Matthew Pouliot

Boston Red Sox Kevin Youkilis bats against the Minnesota Twins during the seventh inning of their MLB American League baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston

Kevin Youkilis opts for retirement at age 35

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After being limited to 21 games in Japan last season due to plantar fasciitis, Kevin Youkilis chose to call it a career Thursday, announcing his retirement at age 35.

Affectionately known as “Yoooouuuuukkkk” during his Red Sox tenure, Youkilis didn’t have a particularly long MLB career, but he did mix in a three-year run as one of the AL’s best players, hitting .308/.404/.560 with 75 homers from 2008-10. Only Albert Pujols (1.078) and Manny Ramirez (.970) had better OPSs than Youkilis .964 mark during that span. He finished third in the AL MVP balloting in 2008 and sixth in 2009.

Youkilis was also part of two World Series winners in Boston, though he had only a bit role as a rookie in 2004. In 2007, he hit .500 with three homers and 10 runs scored in the seven-game ALCS victory over the Indians and then went 2-for-12 in the sweep of the Rockies in the World Series. Overall, he was a .306/.376/.568 hitter with six homers in 29 postseason games.

Unfortunately, Youkilis’ body just didn’t hold up in his 30’s. From 2010-2013, he played in 102, 120, 122 and 28 games. The Red Sox traded him to the White Sox in July 2012. A bulging disc in his back cost him most of 2013 with the Yankees, and he was unable to rejoin his Japanese team last season after the foot problems. He initially said he wasn’t sure whether he’d go back to Japan or seek a return to MLB in 2015.

Youkilis finishes his career a .281/.382/.478 hitter with 150 homers and 618 RBI in 1,061 games. None too shabby for a bad-bodied third baseman who lasted until the eighth round in the 2001 draft.

10 nominees for Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee announced

minoso
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As part of the three-year cycle, we’re going back to the so-called Golden Era for Veterans Committee Hall of Fame nominees this year. The 10 players under consideration this time around: Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Bob Howsam, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Billy Pierce, Luis Tiant and Maury Wills.

The name on the list many won’t be familiar with is Howsam, who was Cincinnati’s general manager from 1967-77 and built “The Big Red Machine.” His trade for Joe Morgan (who has a vote this year as part of the Golden Era Committee) was one of the biggest steals in baseball history. Before joining the Reds, Howsam’s family also founded the Denver Broncos in 1960 and worked to bring MLB to Denver long before it ever happened. He passed away in 2008 at age 89.

Players, managers, umpires and executives considered part of the 1947-72 era are eligible for ballot. Six of these guys are holdovers from the 2011 ballot, on which only Ron Santo was elected.  The vote totals from 2011’s 16-person committee (12 needed to elect):

Santo – 15
Kaat – 10
Hodges – 9
Minoso – 9
Oliva – 8
Buzzie Bavasi – 3
Boyer – 3
Charlie Finley – 3
Allie Reynolds – 3
Tiant – 3

At this point, the real question is whether anyone else from an already well represented era needs to be in the Hall of Fame. I’d favor Minoso’s election and Boyer and Allen both have very solid cases by the numbers, but the players more likely to be elected are Oliva and Hodges and neither was really good enough for long enough to have a great case. Kaat is a sentimental favorite, having pitched 25 seasons and then turning into a fine broadcaster, but there isn’t a whole lot of difference between him and Jamie Moyer.

Personally, I’d favor shuttering the Golden Era committee and work on getting the more deserving players from the 1980’s to the present in the Hall of Fame. At this point, the top unlected players from the modern era are a couple of cuts above what left from previous eras that have already been picked over.

The Veterans Committee is slated to hold its vote on the 10 candidates on Dec. 8.

What’s in store for the Royals this winter?

Dayton Moore, Ned Yost
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When the Royals traded Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi to the Rays for James Shields and Wade Davis, they were settling themselves up to win in 2013 and 2014. Now, Shields is a free agent, as are Billy Butler and Norichika Aoki, and the Royals have to decide just how much they’re willing to spend to keep their World Series team relatively intact.

The Royals’ payroll this year was $92 million, and a bunch of the incumbents are due raises. Here most of what’s coming off the books:

Shields: $12 million
Butler: $8 million ($1 million buyout of $12.5 million club option)
Luke Hochevar: $5.21 million
Aoki: $2.5 million
Josh Willingham: $2 million ($7 million salary was acquired in August)
Aaron Crow: $1.475 million (arbitration eligible, likely traded or non-tendered)
Jason Frasor: $800,000 ($1.75 million salary was acquired in July)

And what’s staying on:

Alex Gordon: $10 million to $12.5 million
Jeremy Guthrie: $8 million to $9 million
Jason Vargas: $7 million to $8.5 million
Greg Holland: $4.65 million to $8 million – arbitration
Omar Infante: $5 million to $7.5 million
Davis: $4.8 million to $7 million (club option)
Eric Hosmer: $3.6 million to $5.5 million – arbitration
Lorenzo Cain: $550,000 to $3.5 million – arbitration
Alcides Escobar: $3 million to $3 million
Mike Moustakas: $550,000 to $2.5 million – arbitration
Danny Duffy: $530,000 to $2.3 million – arbitration
Salvador Perez: $1.5 million to $1.75 million
Tim Collins: $1.3625 million to $1.6 million – arbitration
Kelvin Herrera: $520,000 to $1.5 million – arbitration
Jarrod Dyson: $530,000 to $1.1 million – arbitration

That’s $51.6 million going up to approximately $74.75 million among the returnees, plus the minimum salaries of guys like Yordano Ventura and Brandon Finnegan. If you take those 15 guys and add in 10 minimum salaries, you’re already at $80 million.

Fortunately, that’s a pretty well rounded group of returnees. It includes four-fifths of a rotation, the league’s best bullpen and seven members of the lineup. I am assuming that the Royals keep the bullpen intact. It’s not ideal for a small-market team to pay $15 million to two relievers in Holland and Davis, but those guys aren’t typical relievers. If the Royals could trade Holland for a quality young starter or right fielder, that could be worth doing. But they shouldn’t simply dump either over payroll concerns.

With that group, the Royals would enter next season with an extreme lack of depth, but they could conceivably just sign a cheap DH and compete in the AL Central.

Ideally, though, the Royals would push their payroll up to around $100 million-$110 million and either re-sign Shields, which should take $18 million-$20 million per year, or bring in a quality replacement. Let Butler test the market, and when he finds it’s not so much to his liking, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Royals are able to re-sign him for $6 million-$7 million. My guess is that Aoki is in line for a two-year deal in the $15 million range, which is probably too steep for Kansas City. The Royals could save money by signing Chris Denorfia to share time with Dyson in the outfield.

Will it happen? The World Series run makes it a whole lot more likely. If the Royals had lost the wild card game, I’m pretty sure the intention would have been to cut payroll slightly. After all, they really stretched it to get to $92 million. It was $10 million more than they had ever spent before, and they had to manuever to stay down that low (they released Emilio Bonifacio after offering him arbitration, they converted $3 million of Guthrie’s salary into a 2016 buyout and they backloaded the deals given to Vargas and Infante).

Now, after the events of October, the Royals need to seize momentum. I’d like to think that many of the dollars they spend this winter will make it back to them in increased attendance. Keep the fans excited and ownership will be rewarded.

Alex Gordon would have been a dead duck had he tried to score

Gordon 1
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When Alex Gordon’s drive to left-center with two outs in the ninth was misplayed twice, it certainly seemed as if the potential was there for a game-tying inside-the-park home run off Madison Bumgarner. But it simply wasn’t meant to be.

Gordon got the stop sign to stay at third, and it was for the best. Here’s the video:

The most telling screencap is this one:

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Juan Perez has the ball at that point and is ready to uncork his throw. Gordon is still just shy of halfway between second and third.

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Brandon Crawford now has the ball in shallow left. Gordon only found out he had the stop sign a second before this, so it’s not like he would have had picked up more than another step had had been busting it.

Of course, Crawford could have made a poor throw home. But he wasn’t rushed, and he has an excellent arm. With any sort of decent throw, it’s not even a close play at home. You could still argue that forcing the Giants to make the relay still might have been a higher-percentage play than counting on Salvador Perez to extend the game, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree. But it was a low-percentage play either way.

Mike Matheny issues statement on the passing of Oscar Taveras

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Not much to add to this, but here’s Cardinals manager Mike Matheny’s statement in full:

I was asked last night to give some words regarding the tragic death of Oscar Taveras, but I just simply couldn’t.

First of all, it felt like a bad dream that could not be real, and when reality kicked in, my words didn’t even seem to make sense. To say this is a horrible loss of a life ended too soon would be an understatement. To talk about the potential of his abilities seemed to be untimely. All I wanted to do was get the guys together and be with our baseball family.  I know the hurt that comes along with buying into the brotherhood of a baseball team. That hurt is just as powerful as the joys that come with this life. Not to say it is even close to the depth of pain his true family is going through, but the pain itself is just as real. The ache is deep because the relationships were deep, and forged through time and trials.

To the many fans who have already reached out with condolences, and to the many more who are in mourning, thank you for taking these players in, like they are one of your own. This level of care is what sets our fans apart.

In my opinion, the word “love” is the most misused, and misunderstood word in the English language. It is not popular for men to use this word, and even less popular for athletes. But, there is not a more accurate word for how a group of men share a deep and genuine concern for each other. We loved Oscar, and he loved us. That is what a team does, that is what a family does. You will be missed, Oscar.

Both Matheny and GM John Mozeliak are traveling to the Dominican Republic for Taveras’ funeral.