Tag: C.C. Sabathia

Image (1) AlexRodriguezAP-thumb-250x303-6668.jpg for post 4407

Remember, back in 2009 when no one was paying any attention to Alex Rodriguez? Me neither.


Tony Massarotti, who claims that “no one cares about A-Rod” anymore and then proceeds to write an entire column about him, had this to say about Alex Rodriguez while doing the de riguer cataloging of his shortcomings:

“Rodriguez always had more ability than his chief contemporary, Derek Jeter. He just didn’t have the makeup. For all the attention Rodriguez sought during his career, he routinely wilted under it. On the field and off, as it turns out. In assorted postseason series with the Yankees, Rodriguez batted .133, .071, .190, .111, .125 and .111. His career postseason batting average of .263 was noticeably lower than his career regular season number of .299, and it was worse if you eliminate the productive 2009 postseason in which A-Rod was not the focus.”

Translation: “Alex Rodriguez was awful in the postseason except for that time he was AMAZING but that didn’t count because of this narrative I just made up about how it didn’t count.”

He goes on to say that no one was paying attention to Rodriguez that postseason as “[t]hat October, C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira were the ones in New York’s crosshairs.” Because no, Alex Rodriguez was not in the spotlight in 2009. Not at all. It was only the sleepy little year in which:

  • A salacious tell-all book came out about him, written by a New York Times columnist;
  • He gave a nationally televised admission of steroid use to kick off spring training after his name was revealed on the list of guys who tested positive during the sample testing period;
  • He had hip surgery;
  • He nonetheless hit a home run on the first swing he took after recovering from hip surgery;
  • His relationship with Kate Hudson was all over the tabloids;
  • The story about him allegedly having a painting of him depicted as a centaur in his room broke; and
  • The ENTIRE runup to the postseason and every single postseason story about him and the Yankees that year was about how, in the past, Rodriguez had choked in the postseason.

After the World Series that year, ESPN’s Jim Caple called it “the most interesting season of [Rodriguez’s] life by far.” But sure, “A-Rod was not the focus.” He was just a regular joe, going hardly noticed by people. Most of us forgot what he even looked like.

It must be nice to be a radio/columnist dude. You can just make up stuff all you want and merely assert it with no care whatsoever about, you know, reality.

Money, money, money (and Bud Selig’s nirvana)

Bud Selig

You probably know that one of Bud Selig’s big objectives as commissioner of baseball was to even the playing field – that is, to give the small-market teams a chance to contend. A luxury tax was instituted. Wildcards were added to the playoffs. The amateur draft had numerous rules changed. Sure, many people thought it was all a ploy to take money from the players and give it to the owners – and let’s not be naïve, I’m sure some of it WAS a money grab – but I always thought that competitive balance really was an issue close to his heart. Selig had been a small-market owner. He had grown up a small-market baseball fan. He will talk passionately and often about how every fan should have hope on Opening Day – he borrowed that from me, by the way — and I feel sure he believes that.

Funny thing: Here at the end of his tenure, baseball is closer to Selig’s nirvana than perhaps ever before. As Brian McPherson writes in the Providence Journal, the correlation between money spent and winning is at its lowest point in a long, long time. McPherson writes that the correlation right now between wins and money is actually smaller than the correlation between wins and alphabetical order.

Why is this a funny thing?

Because, I believe the reason for whatever actual effect we are seeing is pretty directly tied to the steroid years that Selig has been running away from for more than a decade.

Before we get to that, let’s look quickly at the playoff picture. As it stands right now:

American League

East: Baltimore (15th in Opening Day payroll)

Central: Kansas City (19th)

West: Oakland (25th) and Los Angeles Angels (6th)

Wildcard No. 1: Oakland or LA

Wildcard No. 2: Seattle (18th)

National League

East: Washington (9th in Opening Day payroll)

Central: Milwaukee (16th)

West: Los Angeles Dodgers (1st)

Wildcard No. 1: St. Louis (13th)

Wildcard No. 2: San Francisco (7th)

So, as you can see, the game is not being dominated by the highest-payroll teams anymore – of the Top 5 payrolls, only the Dodgers are in the playoffs in the season ended today. This, however, is at least a bit deceiving. Detroit has a Top 5 payroll and is just 1 1/2 games behind Kansas City – I suspect most people suspect the Tigers will catch the Royals before it’s all done. And those vampire Yankees, the team Michael Schur will tell you cannot be killed, linger two-and-a-half games behind the Mariners for the second wildcard spot. If just those two things switch, suddenly six of the ten playoff teams will have Top 10 payrolls. So it’s possible to get carried away by the moment.

Still, something is happening. Philadelphia is in shambles with a huge payroll. The Red Sox are again in last place with a huge payroll. The vampire Yankees have been hot lately but I’m still not buying them and they have flashed a whole lot more mediocrity than promise this year. The Rangers have a huge payroll and are the worst team in baseball. The Blue Jays and Diamondbacks and Reds and even the Twins are trying to spend money but seem to be spinning their wheels or are in screaming descent.

So, why is this happening? I have a theory – one that directly relates to my belief that many baseball teams are doing something that is monumentally stupid. I’m referring to the huge, long-term deals that they are giving players – deals that last until the players are in their mid-to-late 30s, and sometimes even carries them into their 40s. These contracts are a death trap, a suicide rap, and while there are exceptions to every rule, there are never more than a few exceptions. Giving huge, long-term contracts to players in their late 20s or early 30s is self-destructive. Period.

Let’s look at those big payroll teams that are struggling.

No. 2 in payroll: Yankees. Even with Alex Rodriguez mostly off the books for a year, the Yankees have these suffocating long term deals with Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, heck, they just scooped up the next two years of Martin Prado for some reason.

No. 3 in payroll: Philadelphia. Covered this one. Almost 70% of their payroll is going to big deal guys — Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Jonathan Papelbon, A.J. Burnett and Jimmy Rollins. Throw another $16 million in the pot for Carlos Ruiz and Marlon Byrd. What the heck could Ruben Amaro have been thinking?

No. 4 in payroll: Boston. The Red Sox salary structure is a bit different from the Yankees or Phillies… but they are still putting an old team on the field. Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, Daniel Nava, all in their 30s. You can see them trying desperately to get younger now.

No. 8 in payroll: Texas. Lots of terrible contracts here – Prince Fielder for another six years, Shin Soo Choo for another six years, some big money about to kick in on Elvis Andrus. The Rangers have had terrible luck this year with health but this is a team staring into the barrels of some serious financial pain anyway.

So … what does this have to do with the Selig Era?

Well, there were two things that happened during the late 1990s and early 2000s that were unusual. One, of course, was the crazy proliferation of home runs. But the second was the way players aged. For a long time before the 1994 strike, players tended to age at more or less the same rate. There are countless ways to quantify this – I did a simple spreadsheet looking at players with 3.0 WAR or better. A player with 3.0 WAR is a good player (but not necessarily a great one) and there are usually 25 to 30 of them in any given season, sometimes a few more, sometimes a few less.

For decades before the late 1990s, about 72% of those good 3.0 players were younger than 30. Almost all the rest were between 30 and 34. Very few were older than 35 –  from 1972-1997 only 16 of the 594 players with 3.0 WAR were 35 or older. This seemed the natural aging pattern of players.

Here, for your information, is an incomplete list of Hall of Famers and all-time greats who never had even a 3.0 WAR season after age 35: Rickey Henderson, Rogers Hornsby, Mickey Mantle, Cal Ripken, Johnny Bench, Robbie Alomar and Yogi Berra.

It changed in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In 1998, for instant, HALF the 3.0 WAR players were 30 or older. It was similar in the the surrounding years. If you include all the years from 1996 to 2004, more than 40% of all the 3.0 WAR players were at least 30 years old.

Beyond that, we suddenly started seeing 35-year olds performing at very high levels. People will immediately say that this was because of the popularization of PED use, and that was certainly a factor. It’s also possible there were other factors – smaller strike zones, smaller parks, better bats, many others. But whatever the reasons, there were a few years there where the idea of a player performing well until his mid-to-late 30s suddenly seemed reasonable.

My guess is that this seemingly reasonable conclusion that baseball players had started to beat the aging process was, in fact, quite unreasonable and it is probably the biggest factor in these massive, sprawling and utterly doomed long-term contracts. Teams started trying to lock up player’s last year for huge dough. Best I can tell, there are 22 players who are signed for big money for at least five seasons after this one. They are:

Atlanta: Freddie Freeman.

Boston: Dustin Pedroia.

Cincinnati: Shin-Soo Choo; Joey Votto.

Colorado: Troy Tulowitzki.

Detroit: Justin Verlander; Miguel Cabrera.

Los Angeles Angels: Albert Pujols; Mike Trout.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Matt Kemp; Clayton Kershaw.

Milwaukee: Ryan Braun.

New York Mets: David Wright.

New York Yankees: Jacoby Ellsbury; Masahiro Tanaka.

San Francisco: Buster Posey.

Seattle: Robinson Cano; Felix Hernandez.

Texas: Elvis Andrus; Prince Fielder.

Washington: Ryan Zimmerman.

How many of those contracts would you want? Before you answer, consider that these are mostly newer contracts – we don’t have any perspective on them yet. But we do have perspective on the LAST batch of big-money contracts – here are the big money contracts running out the next three years: Vernon Wells; Alfonso Soriano; Cliff Lee; C.C. Sabathia; Matt Holliday; Ryan Howard; Mark Teixeira; Josh Hamilton, Jayson Werth; Matt Cain; Carl Crawford; Alex Rodriguez; Jose Reyes.

How many of THOSE contracts would you want?

Baseball owners’ and GM’s madness for big money contracts to aging players has, in its own way, evened the game more than anything else Selig or any other commissioner has done. The Yankees stopped developing their own players and bought their way into a pit. The Red Sox had a couple of only moderate seasons, went on a shopping spree, and bought their way to their two worst seasons in the last half century or so. The Phillies spent a crazy fortune in a hopelessly misguided effort to keep a good team together well past its expiration date.

Even the high-spending teams that are doing well this year – the Angels and Dodgers in particular – are basically tiptoeing around some calamitous contracts.

There’s a great line in The Office where the HR representative Toby – who knows that the boss Michael despises him – finds himself stuck in the back with the impossibly annoying Kelly and Ryan, who spend all hours fighting and making up and fighting more. “I don’t think Michael meant to punish me by putting me here with them,” he said. “But if he did – genius.”

That’s what I see here too. I don’t think Bud Selig meant to even up the game by getting the big teams to wasted their huge money advantages on old and rapidly declining players. But hey, if he did – genius.

Yankees turn triple play against Orioles

New York Yankees' Sabathia reacts after being called for a balk against the Baltimore Orioles during their American League game in New York

The Orioles appeared to be mounting a rally in the top of the eighth after surrendering three runs to the Yankees in the bottom of the seventh. Alexi Casilla and Nick Markakis both singled to put runners on first and second with no outs, but after a lengthy battle between starter C.C. Sabathia and third baseman Manny Machado, the Yankees were treated to a triple play to maintain their 5-2 lead. It was a little confusing. The recap from MLB.com’s Gameday:

Second baseman Robinson Cano to shortstop Jayson Nix to third baseman Kevin Youkilis to shortstop Jayson Nix to third baseman Kevin Youkilis to first baseman Lyle Overbay to second baseman Robinson Cano. Alexi Casilla out at 3rd. Nick Markakis out at 2nd.

That is 4-6-5-6-5-3-4 if you’re scoring the game at home.

CC Sabathia will make spring debut Friday

CC Sabathia

Yankees lefty CC Sabathia, recovering from off-season surgery to remove a bone spur in his left elbow, will make his spring debut on Friday, reports MLB.com’s Adam Berry:

“Felt good today, no problems. I felt strong. I’m ready to go,” Sabathia said. “I’m working pretty hard and trying to throw all my pitches and make it as game-like as possible. I’m getting good work out of it.”

The big left-hander hasn’t had to see a doctor since he reported to Spring Training, and his throwing elbow hasn’t bothered him at all during his last two throwing sessions. Sabathia said he threw a little bit harder Sunday than he had before this spring.

During the 2012 regular season, Sabathia tossed exactly 200 innings with a 3.38 ERA. However, he did lose 1.5 miles per hour on his fastball, according to FanGraphs. Sabathia is hopeful a healthier elbow will allow him to recover that velocity. The Yankees, already dealing with their fair share of injuries, would love nothing more than a fully-recovered Sabathia to take the hill on Opening Day against the Red Sox.