Aces

The winners and losers of the Cliff Lee deal

32 Comments

The easy answer is that the Phillies and their fans are the biggest winners here. That goes without saying and explanation, I hope. But let’s look at the others in this epic story to see who comes out ahead and who comes out behind by Cliff Lee joining the Phillies:

WINNERS

Ruben Amaro: I said last night on Twitter that Amaro was a ninja for coming in so quietly for the kill. I’m thinking this morning that “ninja” doesn’t do it justice. Amaro is certainly not perfect as a GM — I still don’t like the Ryan Howard extension and his trading away of Cliff Lee last year cost him tens of millions of dollars to get him back — but in terms of approach and tightness of the ship he runs, Amaro is without peer. No one saw this coming before yesterday. No one believed it once it happened. Impressive.

The Red Sox: The Yankees didn’t get their man. They’re not done of course, but when your arch rival loses out on his primary objective, you can’t help but be happy. For the Yankees to improve their pitching staff now, they will have to give up talent. Talent which could have been used to make other moves later.

Andy Pettitte: This is bad for the Yankees, but good for the pocket book of the guy who this morning finds himself in much greater demand today than he was yesterday.

Carlos Ruiz: I lost it in the Twitter onslaught late last night, but someone made an excellent point: Chooch just has to sit back and catch the ball for seven or eight innings, four out of every five games. The men throwing it have a better plan than he could come up with on his own. And they’ll more often than not put it right where he places his glove.

The Rangers: I’ve said it multiple times, but they didn’t need Cliff Lee, even if it would have been nice to have him for a couple of years.  They don’t need the risk a six-year deal would have entailed. They have the pieces to compete in the AL West for several years. For them, losing out on Lee was really winning.

Any team shopping a starter: The Yankees, for the first time in modern memory, are desperate. I don’t want to overstate things — I’m sure Cashman and his guys thought about what might happen if they don’t get Lee — but they certainly need to deal. There are a lot of teams who will now reassess which of their pitchers are available in light of this deal.  I’ll throw one out there: Frank Wren: call Brian Cashman and see if he’ll take Derek Lowe’s entire contract off your hands!

LOSERS

The Yankees: for reasons stated.

The Braves and the rest of the NL East: I won’t suggest that having four aces will guarantee the Phillies the World Series — just ask the 1991-94 and 1996-2005 Braves how that worked out — but over the course of 162 games there is no way this rotation doesn’t grind their division rivals into dust. I suppose this is why God created the Wild Card.

LeBron James: See, it’s possible to take a bit less money and to go someplace where you’re not the top dog in the hopes of winning a title without being a deluded, self-important jerk about it. Really, if it wasn’t for “the Decision” James wouldn’t be getting the crap he’s getting. It was all about manner, not destination. Lee just made his decision and let the reporters take over. James could have done that too.

Playing card manufacturers: If someone hasn’t already placed a call to get a license for a deck of Phillies cards with Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Oswalt as the four aces then I don’t believe in humanity anymore.

I’m sure there are others, but those are all who spring to mind at the moment.

Joe Mauer reveals he’s had blurred vision since 2013 concussion

Joe Mauer
Leave a comment

After a decade as the best all-around catcher in baseball Joe Mauer suffered a concussion in August of 2013 that forced him to change positions and marked the end of his time as a great hitter.

Mauer was doing his usual thing at the time of the concussion, hitting .324 with a .404 on-base percentage and .880 OPS. Since returning from the brain injury he’s hit .270 with a .348 on-base percentage and .725 OPS while seeing his numbers decline across the board.

Mauer revealed today to Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that “lingering symptoms occasionally blurred his vision at the plate the past two seasons” and “he will experiment hitting with sunglasses for the first time to improve his pitch tracking” this season.

Here’s more from Murphy:

Bright sunshine sometimes triggered blurred vision that Mauer links to the concussion with which he was diagnosed in August 2013 after absorbing at least “two significant blows” from foul tips while he was still catching.

“I don’t want that to be kind of an excuse. If I’m out there, I’m out there. That’s just the way I am,” Mauer said. “There are times I’ve gone up to the plate and I just couldn’t pick up the ball. That’s part of the frustration because I’m trying to do everything I can to get back. It just takes time.”

There are more quotes along those same lines and Mauer’s numbers in night games were much better than his numbers in day games last season.

I live in Minnesota and it has been incredibly frustrating to see such a large (or at least vocal) segment of the Twins fan base treat Mauer’s steep decline as if it has nothing to do with the significant brain trauma he suffered. I’m hopeful that Mauer going public about literally struggling to see the baseball while at the plate will convince fans to treat him more humanely, but that’s probably wishful thinking at this point.

What a shame, on every level.

Masahiro Tanaka can’t say for sure if he’ll be ready by Opening Day

tanaka
Leave a comment

Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka said today that he “can’t say for sure” whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

Tanaka underwent arthroscopic surgery in late November to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. Tanaka threw off a bullpen mound Tuesday for the first time since undergoing a cleanup procedure on his right elbow last October and, while healthy, may be behind other pitchers.

Tanaka posted a 3.51 ERA and a 139/27 K/BB ratio across 154 innings last season. He also has a partially torn UCL he’s been pitching through for some time which is always something the Yankees have on their mind when it comes to schedules and workouts for their ace.

Denard Span, not Angel Pagan, will be Giants’ center fielder and leadoff hitter

Denard Span
2 Comments

Making official what was assumed when the Giants signed Denard Span to a three-year, $31 million contract last month, manager Bruce Bochy announced that Span will start in center field and bat leadoff.

That means 34-year-old Angel Pagan, who’s been the Giants’ starting center fielder and primary leadoff hitter for the past four seasons, will slide to left field and bat further down in the lineup. About a month before the Span signing Bochy said Pagan would remain in the center fielder/leadoff role, but the situation obviously changed.

It’s a move that makes sense, because Span–if healthy following hip surgery–is a superior defensive center fielder with better on-base skills. And if Pagan doesn’t bounce back following a rough 2015 season then having him in left field will make it easier for the Giants to platoon him or bench him in favor of, say, Gregor Blanco or a bigger bat.

Pitchers to receive new visor-like protective headgear

Headgear
MLB/MLBPA
11 Comments

For the past few years MLB, the MLBPA and cap and helmet manufacturers have been working on various models of protective headgear for pitchers. Some of the models have been unworkable, some of them have not met the satisfaction of pitchers and others have, well, looked a little odd. At present the only pitcher who routinely wears any headgear is Alex Torres, who wears the bulky isoBLOX helmet.

Now, however, there is a new option. And, as you can see above it’s a bit different than what we’ve seen before. It’s more or less like a visor, which will have a nylon top on them to give a full cap-like appearance. The ear flaps will be lefty and righty-specific, given that righties are more likely to be hit on the right and lefties on the left given their follow-throughs.

The new caps will be given out to players this spring and, like the old ones, will be used or not used at the choice of the players. You can read more about the new helmet at ESPN’s Outside the Lines report.