Better To Remain Silent And Be Thought A Fool…

We took the end of last week off due to you Yanks deciding to attempt genocide on Jeffrey Loria’s favorite object to paint and David Littlefield’s specialty in assembling teams.

Wow, there’s been some weird stuff happening of late. Some of it disturbing, some of it funnier than when David Samson almost got accidentally decapitated while attending a bris.

An understandable case of mistaken identity.

Anyway, in no particular order: things that have made me smile, shake my head, or scream obscenities at my monitor…

Manny’s gonna be traded—honest! Really this time!

O.K. here’s all you need to know. Alfonso Soriano has a career OPS+ of 115 and will make $17 million a year over the next eight years. Carlos Lee has a career OPS+ of 113 and will make $16.6 million a year over the next six years. Gary Matthews Jr. has a career OPS+ of 96 and will make $10 million a year over the next five years.

Manny Ramirez has a career OPS+ of 157 and will average $19 million a year over the next two years.

In other words, Ramirez’s remaining contract looks pretty reasonable. This means that a team trading for Manny won’t be negotiating from a position of where they’re relieving a team of an onerous contract and shouldn’t have to surrender much talent (see any deadline deals involving the Yankees for details). Any team trading for Ramirez is going to have to give up legitimate talent. Plus Ramirez will insist that he either be given an extension—in this year’s market no less!—or have his two $20 million options picked up or he’ll veto the trade as a 10-5 player or demand a trade at the end of 2007.

Think any team is willing to do that?

Then why are there so many leaks about Ramirez’s trade being imminent? Two reasons: (1) Boston is trying to keep Manny happy by appearing to be actively trading him and (2) clubs negotiating with free agents are using it to tell their agents: ‘Hey, for the kind of money you’re asking we can just pay a bit extra and get Manny Freakin’ Ramirez.’

Expect to see Manny Ramirez in left field at Fenway come 2007.

Mark McGwire

I had thoughts of building an hypocrisy detector along the lines of Professor Frink’s sarcasm detector, but every time I tried to even draw up the plans the paper did a fairly impressive imitation of Thich Quang Duc.

For the life of me I couldn’t understand why. Then I logged on to the web and started reading articles from writers who say they will not vote for Mark McGwire because of his suspected steroid use.

Uh huh.

Mark McGwire was part of an era, an era that happened with owners, general managers, managers, agents, the MLBPA and the media acting as willing accomplices. The Yankees struck a steroid clause that could void the deal on Jason Giambi’s massive contract. Teams offered major money to these juiced-up behemoths to put runs of the board. The MLBPA fought tooth and nail to protect players ‘right’ to take steroids. Managers never invoked the ‘probable cause’ provision in the labour agreement to have a player tested for performance enhancing drugs. Agents gleefully cashed commission checks from their ‘roided up clients. The media saw the players balloon up in a way they never saw major leaguers before and saw unprecedented performances. They were in the locker room. They saw the body acne and other physical symptoms characteristic of steroid use.

Heck, when I was in high school in the 1980s we knew if a guy was juicing. It wasn’t hard to tell.

The media either knew, chose not to know, or were too bloody stupid and blind to notice.

They could’ve blown the whistle but guess what? To do that would’ve risked backlash, access, and their relations with players. They chose to wimp out and not do their jobs and report.

Now that they don’t have to face these players any more and answer to them for what they write, now they’re acting like tough guys, standing up to protect the integrity of the game and saying there’s no way they’d vote a “cheater” into the Hall of Fame. It’s like bad-mouthing the class bully two years after he’s moved 3,000 miles away.

You had the chance to take your stand at the time and you chickened out. You lauded the guy despite your suspicions about his accomplishments. How many times did you write that was McGwire a “legend” and a “Hall-of-Famer?” Now that somebody else did your job and blew the whistle you feel comfortable enough to get all indignant?

If any member of the BBWAA during the last 15 years accepts any kind of journalistic award including the Ford Frick Award after voting “no” on McGwire due to steroids, then he is a first-class, cowardly hypocrite.

Oh Happy Jays; Oh [bleep]

Thank you Rod Barajas. I felt sick when I heard the Jays signed him since it spelled the end of Greg Zaun’s tenure in Toronto. Barajas backed out and Zaun is back in.

It might seem odd to be all hung up on a 36-year-old catcher. Admittedly, I don’t want Zaun to catch more than 90 games or get more than 350 at-bats. I do like what he brings to the table. He’s solid defensively, a switch hitter, tends to hit a bit better with runners in scoring position. More than that, I like the example he sets. I get the impression that he wants to play. He seems to approach every game like it might be his last. Zaun appears intense and focused. Generally the previous plaudits are euphemisms for guys who can’t play a lick but Zaun has some legitimate skills. Welcome back. Just for fun (and to celebrate his return), at the end of the column I’m going to give you the 1994 prospect report for Greg Zaun.

Now I have a question for J.P. Ricciardi.

Are you insane?

You realize that having a 31-year-old glove man that posts an OPS+ of 48 at short is probably not something you find on a championship ball club. To your credit you said the position would have to be upgraded. So you sign Royce Clayton—a 36-year-old that had a 2006 OPS+ of 66?

Please tell me that he’s going to be a utility guy. Tell me you’ve got another plan in mind. Tell me that you thought we’d appreciate the joke—anything. If Royce Clayton was the best you could do then you should’ve stuck with John McDonald; he’s younger, cheaper, and will get you as many outs at half the price.

Sheesh.

Finally: Greg Zaun–the Prospect

GREGG ZAUN

Position: Catcher
Team: Baltimore Orioles
Born: April. 14, 1971 Glendale CA.
Height: 5’10″ Weight 170 Ibs.
Bats: both Throws: right
Acquired: 17th round pick in 6/89 free-agent draft

Will: throw out runners
Can’t: hit 20 homers
Expect: solid average
Don’t Expect: Dempsey

Zaun is the nephew of former Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey, and if he can contribute half of what his uncle did, the franchise will benefit. Zaun has climbed steadily through the minor-league system, showing punch and the arm to throw out runners. He was prospering at Double-A Bowie in 1993, when an elbow injury knocked him out. At the time, he was hitting .321, among the leaders in the organization. He was named to the Eastern League’s postseason All-Star team. His strong first half marked a departure from the two previous seasons, when he spent April on the interstate (the .100s). Zaun broke into pro ball in 1990 and made the Class-A Midwest League’s midsummer All-Star team the following season, leading Kane County with 67 runs and 50 walks. He jumped to the Class-A Carolina League in 1992 throwing out 38.2 percent of would-be basestealers, second among the league’s catchers. So far he has not shown a great deal of power.

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