mystery man

Does anyone remember Mike Gimbel?

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I’m sure several people in Boston do, but most people can be forgiven if they don’t know that name.  Mike Gimbel was Bill James before he was Bill James.  At least as far as being a stathead consulting for the Boston Red Sox was concerned.

Rob Neyer told his story back in 2002. The short version: Inspired by James’ Abstracts, Gimbel began writing his own baseball analysis in the late 80s and it caught the notice of incoming Expos GM Dan Duquette who hired him as a consultant. He was useful in Duquette’s makeover of the Expos and Duquette brought Gimbel with him when he took over the Red Sox a few years later.  There his baseball ideas continued to be good ones but his P.R. savvy was less-than-good. When the luddites in the Boston press got wind of Gimbel’s gestalt they mocked him, he handled it poorly and eventually his contract wasn’t renewed. He never had another job in baseball.

Oh, and he once made the New York Times after his Brooklyn apartment was raided and several live alligators were confiscated.  Alligators which he let the neighborhood kids come in and pet.  To which I say, hey, he who is without sin cast the … no, wait. That’s just friggin’ bizarre.

Anyway, I completely forgot about Gimbel and his story until a column he wrote excoriating the BBWAA for their treatment of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens was linked over at Baseball Think Factory yesterday. It’s on the Workers World website of all places. And, while he and I may ultimately come down in the same place with respect to Bonds and Clemens, Gimbel’s argument is rather incoherent. He cites racism as a motivator of the anti-Bonds crowd when there is zero evidence of that being the case (and when it conflicts with the basically identical treatment Clemens has received). It refers to baseball owners’ profit motive in ways that do not square with their behavior today as opposed to 15 years ago.  It’s a strange read, hitting most of your classic communist tropes, and suggests a guy who is looking to fit an event into a world view which he feels has great meaning rather than trying to assess something and figure out what it means.

Beyond that, though, there’s no real point to this other than, man, I had completely forgotten about Mike Gimbel. And that between his past with the Expos and Sox, the alligator thing and writing this kind of rebop for a communist website, I bet there is a FANTASTIC movie to be made about this guy’s life. Really, somebody get me Charlie Kaufman on the phone, pronto.

(thanks to Stephen Keane for hipping me to the alligator thing)

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

Brandon Belt
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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

Braves 2
Associated Press
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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.