead of Garcia, especially if it makes the salaries balance better.

 

QUICK HIT ON SASAKI

Always the optimist, I refuse to believe that Bavasi will spend any new-found payroll on broken down 40-year old players, not when there are broken down 30-year old players available.

My rank speculation on possible outcomes:
  1. Ben Davis and Dave Hansen go to Pittsburgh for Kendall (assuming Kendall will waive his no-trade).

  2. Winn and pitcher(s) to St. Louis for Edmonds

  3. Salary savings is added to the "contingency fund" for making a deadline deal (which turns into owner profit if no deadline deal is made)

  4. If Mariners sign Maels Rodriguez, they will add his contract directly to the payroll instead of the international free agents account.
I think Options 3 and 4 are most probable.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

 

UPDATE ON OAKLAND ARM INJURIES

In my post on THE MARINERS PITCHING MEDICINE MESS I mentioned an apparent large difference in arm injury rates sustained by Oakland A's pitchers as compared with the Mariners.

It turns out that the difference isn't nearly as great as I had presented. The A's are very secretive about team injury issues (as Will Carroll, who writes extensively on health issues for Baseball Prospectus, has often noted), and my googling of A's arm injuries missed some cases.

The good folks at Elephants in Oakland sent me an e-mail with some added names and comments regarding young Oakland pitchers who have had significant arm injuries:
  • Mike Frick ... before the car crash that took his life. He was going to miss the 2004 season with Tommy John surgery
  • Micah Bowie missed most of 2003 with an elbow injury and rehab - of course he is not a prospect.
  • Jeremy Fikac, but he went down with a shoulder injury when he was with Team USA last Fall. Fikac doesn't really count, either, since he was with the A's for 11 months.
  • Neil Cotts had his delivery re-worked after he was traded to the White Sox in the Ray Durham deal.
  • Eric Cammack is on the list, though his injury came while he was with the Mets.
Not as long a list as the Mariners (so far), but clearly the A's record is not as clean as I portrayed it.

At the same time, looking at Jason Micheal Barker's Big Board at USS Mariner, I see that there are some lower minor league Mariners pitchers listed on the DL for their teams that I did not pick up in my story. It would be surprising if none of those additional pitcher injuries were arm or shoulder injuries.

If anyone knows of the status of those players, or of any additional pitchers in the M's or A's organizations that have had arm injuries, send me an e-mail with the names. I'll try to keep an informal tally.




 

HOW DO YOU SAY GOODBYE TO SOMEONE YOU'VE NEVER MET?

In another internet community I am a part of, I was privileged to make the "acquaintance" of PJ Siegel: Retired US Army Major, single mom, and gallant fighter, possessed of supreme wit and grace.

And savaged by leukemia far too early in life.

Only a few of us had ever met her in person, yet we rejoiced in her successes, and were dismayed at her setbacks. We saw glimpses of the incredible physical pain she was enduring, and of the mental anguish that is only known by a single mom fighting a losing fight to remain with the child she adores.

Through it all, PJ maintained her humor and perspective. She chided us at times for some our litte pettinesses; one time she reminded us that she would gladly accept any gray hairs we didn't want. PJ, the member with the deepest challenges, was so often the soulmate reaching into her deepest reserves to support and encourage those whose problems were so much less than hers.

By challenging us to become bone marrow donors, one of us matched a recipient in England. Even as her life waned, she spread life to others.

Dammit, it's not fair!!!

How do you say "Goodbye" to someone you've never met?

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