Here's what the Cardinals shouldn't do

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burrell.jpgThe Cardinals are in a sort of hot stove limbo, waiting on Matt Holliday to accept or reject their rumored five-year, $80 million offer and at the same time working on a proverbial Plan B if he lands elsewhere.

What “Plan B” involves isn’t exactly clear.  We know the Cards have been keeping tabs on Mark DeRosa, but he’s just moments away from officially signing with the Giants.  The Cardinals have also been linked loosely to Xavier Nady this winter, but it’s quite possible no actual negotiations have taken place.  Pursuing Adrian Beltre would make some sense, and perhaps they’ll even take a look at Jason Bay.

We can dabble in our own set of hypotheticals all night, but what we do know is the Cardinals have a hole in left field and are seeking some offensive protection for Albert Pujols.

Rob Rains of the newly resuscitated St. Louis Globe-Democrat has an idea.  A hypothetical, if you will.  The problem?  It’s not a very good one.

Considering the lack of in-house candidates available,” writes Rains, “…there might be an increasing possibility that the Cardinals
will have to pursue a trade to acquire a left fielder, should the
Holliday stalemate finally reach the breaking point
.”

If, or when, the Cardinals do reach that point, here is a name they
should consider: Pat Burrell
.”

This is not FireJoeMorgan,
and I’m not Ken Tremendous, or dak, or Junior,
but it’s pretty easy to see where Rains’ Globe-Democrat piece goes wrong.  The Cardinals should pursue Pat Burrell?  I’ll agree to disagree.  Actually, I’ll just disagree.

Burrell, 33, finished the 2009 season with an ugly .221/.315/.367 batting line, only 14 home runs and 109 strikeouts in 412 at-bats.  He was unable to stay healthy despite manning designated hitting duties for the Rays and would do little to protect the great Pujols in St. Louis.  Yet, today we read this:

RAINS: “Burrell would fit right into the middle of the lineup as the protector
of Albert Pujols. 
Even though he hits righthanded, much of his power has
come against righthanded pitchers – 164 of his career home runs, as
opposed to only 71 career homers against lefthanders.

Burrell has more home runs against right-handers than he does against lefties.  That’s quite an observation.  Maybe that’s because he has faced 4,331 right-handed pitchers in his career as opposed to just 1,533 southpaws.  In fact, just about every major league hitter with legitimate service time has batted more often against right-handers.

Manny Ramirez, one of the most feared right-handed hitters of all time, has 406 career home runs against right-handed pitchers and just 140 against lefties.  Does that mean he’s a better hitter when facing right-handed competition?  Of course not.  And neither is Burrell.

Burrell vs. RHP:  .249/.348/.463
Burrell vs. LHP:  .269/.403/.513

Ramirez vs. RHP:  .305/.400/.579
Ramirez vs. LHP:  .337/.444/.624

RAINS: “Burrell also is a classic cleanup hitter, which is a status none of the
other potential left-field candidates can claim.

And what, exactly, defines a “classic cleanup hitter?”  Bengie Molina hit cleanup the last two years in San Francisco.  He also finished this season with a lousy .265/.285/.442 batting line and has only reached the 20-homer plateau once in his career.  Is he “classic?”  Mark Teixeira posted a .948 OPS and blasted 39 home runs this season for the Yankees but batted third during 605 of his 609 at-bats.  What’s his status?

RAINS: “Burrell also is not a terrible left fielder. He has played more than
1,100 career games in the majors in left field, averaging about seven
errors a season.

Sure, if you want to ignore all of the progress that has been made in the last 15 years with fielding metrics.  Burrell had a -7.1 UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games) as a left fielder for the Phillies in 2008.  His UZR/150 was -25.2 in 2007 and -13.5 in 2006.   So, yes, Mr. Rains, Burrell is a terrible outfielder.  And your hypothetical Plan B article probably wasn’t worth printing.

DOJ settles antirust lawsuit against cable companies who don’t carry Dodgers games

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Last November, the U.S. Department of Justice sued AT&T, accusing its subsidiary, DirecTV, of being the ringleader in a plot in which it conspired with Cox Communications, Charter Communications and AT&T cable (then a separate company), to refuse to carry SportsNet LA, the Dodger-owned TV channel in violation of antitrust laws.

Now that lawsuit is over. The DOJ settled with AT&T last night.

The bad news: no part of the settlement obligates DirecTV or any of the other alleged co-conspirators to carry Dodgers games or to even negotiate to that end. There is likewise no fine or truly substantive penalty. It’s basically a “do not do this again!” agreement with some antitrust training requirements for executives and some orders to monitor their communications about these things.

“We are pleased to have resolved this matter to the satisfaction of all parties,” an AT&T spokesman said yesterday, likely in the tone of a guy who is pretty happy to have had a major antitrust suit against him settled so quickly.

When the suit was filed, I anticipated a settlement, as most antitrust suits brought by the DOJ are settled. Such a settlement could’ve featured a cash penalty or, more significantly, a brokered agreement between the parties in question in lieu of a cash settlement that could’ve led to Dodgers games being carried on more channels. After all, more competition is the end game of the Antirust Division.

As it is, however, it’s hard to see this as anything other than a surrender by the DOJ and a victory for the those carriers who coordinated their efforts to not carry the Dodgers.

An open question, unanswered in anyone’s statements yesterday, is whether this settlement is 100% about the merits of the case — keeping in mind that the DOJ tends not to file antitrust suits unless they think they can win, instead preferring to negotiate first — or whether it represents a new set of laxer priorities when it comes to antitrust enforcement from the Trump Administration and AG Jeff Sessions.

Video: Jake Arrieta hits a 465-foot home run off of Zack Greinke

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Jake Arrieta‘s bat is in midseason form already. The Cubs’ ace swatted a solo home run to center field off of Zack Greinke in Thursday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition game, his first homer of the spring.

The blast went 465 feet, according to MLB.com’s Daren Willman.

Arrieta has hit two home runs in each of the past two seasons. Madison Bumgarner (eight) and Noah Syndergaard (four) are the only other pitchers to match or exceed his output in that department.

Greinke, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back after a miserable 2016 season. He finished with an uncharacteristic 4.37 ERA in 26 starts in his first year with the Diamondbacks.