baseball gods productions

Thoughts about baseball, from the perspective of sports psychology and the role of sports in society. It includes team and player analysis, predictions, and what I think needs to be changed in Major League Baseball. Brought to you from the heart of baseball, Brooklyn, by baseball gods productions.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Am I wrong about the Yankees?

The Yankees are playing pretty well right now. They are clicking on most cylinders for the first time all year. They also just played the Pittsburgh Pirates in Yankee Stadium, which is almost like playing against a Triple-A team with a few good young pitchers. They were smart to start Clemens against such a weak team in his first start, because he probably would have gotten pounded by a team like the Red Sox or Tigers pitching the way he did in his first game.

I'm surprised at how well Bobby Abreu is playing, because even major league scouts were saying he looked like he had never played baseball before just a few weeks ago. Melky Cabrera seems to be sparking them with some youthful energy and speed in the outfield. One question: is Johnny Damon a good enough offensive player now to be a regular DH? I think not. He is reminding me a little of Chuck Knoblauch at the end of his mostly successful career. The Yankeed moved him all over the field, trying to find a place where he could contribute, and he never did again. Damon looks like he doesn't have much left to offer a good team. Maybe it's time to trade him while they can still get something in return.

I expect the Yankees to trade for Mark Texeira or Todd Helton sooner rather than later. There is no way they will go any length of time with Josh Phelps and Miguel Cairo playing a premier offensive position. They are probably also looking to upgrade the bullpen and maybe get a more experienced 5th starter. It would be funny if they traded for Shawn Chacon again, hoping he can repeat what he did a few years ago for them.

If they make the playoffs this year, Joe Torre should go straight to sainthood, with a brief stop at Cooperstown to make his Hall of Fame acceptance speech. Yankee fans don't know how fortunate they have been the past decade to have the kind of success they have had.

© Judy Kamilhor 2007

Mets a mess

This is probably going to end up as the low point of a successful Met season, but it sure is ugly. It doesn't help a team to have all five of its top outfielders hurt at the same time. And a few for extended periods. Lastings Milledge would have been playing every day if he hadn't gotten hurt early on for New Orleans, the Mets' Triple-A team. Beltran didn't go on the disabled list recently, but he is definitely not 100%. His power seems to be gone at the moment. He said he has another quad injury, and he is the kind of player that gets all his strength from his legs.

In addition to the outfield problems, Carlos Delgado is really hurting the team. He has not been able to sustain any kind of hot streak, and he seems to always come up when they need a big hit, and he has rarely delivered. He's one of the players I respect the most, but something needs to change. My suggestion is to move him down to 6th for a few weeks, moving David Wright up to 4th and Shawn Green 5th. It's also time to move Lo Duca back to 2nd, because Reyes is not scoring when he gets on nearly as much as last year, and I think Lo Duca is the best number two hitter on the team. It's time for some hit-and-runs with those two.

Reyes' lack of power, and occasional lack of hustle is getting worrisome. I've noticed that he is not running hard when he hits a grounder right at the 2nd baseman or 1st baseman. He actually looks tired to me, but it's time Willie Randolph reminded him that he needs to run hard whenever he hits the ball.

The bench needs some rearranging, too. I would like to see Ruben Gotay turned into a super-utility guy. He has been almost exclusively a 2nd baseman in the past, but he seems athletic and strong enough to play anywhere except catcher and pitcher. There is no reason in the world why Julio Franco should ever start at 3B with a guy like Gotay around. Again, it's time to start Franco's coaching or managing career. They can't afford to keep him around for his wisdom when he is contributing nothing on the field. One guy that is available right now is Brady Clark, and he would help until all the injured outfielders come back.

When/if Moises Alou returns, I would give him a first baseman's glove. Right now, Shawn Green can play first, and then Franco. I would give Delgado some more rest, and it would be nice to be able to move either Alou or Green to 1B for a game or two when more speed is needed in the outfield (like when Perez or Maine pitch).

The pitching has finally given out, after trying to win with no offensive support the past few weeks. The two guys who are contributing the least are Guillermo Mota and Scott Schoeneweis. Mota I can understand, because he just came back from a long suspension, but Schoeneweis needs to go on the DL. He says he has a torn tendon in his leg, and he sure pitches like it; he's all arm, with no follow-through. He's not good enough to pitch well at less than 100%, and they need another lefty to replace him.

As far as how the pitchers are being used, I was really shocked when Randolph removed Pedro Feliciano after a walk with Ryan Howard coming up. He went to Wagner in the 8th, always a bad idea. Feliciano is their best setup guy right now, and their best pitcher against lefties. He's on the team to pitch to Ryan Howard in the 8th inning! Just because he walked one guy, doesn't mean he is having a bad outing. To me, Randolph was just asking for Wagner to blow his first save of the season, when they could least afford it.

The Mets have been very fortunate that the Braves have been struggling with injuries and poor play of their own, but that won't last. The Phillies have woken up, and the Marlins are surprisingly close to the top again. I think the Mets need to trade for at least one more reliable reliever, and even consider upgrading at 1B or 2B. Mark Texeira and Todd Helton might be available, and they are huge upgrades over Delgado right now. Jose Valentin is back, but he's not fully healthy, and his knee could give out at any time. It might be a good idea to get a better, younger, and healthier guy to play every day, and put Valentin on the bench or trade him.

© Judy Kamilhor 2007

Thursday, June 07, 2007

What Kind of Team Are the Yankees?

The Yankees won two out of three against the Red Sox. Then they lost the first game against the struggling White Sox. Then they won the next two games. They have won only four of their past ten games, and are in last place with a 25-31 record. What does it all mean? They play like a .500 team at best. They can't maintain a high level of success for more than a few days at a time, which is a bad sign. When Clemens starts his latest tour of duty, will he give them that psychological edge that they seem to need? My guess is that unless he pitches consistently and exceptionally well, and for more than five innings a game, the Yankees are going to end up out of the playoffs for the first time in a very long time. If I had to bet, I would say they will be playing golf in October, a week or two earlier than usual.

The Mets will have some interesting roster decisions to make in the next few weeks. When Valentin, Green, and Alou come back, who gets sent down/away? I hate to have to say it, but it looks like Julio Franco's coaching career should start very soon. If I were the Mets, I'd offer him a player/coach job for their Double A or Triple A teams. He just doesn't offer enough on the field at this point to keep him.

The moves I would make are: send down Gomez and Newhan, and release Franco (assuming he passes through waivers, he can choose whether to become a free agent or accept a job in the Mets organization). I would keep Ben Johnson and Ruben Gotay, to give them a more athletic and powerful bench. Endy Chavez's injury might open the door to the next move: recall Lastings Milledge as soon as he is ready to play. He becomes an important player, especially if Alou doesn't start healing fast.

© Judy Kamilhor 2007

Monday, June 04, 2007

Drugs and Baseball

I want to know. Who did what, when, and perhaps why. I want to know the truth about steroids, human growth hormone, amphetamines, recreational drugs, and gene splicing, or whatever comes next. And at the same time, I don't want to know. Not if it means dozens of players getting suspended mid-season, or someone deciding which records should have asterisks next to them.

What we know for sure is simply that a handful of players have failed drug tests in the past few of years, and that more than the 5% threshold failed tests in the survey year of 2003. We have an admission of guilt, sort-of, from Jason Giambi, we have the book about Barry Bonds that has not been challenged legally by Bonds, and we have a whole boat-load of suspicions and rumors about all kinds of players.

The problem is obvious, the solution not so much. Here's what I would like to see:

amnesty for honesty
no asterisks
stronger testing
Bud Selig showing up when Bonds breaks Aaron's record
players taking responsibility for their actions

Amnesty for honesty

From here on out, if a player admits to using steroids or other performance enhancing drugs in the past, he should not be suspended. There should be a publicly available list compiled, that says what the player was taking, and when, so the fans can make their own decisions about how much impact the drugs had on the player's performance. This does not prevent suspension for failing tests from now on, however.

On the other side, if a player is proven to have used these drugs and doesn't come clean, he should be suspended for at least 50 games. We want to know, but it's not about punishment, unless the player keeps denying the truth.

The reason this is important is that there are several ongoing investigations that are likely to result in a huge list of names of current players. It serves no purpose to suspend all of them at once, which would ruin the season for everyone. I think it is punishment enough that everyone knows which players cheated and when.

No asterisks

It isn't fair to put asterisks next to some records, because the truth is that many players were cheating that did not get caught. Remember Brady Anderson's 50 homeruns? Since there is absolutely no way to sort out the "clean" records from the "dirty" ones, it's best to avoid placing markers on records by confirmed drug users. By the end of this process, we may know the names of a lot of these guys, and we can hold onto our suspicions about the ones that don't get caught or come forward.

One logical flaw that I hear all the time is that since Barry Bonds cheated, Hank Aaron didn't. The fact is, one thing has nothing to do with the other. I doubt very much that Aaron did steroids, but we don't know anything for a fact. We do know that many players have been using amphetamines for decades, and we will never know what impact they had on older records. Tom House admitted to experimenting with steroids and other substances in the 1960s, and several people have suggested that other players were doing it, too. Unless they come forward, we'll never know, but it is wrong to assume that our childhood heroes were all perfect angels, and that today's players are all cheaters. Everything wrong with the game now, has been wrong since the beginning; we are just much more aware of the problems now because of the increase of media coverage, and the changing standards of reporting on sports heroes.

Stronger testing

The current system is an improvement, but it is far from adequate. For one thing, there needs to be a lot more off-season testing, and no way to avoid those tests. Secondly, I think it's time to move to blood testing, which is much more reliable, and can detect drug use for longer periods. The best thing that could happen with all of this new attention to the use of drugs, is to create a new generation of players that don't want to cheat, and don't worry that they have to cheat to keep up. Part of that involves better education on the health effects of using steroids and other drugs. There are some pretty nasty side effects that I'm sure most players would be happy to live without. Has anyone seen that PSA with the shrinking basketball?

Bud Selig showing up when Bonds breaks Aaron's record

The commissioner needs to be there, regardless of what he thinks about Bonds becoming the all-time homerun leader. He does not have to act happy, but he needs to acknowledge what has happened. Bonds hasn't failed a drug test that we know of, and until there is proof, he needs to be treated with the respect that comes along with this accomplishment. I don't like Bonds any more than anyone else likes him, but there needs to be some demonstration of acknowledgement from MLB that something historic has taken place. Let the courts prove that Bonds is a cheater/criminal if indeed he is. If/when Bonds passes Aaron, it is a good time to examine the steroid situation and have a frank discussion of what it all means. The idea that people should not talk about steroids is stupid and pointless. We need answers, not more secrecy.

Players taking responsibility for their actions

Jason Giambi and Guillermo Mota are two of the very few players who have attempted to be honest about steroids. I applaud them for that, and don't think Giambi should be punished for talking. I'm fine with him playing out the rest of his contract and then walking away. I know he cheated, and I know (unlike Giambi himself, apparently) that his use of steroids inflated his power numbers for many years. I saw what he used to look like, and can imagine that he would have been a good hitter, with lots of walks, and average power, if he made a different decision. He probably would have been healthier in the long run, too, and wouldn't be breaking down now. I don't need to see Giambi suspended, and I think it would only serve to keep other players from taking responsibility for their own actions. If you want trust, you need to act in a trustworthy way. Telling the truth is a great way to do this.

Caroms Off the Wall:

It's weird that the Mets are missing their entire starting outfield and their second baseman, and that for most of the season, the Yankees were missing production from those same positions, even though all of their playes were more or less healthy. The Mets and Yankees are both older teams, but the Mets play young and the Yankees don't.

© Judy Kamilhor 2007

Friday, June 01, 2007

Trades, trades, and rumors....

Now that Jason Giambi is unavailable, look for the Yankees to make a big push for Todd Helton and Brian Fuentes of the Rockies. I don't have any special info here, just common sense. The Yankees are desperate, the Rockies aren't going anywhere this year, and Helton fills a big need for the Yankees at 1B and in improving the tired offense. My guess is that the only reason this hasn't happened yet is that the Rockies are asking for Phil Hughes and/or the rest of the Yanks' top prospects.

© Judy Kamilhor 2007