Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Base Hits: Draft Surprises, Draft Hysteria, The New Aubrey and Cal the Selfish

So late Monday night while everyone was waiting to see if the Nats would sign Stephen Strasburg, the Orioles received a much bigger surprise than the Nats would get. 2nd round pick Mychal Givens signed with the Orioles after all.

This deal looked dead as Dillinger in the days leading up to the signing deadline but it turns out that both sides (especially scouting director Joe Jordan) were just playing hardball.

Joe Jordan on the tough negotiations:

"I don't know if it was any tougher than anything else. It became apparent to us several days ago that this was going to go down to the end. And I had to put a negative spin on things and then try and hopefully create a situation where we could get it done."

I think there was another factor involved. Givens was committed to Oklahoma State and I would imagine that Joe Jordan's been there. I have. Maybe if Givens was committed to Miami or USC
Jordan would not have been so bold in negotiations. But I'm guessing he was counting on the kid taking the money instead of going to play ball out in the middle of nowhere for the next two years.

The Orioles signed 25 of their top 30 picks including 10 of the first 11. In the first 11 picks, Baltimore added:

2 college righty starters
1 high school righty starter
1 college lefty starter
1 high school lefty starter
1 college righty reliever
1 college catcher
1 high school catcher
1 college first baseman
1 high school shortstop

Not a bad haul, especially when you consider that they made some high upside picks in the later rounds.

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While we're on the draft, ESPN's Jayson Stark with a pro-owner/anti-player screed about how the draft is broken and needs to be changed. I don't like to pick on Jayson Stark since I used to read his work way back when in Outside Pitch. So I will agree with his assertion that draft picks should be able to be traded. Anything that gives the teams another avenue for building their farm system is fine with me.

I was going to write about Stark's rehashing of all the ideas many have thrown out to revamp the draft in recent years but Shysterball can do that better than I. (Good comments on this post too...)

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Baltimore lost an Aubrey but gained one last night when they recalled 1B Michael Aubrey from Norfolk.

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Matt Albers was sent down and Kam Mickolio was recalled from Norfolk.

Against all statistical evidence, I have believed (and still do) that Albers is a major league pitcher. He's got good stuff and just needs to learn to control it. It looked like he had turned a corner earlier this season but has fallen back to his old ways. I'm still pulling for the guy but if you can't find the plate, you can't really expect success...

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I found this story comparing the selfishness of Brett Favre to the selfishness of Cal Ripken during The Streak. I refuted the argument in the comments and it turned out to be pretty long. Here's my argument in favor of The Streak:

What everyone seems to forget about Ripken's streak is that he was easily the best choice to play shortstop, offensively and defensively, every day he came to the ballpark. In the days before Nomar, A-Rod and Jeter, a bat like Ripken's was invaluable for a shortstop and his glove was top notch, one of the best of his generation at short. I have always failed to see how the Baltimore Orioles would have been better off with Manny Alexander or Tim Hulett in the lineup. Batting slump or not, Ripken was always contributing stellar defense. A run saved is at least worth an RBI.

I have also failed to see how a game or two off would suddenly rejuvenate a "tired" player. If that was truly the case, one or two games aren't going to help. Ripken often had a better second half than first half over the course of his streak. He often left the game in blowouts to get some extra rest. To assume that he would have had better numbers with a couple of extra games off is quite a leap. Again, this argument forgets Cal's defense.

There wasn't much juicy to write about Cal over the course of his Hall of Fame career so writers fell back on two criticisms: 1) Cal's streak is hurting the team and 2) Cal is not a fiery leader and that's why the Orioles lose. Both were simple, silly and designed to sell papers, not provide analysis. Olney and Ken Rosenthal loved these angles.

Peter Handrinos (an unabashed Yankee fan) makes the assertion that Ripken's poor September cost the Orioles the AL East in 1989. What he fails to remember is that the 1989 Orioles were a ragtag team of rookies and journeyman. They were not expected to contend at all and played above their head all year. To blame their collapse on Ripken's streak is ludicrous. Trading away Mike Boddicker and Eddie Murray (for minor leaguers and spare parts) in 1988 doomed the '89 season before it started. Management did not believe in the team and started to rebuild. The Streak had nothing to do with it. Handrinos seems to want to enhance Lou Gehrig's streak by diminishing Cal's.

And Bobby Bonds' criticism is hilarious. Bonds was a hard drinking partier during his playing days and aged badly as a result, possibly ruining a shot at a Hall of Fame caliber career. Ripken was a diligent trainer and kept in top shape during his career. Which player was truly selfish? Which player was letting his team down? Ripken slept at night...you don't need as much rest when you get a good night's sleep.

Yes, Ripken was lucky to escape injury but as Seneca said, "Luck is where preparation meets opportunity." Ripken put himself in the best possible position to play every day. To compare Gehrig's streak and Ripken's in silly anyway; to even come close to Gehrig's streak, let alone break it, at shortstop instead of first base is far more impressive.


There’s certainly some room to wonder how historically important the streak was but to paint Cal as selfish in this regard is way off base, no pun intended.

4 comments:

Subway Squawkers said...

Heath,

Thanks for your response on my Faster Times story. I disagree with you on Cal (He was a diva, and as Buster Olney wrote, management was afraid to tell him to end The Streak, even when it served no purpose.)

But I appreciate that you're still blogging after yet another dismal O's season. I co-write the Subway Squawkers Yankees-Mets blog, so I understand the work you put into Dempsey's Army. (And I have to say that Kevin Millar is msised as a great O's target of hatred in Yankeeland!) Check us out at http://subwaysquawkers.blogspot.com

Lisa Swan

Heath said...

All that discourse and all you can come up with is "Sorry I disagree,Cal was a diva."??? Come now Lisa...

Olney's article never says anything about Cal acting poorly or bullying people about the streak...the streak was a natural extension of his work ethic. There is no evidence, anywhere, that a manager or front office person ever approached him about taking a day off. Thus, Cal kept doing what he always did. I imagine that after he broke the streak, if a manager had asked him to sit, he would have.

Until someone comes up with some bettere eivdence, it's all opinion and poorly supported opinion at that.

But thanks for commenting!

Subway Squawkers said...

C'mon now. Do you really think any Orioles Mgr/GM would have survived if they had benched Cal, even after he beat Gehrig? Didn't Frank Wren lose his job after not holding the plane for Ripken? That was my point - that they should have given him a day off in the 80s, before The Streak became so big.

Cal didn't exactly gracefully handle being moved from shortstop. And yes, he was a diva, unless taking limos to games and staying in separate hotels is what the lunchpail guys do.

As for whether or not he was the best option to play shortstop in his prime, you could say that about any star. Yet they all get days off.

But I will give him this. Like I said, at least Cal stayed retired! Seriously - he handled it better than many other stars have.

Heath said...

RE: Frank Wren, leaving Cal on the tarmac was a bush move (and I'm being kind) but it wasn't the only reason Wren was fired. He was abrasive and clashed with many people in the front office and in the dugout. (Not that Peter Angelos is not abrasive but still...) Not to mention his questionable personnel moves during his short tenure.

And Cal handled the move to third wonderfully. Once it was clear that his range was not what it once was (although it was still very good) he almost happily made way for Mike Bordick, a player whose glove he knew to be Gold Glove caliber. I wonder if Derek Jeter will be so graceful when his time comes.

The hotels and limos I'll give you. (although it's hardly unique for veterans of Cal's caliber to do so...)