Sunday, December 26, 2004


Ok, I was wanting to run this idea up the flagpole to see if it sticks. (I apologize, I couldn't come up with the exact quote - but I still remember William Peterson saying something like it in that jury room.) We've heard all the talk about the differences and inequities between teams that spend a lot and those who don't. Obviously, the players don't want a salary cap. Obviously, the owners don't want to share revenue. The monetary structure won't be changed due to the power on both sides. So, if we want to make things better between teams that spend a lot and those who don't, we would have to change something else. I say we change the divisions.

This idea came about because of the distance I saw between the spending of the Yankees and Red Sox (57 million) and then the difference between the Red Sox and the Angels (27 million) where most of the rest of the teams were on a more even distribution with only a maximum of 7 million dollars separating one team from the next. I thought, well, if these two long rivals are that far above everyone, let's give them their own division. Winner takes all. The rest of the AL playoff teams come from the remaining three divisions. Kind of puts a damper on the spending.

But, then I thought that would obviously be unfair to both the Yankees and Red Sox (no cheering from the peanut gallery) so, what about divisions based on salary? Two divisions in each league. Seven teams in each in the AL, 8 in each in the NL. Instead of a wild card, you give it to the top two teams in each division. The top division in each league would contain the 7 (or 8) largest payrolls as of March 25th of the year of the season. The lower division would then contain the remaining teams with lower payrolls.

There would be two consequences with going with March 25th. One, it is so close to the start of the season, schedules couldn't be altered. So, we'd have to go to a balanced schedule - playing every team the same number of times. This would obviously take away some of the great rivalry games. Two, to keep the balance, we would have to get rid of interleague play. (I love saying that.) If you are going to keep things balanced, you can't have schedule makers putting in interleague games where you don't play everyone so that one NL team plays the Yankees and Red Sox and another in the same NL division just plays the Royals and the Devil Rays.

The great thing about March 25th is that it gives every team time to jockey for division placement before the start of the season. Once the 25th hits, you can't change divisions. Now, for some fun economic incentives. Once the divisions are set, if any team falls below the lowest payroll in a division as of March 25th, they pay the difference at the end of the season to anyone in their division. (Is this a salary floor? You betcha.) So, in 2004 if an NL team in the lower division fell below the Brewers $27,528,500 to $26,528,500 - they would have to pay each team in their division $1 million - bringing their payroll back up to $33,528,500. On the converse side, if any team goes above the highest payroll in their division as of March 25th, they have to pay each team in their division the same amount of the overage - serving as a kind of luxury tax cap.

Well, I'm tired of talking in hypotheticals, let's look at what the divisions would have been in 2004. (I don't have salaries as of March 25th - so I am just going to use the same link numbers to craft divisions.)

AL Top Division
New York Yankees - $184 million
Boston Red Sox - $127 million
Anaheim Angels - $101 million
Seattle Mariners - $81 million
Chicago White Sox - $65 million
Oakland Athletics - $59 million
Texas Rangers - $55 million

Salary floor - $55 million; salary ceiling $184 million

AL Second Division
Minnesota Twins - $54 million
Baltimore Orioles - $52 million
Toronto Blue Jays - $50 million
Kansas City Royals - $48 million
Detroit Tigers - $47 million
Cleveland Indians - $34 million
Tampa Bay Devil Rays - $30 million

Salary floor - $30 million; salary ceiling $54 million

(Some of you might be wondering about the salary ceiling in the second division - that is to keep teams from dropping artificially low and then outspending their division to win it - assuming money has a good correlation with winning.)

NL Top Division
New York Mets - $97 million
Philadelphia Phillies - $93 million
Los Angeles Dodgers - $93 million
Chicago Cubs - $91 million
Atlanta Braves - $90 million
St. Louis Cardinals - $83 million
San Francisco Giants - $82 million
Houston Astros - $75 million

Salary floor - $75 million; salary ceiling $97 million

NL Second Division
Arizona Diamondbacks - $70 million
Colorado Rockies - $65 million
San Diego Padres - $55 million
Cincinnati Reds - $47 million
Florida Marlins - $42 million
Montreal Expos - $41 million
Pittsburgh Pirates - $32 million
Milwaukee Brewers - $28 million

Salary floor - $28 million; salary ceiling $70 million

So, if we assume there were balanced schedules last year, here is how the divisions would have looked if we use last years standings.

AL Top Division W-L
New York Yankees - 101 - 61
Boston Red Sox - 98-64
Anaheim Angels - 92-70
Oakland Athletics - 91-71
Texas Rangers - 89-73
Chicago White Sox - 83-79
Seattle Mariners - 63-99

AL Second Division
Minnesota Twins - 92-70
Cleveland Indians - 80-82
Baltimore Orioles - 78-84
Detroit Tigers - 72-90
Tampa Bay Devil Rays - 70-91
Toronto Blue Jays - 67-94
Kansas City Royals - 58-104

NL Top Division
St. Louis Cardinals - 105-57
Atlanta Braves - 96-66
Los Angeles Dodgers - 93-69
Houston Astros - 92-70
San Francisco Giants - 91-71
Chicago Cubs - 89-73
Philadelphia Phillies - 86-76
New York Mets - 71-91

NL Second Division
San Diego Padres - 87-75
Florida Marlins - 83-79
Cincinnati Reds - 76-86
Pittsburgh Pirates - 72-89
Colorado Rockies - 68-94
Milwaukee Brewers - 67-94
Montreal Expos - 67-95
Arizona Diamondbacks - 51-111

The AL races would not have been as good - Anaheim would have been eliminated from the playoffs, replaced by Cleveland. But, the season could have been different with the different schedules and divisions - this is just an approximation. All the NL playoff teams would have been in one division - and that division would have been fun to watch. St. Louis and Atlanta would have made it, with San Diego and Florida rounding out the four. But, if you keep the wild card, the AL is the same and the NL replaces Houston with the Padres. Great races are still there, and a small-salary team gets an automatic bid. It's not two bids, but it might be a better solution.

It could be interesting to see - but, the sad thing is that there are only three teams above .500 in the second divisions. I would wonder if it is really a money thing - or more of a management thing that keeps those teams from developing talent they eventually have to pay or are willing to pay. The teams may be permanently bad and not just suffering from the oppression of the high spending teams.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

It's time for Supermarket Sweep!

What GM is the best at getting a bargain? How are you at telling what are the biggest bargains of the offseason - and the priciest purchases? Let's start with the first episode of Supermarket Sweep!

First, the FAs and their salaries I obtained from an ESPN page which updates continuously. So, I may not have the most current numbers to go with all of the signings, but I will revisit through the offseason. The FA signings I have are as of 12/17/04, for this particular blog.

Second, we have to evaluate bargains. You may only spend $300,000 on Stanley Jefferson, but if he doesn't do a thing, is it really a bargain? With potato chips and soft drinks, we can always rely on quality and taste to determine if it is worth the money - so we have to find a measure of value for major league players. Hmmmmmm. How about Win Shares!

So, here is what I did. I looked at all of the players signed to major league contracts that have public amounts. Then I looked at their win shares for the past three years. Instead of just taking last year, I figured a weighted average of the last three years would give a better idea of a player's performance - and give an idea of what a GM is buying. The formula I used was 0.55*2004 WS + 0.35*2003 WS + 0.15*2002 WS. I figured this would put more of an emphasis on current levels of production, but still take on quality (or lack of quality) the previous two years to balance out any one year boost or drop for whatever reason. I don't feel anyone looks at a player and says that performance in 2002 is more relevant to performance in 2005 than performance in 2004, but the multipliers have nothing behind them other than weighting the amounts at different levels.

So - what did I get? First of all, let me start off by saying that I have a few different ways of looking at this information, so bear with me as I hit each one.

$ per Win Share per position high and low:
C - Henry Blanco - Cubs paid $333,333.33 per the weighted average win shares (4.05)
C - Todd Pratt - Philadelphia - $140,186.92 (5.35)
1B - Richie Sexson - Seattle - $889,679.72 (14.05)
1B - Julio Franco - Atlanta - $110,497.24 (9.05)
2B - Jeff Kent - Los Angeles - $349,075.98 (24.35)
2B - Damion Easley - Florida - $145,631.07 (5.15)
3B - Troy Glaus - Arizona - $957,446.81 (11.75)
3B - Vinny Castilla - Montreal - $230,483.27 (13.45)
SS - Edgar Renteria - Boston - $466,200.47 (21.45)
SS - Neifi Perez - Cubs - $132,450.33 (7.55)
OF - Jermaine Dye - White Sox - $548,648.65 (9.25)
OF - Eric Young - San Diego - $114,285.71 (8.75)
RP - Bob Wickman - Cleveland - $1,222,222.22 (2.25)
RP - Antonio Alfonseca - Florida - $42,857.14 (7.00)
SP - Kris Benson - NY Mets - $1,079,136.69 (6.95)
SP - John Halama - Boston - $178,571.43 (5.60)

Average per position:
C - $227,476.04 (5.90)
1B - $378,846.86 (9.17)
2B - $193,771.72 (12.51)
3B - $496,653.22 (17.41)
SS - $271,579.05 (13.67)
OF - $254,009.87 (9.44)
RP - $347,181.63 (5.71)
SP - $559,690.87 (9.68)

Very interesting, because as I was preparing this information, I came across this blog entry on December 19th, and I think there is an inefficiency. Obviously, GMs are paying the highest average amount per win share for starting pitching - and they have the 4th highest average WS total. (I will give you that these are small sample sizes for most positions, but SPs have the most with 17 players. Meaning that there are a lot of big numbers pulling up John Halama and Dennys Reyes.)

Next, I wanted to see about how teams were doing, since my blogging buddies and I have been talking about the worst GMs. So, here you go - due to small numbers, it may not give you much. I only used averages when there was more than one player signed.

Cleveland - average Dollar per WS - $702,020.20
NY Mets - $679,902.92
Seattle - $529,279.44
White Sox - $490,859.76
Philadelphia - $478,660.23
NY Yankees - $478,225.32
Arizona - $464,356.39
Anaheim - $434,581.03
Cincinnati - $387,554.11
Minnesota - $375,728.42
San Francisco - $362,606.71
Texas - $346,411.81
Boston - $282,362.81
Florida - $277,774.38
Cubs - $272,000.81
Toronto - $251,620.11
Los Angeles - $244,552.22
San Diego - $227,752.17
St. Louis - $214,637.03
Montreal - $213,785.57
Houston - $167,225.95

Now, all this is showing what we may perceive as bargains, but are they really? Is it really better to sign a guy with seven win shares for a cheap price or a guy with 21 win shares for an outrageous price? The answer lies somewhere in the middle. So, I decided to look at the average dollar per win share for the top win share folks - and see what kind of prices were paid. Plus, instead of weighting across years, I weighted their biggest win share total the highest and on down the line using the same formula as above. I am going to assume that GMs are thinking that the players will return to their best season for their new team - otherwise they wouldn't sign them.

Jeff Kent - Los Angeles - $313,075.51 (27.15)
Adrian Beltre - Seattle - $474,953.62 (26.95)
Edgar Renteria - Boston - $392,927.31 (25.45)
Nomar Garciaparra - Cubs - $316,831.68 (25.25)
Richie Sexson - Seattle - $556,792.87 (22.45)
Steve Finley - Anaheim - $327,868.85 (21.35)
Pedro Martinez - NY Mets - $632,458.23 (20.95)
Corey Koskie - Toronto - $279,146.14 (20.30)
Todd Walker - Cubs - $135,869.57 (18.40)
Omar Vizquel - Cleveland - $223,744.29 (18.25)

For my last list, here are all of the players that were paid over $600,000 per win share using my original methodology.

Bob Wickman - $1,222,222.22 (2.25)
Kris Benson - $1,079,136.69 (6.95)
Jon Lieber - $1,068,702.29 (6.55)
Troy Glaus - $957,446.81 (11.75)
Richie Sexson - $889,679.72 (14.05)
Jaret Wright - $869,565.22 (8.05)
Pedro Martinez - $699,208.44 (18.95)
Paul Byrd - $687,022.90 (6.55)
Al Leiter - $680,851.06 (11.75)
Carl Pavano - $676,156.58 (14.05)
Troy Percival - $618,556.70 (9.70)

All but two pitchers. Hmmm. Do you see something beginning to develop? I'll give you a hint - of the next 6, 4 are pitchers and the other two are Jermaine Dye and Adrian Beltre.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Beyond Democratic

I've been thinking about the Baseball Hall of Fame voting for the past week, and I have to say, I like it. First of all, the rules are pretty simple. If you are a voter, you can vote for whoever is on the ballot for whatever reason. (Kind of like the MVP award.) But, the only way to get to the Hall of Fame is to get 75% of the votes. Not the majority - 75%. The only way to stay on the ballot is to get at least 5% of the votes. You have 15 years to get 75% while maintaining 5% otherwise it goes to the veteran's committee. Simple stuff.

The most important factor though is the 75% rule. Imagine what anything would be like without a rule for simple majorities. I would think that if a presidential candidate had to get 75% of the vote, he would have to be a hell of a candidate who would appeal to both democrats and republicans, liberals and conservatives and it might be next to impossible with years of interim presidents. However, with the HOF, it just ensures that only the best reach the top, which is how it should be.

Yes, we can make arguments for lots of players, probably because they were a favorite of ours, or excelled in an area that we consider overlooked, like defense at a key position, or heck, even a position that you feel is underrepresented. The fact that you have to make an argument for them signifies that they aren't without a doubt, which is proved in the voting if they don't receive three-quarters of the vote. Check out the voting results for 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. Even within this short time frame, there are only a couple that just squeak into the hall with between 75 and 80% of the vote. Of course, there are only a few that even make it into the hall, so that couple is significant when speaking of small numbers.

That is the beauty of the Baseball Hall of Fame. It is exclusive. Here is the complete list of players in the Hall of Fame due to election by the BBWAA. I've seen many columns on the worthiness of the players within the hall and using the least player in the Hall as a bench mark for election at that position, so there are obviously some that may not be Gehrig like in stature. You can use that as your voting criteria, if you are a voter. "If the person up for election has a higher slugging average than George Kell, I believe they should be in the HOF." Do what you want. Then you have to get 75% of the people to agree with you. Therein lies the rub.

You can harp on people that deserve it or people that don't. Somehow if they were elected, 75% said yes. If they weren't, at least 26% said no for 15 years. That's pretty powerful stuff for keeping it exclusive. Will they be right 100% of the time? I hope not - that will take out the fun of discussions - but we will always have the Veterans Committee to liven up things. (Here's an index of more Veteran's Committee links.)

Here is the current ballot of eligible candidates with their lifetime statistics. The cool thing is that I remember most all of them playing and I had more than a few of them on Strat-o-matic teams of the past. Some of them even have Strat nicknames that barely reside out of my memory. Each one brings out a memory, whether it is Willie McGee stepping up to the plate, batting lefty in that inimitable style of his or the big bearded grin of Blyleven. Do they all belong in the HOF? Unfortunately, no. But, their feats will live forever in the tales we tell of baseball that we saw and remember. For those special few, we will visit them in Cooperstown once every few years or once in a lifetime, and see those same memories through a museum's eyes, and it will be special.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Be proud, ye hypocrites

Why are we outraged? Why are we shocked? Even if we never saw the steroid issue coming to a head, we should have envisioned something similar, some other form of nefarious activity taking place in clubhouses around the land.

Why? It’s simple, really. Because ours — for better, or more often, for worse — is a society based on people cheating their way to the top. Yeah, I’m sure some people in the 1950s found ways around rules — NASCAR drivers have been doing it for years.

Even the Oakland Raiders of the 1970s would beat you physically, mentally and emotionally before wiping the Stickum off of their hands at the end of a game.

So why, then, is everyone outraged at Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi and the other 5-7 percent of those who tested positive in 2003? (Realize right now that I don’t condone steroid use and think it’s bad for the game — but at the same time, I see why the players took that route).

How can our nation honestly be upset over players doing whatever they can to endure and prevail – legal or not - when the leader of the free world cheated to get into his current position? (At least the first time around, but we all know there are serious issues with the 2004 election process as well).

The daughter of a multi-billionaire cheats her way through USC (thankfully, it turns out, so we could get her damn name off of our new basketball arena). If anyone ever DIDN’T need to cheat, it would be her – she never has to hold a real job, never has to do anything herself – and wanted that to carry over into her college years.

See the pattern here? Cheating is rampant in our society. I would venture that every single one of us have cheated at something at least once in our lives, whether it’s a high school exam, our taxes or, ahem, fantasy baseball.

All the outcry does is make every one of us a hypocrite. No one bellowed about Sheffield when he said basically the same thing as Bonds. Why? Because people don’t like Bonds and this is just more fodder for their canon of anti-Bondsian rants.

This is all kind of amusing if it weren’t so sad – Bonds has never gotten in trouble off the field in any way, shape or form, yet he’s being vilified worse than a man who, in a six-month span about 10 years ago, had:

1) a murder-for-hire plot against his mother
2) allegations that he left threatening notes for his son's mother
3) a stalking by a fan and harassment by anonymous callers
4) his car and house broken into
5) been pulled off a team flight while Broward County (Fla.) sheriff's deputies, acting on an anonymous tip, searched his carry-on bag for drugs.
6) He has had an aggravated battery complaint filed against him
7) And he has been shot in the shoulder.

Yet, when he admits to using something he didn’t know the true components of, no one bats an eye – and when Bonds does the same, we immediately start talking ‘asterisk.’

Shame on us.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Roids should only be the stuff that Preparation H cures

Ok, now the guano is hitting the proverbial spinning thing, and we are seeing the sports world react to steroids is various ways. But, the one thing that no one is talking about is - how does this affect the owners?

Come now, you are probably thinking, who really cares about the owners? I mean if they cared about drugs they wouldn't keep hiring Darryl Strawberry or Steve Howe. I would like to say that steroids are far worse than any other recreational drugs - especially for the owners - here's why.

1) The players are fabricating their talents.

Just like Tim Johnson telling tall inspirational tales about Vietnam or George O'Leary fudging his resume, players who take steroids are misrepresenting themselves. They are saying that they are strong, healthy, great players and the moment there is a drug testing policy, negative press or a criminal investigation, their abilities change. They are no longer the player that an owner paid to serve his team. They change from 50 HR guys back into 15 HR spray hitters, if they are lucky enough not to still send fly balls into the air to only fall short at the warning track.

Just like Johnson and O'Leary, they should be subject to immediate dismissal and in addition a complete voiding of their contract. The steroided ones have created a false resume - statistics that are not built on the reality of their talents, but on the artificial base of chemistry. I am sure any kind of action like that will probably get players attention a lot quicker than asterisks.

2) There seems to be an abrupt drop off immediately when a player stops taking steroids

Jose Canseco was great. Ken Caminiti was great. Jason Giambi was great. All three admitted to taking steroids. All three plunged off the face of the earth, when most careers seem to be extended in this day and age. Canseco had his last good year at the age of 34. Caminiti's last full good year was at the age of 35. Giambi was only 33 this year as he dropped to all time lows and spent a good deal of the season on the DL. All of the sudden injuries come to the forefront, and the gladiator is only able to limp into position or the batter's box. Power numbers drop precipitously.

So, if you're an owner and you just gave these guys a long term contract based on false information, why should you honor it? You may get one or two good years, but after that, their statistics are barely worth league average. The MVPs would be lucky to win a player of the week award.

3) Early death.

This has less to do with owners and more to do with being a human being. As much as we love to watch players achieve magic on the field by hitting bombs to the upper deck, we certainly don't want to see them end up dead before they are 50. Caminiti died when he was 41. I have no clue if steroids played a part, but they certainly couldn't help. Watching the deaths roll up in professional wrestling makes me think that it won't be long and we will be seeing the same thing happen with MLB stars. We won't be able to see another scene like Ted Williams at the All-Star Game speaking the gospel of hitting. The owners will see the ratings for their summer classic drop.

As dangerous as drunk driving and recreation drug use are, we have societal punishments and well defined laws that spell out fines and jail time. The leagues have created policies for these problems as well. (Some would argue they aren't tough enough, but they are at least in place.) For steroids we don't have that. BALCO was investigated for tax fraud. I haven't heard about Canseco serving time for steroid use. I could be wrong, but I think it is up to MLB to create a punishment to fit the crime. So, owners, if you are listening, I doubt the player's union will let you void any contracts any time soon. Caveat Emptor! The best way for you to avoid these problems is to put a very stringent steroid policy in place. At least a year suspension without pay for the first offense. Get involved with the IOC testing group - they seem to be at the forefront for investigating new designer drugs. Keep up with the technology so that there won't be as long of a learning curve and the possibility for that first punishment will be a greater risk for a player. That will stop the use and maybe save a couple lives.

Three plus one for the Hall

If I had a vote in the Baseball Hall of Fame balloting, I would, as a matter of principle, write in Pete Rose and leave the rest of my ballot blank.

Understand that I abhor the man, his actions, his attitude, his philandering ways – I think he is the biggest jerk to ever step on a field (well, second after Don Zimmer). Yes, he broke the cardinal rule of baseball. However, that was as a manager – and he should be inducted for what he did on the field.

Did he stick around a little too long? Probably. But when he broke Ty Cobb’s record, he was still somewhat productive – it’s not like he was going all Rickey on us.

But, since this Rose thing is pretty much beating a dead horse, here is how I’d vote this year:

1) Bruce Sutter
2) Goose Gossage
3) Wade Boggs

And that would be about it.

I don’t subscribe to the theory that you have to be the dominant player at your position for an era – that’s why I don’t think Jack Morris or Ryno gets in. Sandberg was a very, very good second baseman – next to Tommy Herr, perhaps the best of his generation. But to me, that’s not good enough. You can be the best of your generation, or second best, and still not be Hall worthy -- look at shortstop before Nomar and A-Rod came along - people ridiculed the position for its dearth of talent. Does that mean Barry Larkin is automatic for the Hall?
There are enough non-Hall worthy already enshrined.

Sutter goes in for two reasons – one, he was a dominant closer – just dominant – for I’d argue eight years. People point out to his relatively short careeer (12 years, with four ERAs over 4.00) as a detriment. But I’ll say this – show me five closers who were dominant for more than eight years, and I’ll show you five Hall of Famers. Not merely good, but dominant. When Sutter came into a game in his prime, it was over. Done. You knew it. Kind of like Mariano Rivera these days.

The second reason for Sutter is that he pioneered the use of the split-finger as an effective weapon. Sure, other pitchers used it before Sutter. But he perfected it – he threw it ahead in the count, behind or even. Hitters knew it was coming and could do nothing with it. He paved the way for the next generation – where would Schilling be without his split? Clemens? Etc. This might be a weaker argument than his dominance, but hey, if Candy Cummings can be inducted for pioneering the curve, and Curt Flood has arguments in his favor for challenging the reserve clause (yet still losing!), this is just as valid.

Goose goes in for similar reasons as Sutter – dominant and overpowering. Goose redefined the closer’s role by throwing 120 innings a year, then when the overall role was adapted further in the mid to late-1980s, he threw his 50-70 innings equally well. To me, Goose was the first of the 'true' closers. For 22 years, Gossage instilled fear in hitters. The Red Sox KNEW in 1978 that the playoff game was lost when Gossage came in. He pitched for 22 years – 12 of them he posted a sub-3.00 ERA. In one, he had a 0.77 ERA. He threw almost 2,000 innings – as a closer. Unheard of. Of course, he goes in as a Padre, though.

Boggs is an easy choice. Best pure hitter, with George Brett and Tony Gwynn of the 1980s. Worked at his fielding to the point of winning two Gold Gloves. There’s not much to argue with Boggs, so I won’t even try. If he’s not first-ballot, I will be stunned.