Buster Olney

Buster Olney doesn’t think Vizquel, Tejada, Nomar were shortstops

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Let the record show that I gave fair warning: I thought Buster Olney might adjust his lists from Monday’s ESPN Insider column after being presented with the glaring omissions. Alas, I was ignored.

The bulk of Olney’s column today was designed to point out how totally not overrated Derek Jeter is. He dives into the numbers to do this or, rather, had someone else dive into the numbers for him. That someone was Justin Havens of ESPN Stats & Information. And what we’re left with was these two lists, which are being presented as data for shortstops from 1995-2013.

Defensive WAR

1. Jack Wilson (20.7)
2. Rafael Furcal (14.3)
3. Jimmy Rollins (12.9)
4. Mike Bordick (12.8)
5. J.J. Hardy (12.5)
6. Troy Tulowitzki (11.9)
7. Royce Clayton (11.6)
8. Alex Gonzalez (10.4)
9. Rey Ordonez (10.1)

Derek Jeter — dead last at minus-9.2.

But when you weigh how good he was offensively … well, the scales are tipped pretty heavily in his direction in the 19 years he has played:

WAR among shortstops with at least 3,000 plate appearances in that time

1. Derek Jeter 71.5
2. Jimmy Rollins 42.0
3. Rafael Furcal 39.1
4. Jose Reyes 33.2
5. Troy Tulowitzki 32.3

Notice anyone missing? If you’re like me, you noticed several. Obviously, Alex Rodriguez isn’t there, even though he’s still played more games at shortstop than at third base. But that’s understandable; considering his time at DH, he’s now made just a tad less than 50 percent of his career appearances at shortstop.

But Omar Vizquel? Miguel Tejada? Nomar Garciaparra? All three of those guys should be on the bottom list. They would be there even if you just counted their time at shortstop and left out their appearances elsewhere. Of course, so would Rodriguez, using that standard (he totaled 63.7 WAR from 1995-2003 alone). But Olney’s list here isn’t using that standard; Jeter’s mark of 71.5 WAR above includes his time at DH.

(I love the plate appearances disclaimer, too, because if the Mike Trout of shortstops had managed to amass 40 WAR in 2,500 plate appearance, well, that’d just be a fluke, right?)

And the defense list? Vizquel accumulated 17.3 WAR on defense on defense after 1995 (28.4 in his career). Adam Everett was at 15.7. Clint Barmes 16.0 (WAR totals are from Baseball-reference, since that’s obviously the list Olney was using even if it wasn’t credited in the column). All kinds of guys are missing from that list. Apparently, those appearances they made at second base or third disqualified them.

Still, there are no disclaimers here from Olney. Nothing at all that explains why Vizquel, Tejada and Garciaparra weren’t included when no one would argue that they weren’t shortstops. And the whole point was to compare Jeter to other shortstops, even though I don’t see anyone actively trying to make a case for any of those guys over Jeter. Olney goes on to write this:

Jeter has almost 1,000 more hits in this timeframe than any other shortstop (Edgar Renteria, who began his career at just about the same time as Jeter, finished with 2,327 hits). Jeter has more than 600 more runs than any other shortstop in his era (Rollins is second, with 1,247). Alex Rodriguez has the most home runs for shortstops in this time, with 344; Jeter is second, with 256, and Jeter has 57 more homers than the rest of the field (Rollins, 199).

Now, this is just flat-out wrong. And it’s amazing that Olney, even though he was willing to blindly publish Havens’ lists, could write this paragraph without even thinking of Tejada et al. Tejada, not Jeter, has the second most homers of any shortstop during this era (291 of his 307 homers came as a shortstop). Olney is also cheating on his numbers. It makes only a small difference, but notice how he merely counts A-Rod’s homers as a shortstop here yet doesn’t subtract Jeter’s home runs (five) and runs scored (40) from his 58 games as a DH from his totals.

I’m sure most of this was just sloppiness and that Olney didn’t intentionally leave these guys out with the idea of improving Jeter’s case. But since he apparently isn’t interested in fixing it, I’d say he deserves to take a little heat.

Are the Cardinals about to go on a free agent binge?

John Mozeliak AP
Associated Press
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The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.

St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.

The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.

Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?

Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.

 

Bobby Valentine on short list to be U.S. Ambassador to Japan

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  Former MLB player Bobby Valentine attends Annual Charity Day hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald, BGC and GFI at BGC Partners, INC on September 12, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Cantor Fitzgerald)
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There is literally nothing you could tell me that the incoming administration is considering which would shock me anymore. As such, I saw this story when I woke up this morning, blinked once, took a sip of coffee, closed the browser window and just went on with my morning, as desensitized as a wisdom tooth about to be yanked.

Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that Former Red Sox, Mets and Rangers manager Bobby Valentine is on a short-list of candidates for the job of United States Ambassador to Japan:

The 66-year-old, who currently serves as Sacred Heart University’s athletics director, has engaged in preliminary discussions with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team regarding the position.

When contacted Thursday night, Valentine refused comment.

Huh. Given his history, I’d have assumed Valentine would be a better choice for the CIA, but what do I know?

Valentine managed the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s Pacific League for six seasons, leading the team to a championship in 2005. He also knows the current prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, as both went to USC. Assuming championship teams meet the country’s leader in Japan like they do in the United States, Valentine has at least twice the amount of experience with top political leaders than does, say, Ned Yost, so that’s something.

The former manager, more importantly, is friends with Donald Trump’s brother, with the two of them going way back. Which, given how this transition is going, seems like a far more important set of qualifications than anything else on this list.