UPDATE - I wrote below already that late last night the announcement came that Johnny Damon had left Boston to join the New York Yankees. I didn't dive into my thoughts on it, but I have a couple. The main things I know are that:
It is a four year, $52 million deal. That is almost exactly the deal that the Yankees signed Hideki Matsui for.
Johnny Damon is a good leadoff hitter, and he will likely score a lot of runs with the Yankees.
Johnny Damon is another bad defensive outfielder. Not Bernie Williams bad, but his arm is very comparable to that of Williams.
Johnny Damon may be good in year one and year two of this deal, but in years three and four, I have to wonder if his decline will be similar to that of Williams.
The Yankees now have a lineup 1-8 that is very tough! Most of them are not only good hitters, but patient hitters that make a pitcher throw strikes.
The Red Sox are busting up, and it is almost comical! Damon is gone. Mueller is gone. Millar is likely gone. Renteria is gone. And Manny and David Wells want out. After their arrogance in 2004, it is very fun for me to watch.
Summary - this is going to be presented as a coup for the Yankees, but it is a very typical Yankee signing. It's another big contract, and it probably won't be good for them in a couple of years. The other thing... it still promises them absolutely nothing in terms of a World championship. I personally think that the Yankees would have been just as good with Bubba Crosby in CF.
Here are a couple of Yankees and Red Sox blogs if you're interested in hearing their comments (And generally the reader's comments are very entertaining as well!):
Cliff Corcoran of Bronx Banter.
Larry Mahnken's Replacement Level Yankees Weblog.
Of course, you'll want to check out the Sons of Sam Horn forum for Red Sox Nation's thoughts!
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
by Sarah Johnson
Good Morning and welcome to another day of SethSpeaks.net! I'm your host Seth, and I'm happy to have you along!
I have plenty of baseball thoughts below, but today, I will be posting our fourth and final winner in the GuardDog watch Why Baseball Contest. Marvin Gustafson, Tracy Mitchell and Adam Roesch each already won a GuardDog Watch. If you are interested in participate by writing a Why Baseball for me, for next month, please e-mail me and let me know. I'll give you a date to shoot for and that day will be yours. If you're interested in purchasing a GuardDog Watch for Christmas or any time, please click here.
So, without further ado, I present Why Baseball?, by Sarah Johnson.
Why Baseball?People always ask me, "Why baseball?" and I never really have had a clear cut answer for them, mostly because I've always seen baseball as this cosmic force in my life that I am powerless to resist. People who aren't baseball fans can't understand why you could debate trivial idiosyncrasies of the game all day long. (Although, as George Will once said, "They always talk about baseball trivia, but that is a misnomer. Nothing about baseball is trivial.") Baseball has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mother says that even when I was little I used to flip on the Twins game and just park myself in front of the television. I don't even remember this, but she says one time my dad came into the room and said, "How can you watch this? They're SO bad." My mother said my response was, "Oh, I don't care if they win, I just like to watch 'em play." That love of the game has never left me. Even through all the problems that baseball has had recently, it still remains a great summer pastime. As James Earl Jones said in the movie Field of Dreams, "This field, this game…is part of our past. It reminds us of all that was good…and could be again." I was an American history minor in college and remain a history buff to this day so I believe that is partially responsible for my love of the game. Baseball has such a fascinating history of colorful players, outlaw leagues and a never-ending supply of green cathedrals to worship. I love to read about baseball and I love to read about history, so these two subjects have provided me with a lifetime of stories to savor and cherish.
Also, living in Minnesota (or any northern state) provides me with a built-in excuse to love baseball. I always tease my friends who love football and say that "Football season means that winter's coming, but baseball season means that summer's coming!" After a long, dark, cold winter even people that aren't baseball fans can look forward to the start of the season because it means being able to go outside without spending five minutes getting bundled up first. I've always thought I had SAD- that seasonal affective disorder that leads you to sometimes being depressed in the winter. But mostly I am just depressed because it's not baseball season. My dad always jokes that I have BAD- baseball affective disorder! (My sister usually just laughs and remarks that, "There's a reason the word 'fan' comes from 'fanatic.' ") There is nothing quite like sitting outside on a warm summer night and listening to the crack of the bat or the sound of the ball hitting the catcher's glove. I love the Twins, but there are also so many other opportunities to watch baseball in Minnesota and the upper Midwest.
I think another reason why I like it is because it seems to parallel life much more than any other sport. In basketball, a kid can go straight from high school to the NBA and make millions of dollars. Most people do not go straight from high school to being a CEO. As in life, most baseball players spend years in the minor leagues, riding buses from one small town to another before some of them realize their lifelong dream of making it to "the show." It is often said that baseball is a game of failure. This is also a parable for life because most people fail far more than they succeed, and the people that can rise above their failures are the ones who are going to be successful, not only in baseball, but in life. Can you stand one more baseball/life parallel? Baseball is like life because it is played every day. Life does not just happen once a week like football, but a baseball season has an ebb and flow much like a person's day-to-day activities. Baseball keeps you company- no matter how bad of a day you've had, there is always a baseball game going on somewhere to enjoy.No one else in my family likes baseball, so I've never understood why I was bitten by the "baseball bug." My sisters grew up playing basketball and I do like watching basketball (it's my winter sport of choice) but nothing about basketball captures my interest like anything relating to baseball. I love to meet baseball players and ask them questions to pick their brains about what was going through their minds at a certain moment or before a specific pitch. I've never played sports but I could watch baseball all day long. (My dad calls me "the world's greatest spectator.") I collect autographs, but I like to get them in person because I feel that meeting baseball players is half the fun of collecting. As far as baseball players I have met and stories I can tell- where do I begin!I will share with you one funny story that any Twins fan will enjoy because it always makes me smile when I think of it. I was lucky enough to be in attendance at game 6 of the 1991 World Series. To this day, I still remember how loud the Metrodome was. The only thing I can compare it to is it was a like a constant train rumble throughout the entire game. I could literally feel words coming out of my mouth, but I couldn't hear myself. I remember standing on my chair chanting "Kirby, Kirby" when he came up to bat in the bottom of the 11th inning along with seemingly everyone else in the stadium. Imagine 60,000 eyes watching that ball head over the left field wall. Anyone who says the Twins don't matter to Minnesotans wasn't at the Metrodome that night. And we'll see you tomorrow night (of course, I missed this since I was at the game but have only heard it, oh, about seven million times since then). Then my parents were lucky enough to get tickets to game 7 and I had to stay home and watch the game on television with my sisters and my grandmother. I'll never forget when my grandmother turned to me after the eighth inning was over and said, "Okay, it's time to go to bed." I just stared at her in disbelief and said, "What?????" She said, "Come on, you have school tomorrow." The only time in my life that I have disobeyed my grandmother as I heard the words coming out of my mouth- "The Twins are in the seventh game of the World Series, the game is scoreless and you want me to go to bed? I don't THINK so." I just remember her somewhat shocked expression on her face as she sighed and said, "Well, I guess you can stay up." Luckily, my parents knew how crazy I was about baseball and let me skip school to go to the victory parade. School, schmool!There are a lot of people in this world that feel the same way I do about baseball considering how many books and movies are devoted to baseball. It's a great hobby. (Or, once again as my sister would say, "No, it's not a hobby with you. It's an obsession." I prefer to think of myself as "passionate.") I have traveled all around this country watching baseball games at huge corporate "stadiums," old-time ballparks, rickety old shacks and high school fields. No matter where you are, the game remains the same. As the song goes, it's still three strikes and you're out at the ol' ballgame. After reminiscing on this great game, part of me starts to wonder, "How can you not love baseball?" It's such a great game. Only one question is important to a baseball fan during the winter- how many days until Opening Day?
So, there you have it. A wonderful Why Baseball article! Thank you very much Sarah for taking the time to write up this essay. I think you put into words what so many of us true baseball fans think about baseball. I think this is an excellent way to end the Why Baseball Contest as it shows just how much baseball means to us! Let me know what you think. If you would like to ask me or Sarah any questions, please feel free to e-mail me, or, you can enter Comments!
Shannon Stewart the 8th Most Overrated Hitter in 2005!
Last night was the deadline for teams to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players. The Twins had four such players, so what did they do, and what does it mean?
The guy most people were most curious about was Kyle Lohse. Of course, my belief has been that, in arbitration, he would likely receive over $4 million. To me, that kind of money could be better spent on a bat for a team unable to score runs a year ago. The reason for my belief was that the Twins have a couple of pitchers available to step into his spot in the rotation. With Joe Mays already gone, those two spots could be filled by Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano. With Lohse likely to return now and Baker almost assured of maintaining his spot in the rotation, it appears that Liriano (or Willie Eyre or Matt Guerrier) will not be in the 5th spot. Instead, each will be trying to find their way in the Twins bullpen. Roger and I have talked before and the main reason that we believe that the Twins will be retaining Lohse is looking toward 2007. Remember that Brad Radke has stated that he intends to retire after the 2006 season. That would leave a rotation of Johan Santana, Carlos Silva, Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, and likely one of the Twins top pitching prospects like Nick Blackburn, Boof Bonser or Glen Perkins. We know that Mr. Ryan does not want to trust too many young players, particularly pitchers. It is unlikely that he would be supportive of that 2007 rotation when it includes three players who will have less than a year and a half of major league experience. It is possible that the Twins are looking to Lohse beyond 2006. I will be the first to say that I don't agree with the move, primarily because I believe that Baker and Liriano can be special. However, Lohse is still young, did post his best ERA in 2005 and is still relatively cheap. Most importantly, he has been very durable. If he has a quality 2006 season, which I think he is still capable of, then it is a move that makes sense.
Michael Cuddyer was also offered a 2006 contract. I think this was an easy decision. My guess is that he will make about $1 million in 2006 based on his first couple of years. We don't know what his position or role with the team will be yet, but he has done enough to warrant another year with the club. It will be a big year for him though. I know, I'm one of very few who think he deserves another chance. I am also one of many who believe that he is a better option at 3B than the guy they signed, Tony Batista.
Nick Punto was the third player that the Twins tendered a contract to. The utility player proved one thing last season... that he is best as a utility player, and not an every day player. In that role, he can really help the team. His hustle and grittiness are intangibles that a team needs from a guy who will play a couple of times a week. I don't think that he would make more than about $700,000 next year, which is fair. The lone problem is that Juan Castro is also a weak-hitting utility guy. These two will likely cost the Twins about $1.7 million in 2006 when they would likely get equal, or better, production from the combination of Luis Rodriguez and Luis Maza for about $0.6 million.
The fourth arbitration-eligible player was reliever Grant Balfour. The team chose not to tender him a contract. He likely would not have cost the team terribly much, certainly less than $750,000. However, because of his injuries, it is a move that can be justified. I mean, it is harsh, but it is a business too. As you know, Grant is a part of our NFL "Expert" football picks group, and in corresponding with him, he is ready to start throwing shortly after the New Year and hopes to be in a position to participate in spring training. We all know he has worked very hard to try to get back to the Twins. The team has said that it would like to bring him back on a minor league contract. That probably means that he would make a certain amount if he is in the minors and a value of somewhere around $400,000 if he is on the Twins roster. Personally, I hope that Balfour takes some time over the holidays and thinks it through. Maybe he just wants to remain with the Twins organization. However, I think that he would be smart to see what other options he may have. Remember how he dominated the Yankees in the fourth game of the 2004 playoffs? I bet the Yankees do too, and I bet plenty of other GMs did as well. I would not be surprised if Balfour is offered a number of contracts, and he has every right to consider each of them. Good luck, Grant!
Terry Ryan was quoted as saying that the Balfour removal from the 40 man roster opens up a spot. I wonder if they're closing in on the signing of a free agent, such as Frank Thomas or Mike Piazza? Or how about Reggie Sanders?
What do you think about the idea of the Twins signing Sammy Sosa? He has struggled with injury the last couple of years, and I know there is a certain cloud over him in recent years. However, he has now had a full offseason to get ready. I have to think that he would like to prove a lot of people wrong. And right now, he is cheap! Remember too that he is just 18 home runs shy of 600 for his career. Do you think that people would come to the Dome to see him chase that number? Just an idea I've been kicking around in my head lately.
Another idea that I've been thinking for a couple of weeks got a little closer yesterday. Johnny Damon declined the Red Sox arbitration offer. He has until January 8th to sign with the Red Sox or else they can't talk to him until May 1. I happen to think that Damon will wind up with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. I think they'll offer him the extra year or two and the extra million or five that it will take to sign him. At that point, both the Yankees and the Red Sox will be without a CF. The Red Sox have apparently shown interest in Torii Hunter. The Yankees have all but said that they will go with Bubba Crosby as their CF in 2006. However, part of the reason for that is they believe that Hunter will be available to them as a free agent after the season and they can sign him long-term at that time. So, if the Red Sox suddenly go after Hunter, then the Yankees will go strong after him, knowing that the Sox would likely pick up Hunter's 2007 option or at the very least have rights to sign him longer. In other words, at that point, the Twins would have some serious leverage on both the Red Sox and the Yankees. It would be interesting to see what packages the two teams would come up with the entice Terry Ryan to trade Hunter!
UPDATE - ESPN.com is now reporting the Damon is about to sign a four year, $52 million deal with the New York Yankees. Wow! What a lineup! Damon, Jeter, Sheffield, Giambi, A-Rod, Matsui, Posada and Cano! And I don't even know who their DH will be. Bernie Williams? So, now what do the Red Sox and Angels do about their CF situations?
Any thoughts on any of these roster decisions, send me an e-mail, or post some comments below.
I almost put this under the Twins Thoughts, but I guess that just doesn't fit any more! Yesterday, Jacque Jones agreed to a three year, $16 million deal with the Chicago Cubs. He will likely share the OF with Juan Pierre and Matt Murton. Now, Jacque is certainly with his faults. His average has declined the last two years, down to .249, and he has never been a good plate discipline guy at all. But he can hit for some power, and if he is platooned at all, he could put up very decent numbers. Defensively, I believe he is a centerfielder playing right field (although I think that he was far better when he played LF for the Twins). He has a very strong arm, although I don't think even he has any idea where the ball is going at times. Now, all that said, I think that playing for Dusty Baker will be an idea situation for him. I do think that he can be a .280/.320/.420 type of hitter, and if he is, I think that he will be just fine.
OK, the Rangers are being applauded for their acquisition of Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka (and a 19 year old minor league catcher). However, I think that they gave up far too much in Chris Young, Adrian Gonzalez and Termell Sledge. To me, Chris Young is just as good a pitcher as Adam Eaton, and that will likely come true with Young in Petco and Eaton pitching in Arlington. But then the Padres acquired Gonzalez who can certainly hit, but he plays 1B, the same position as Mark Teixeira plays, so he was expendable. But he will probably become the Padres every day 1B, pushing Ryan Klesko back to LF. And Sledge missed most of the 2005 season to injury, but he can also hit and will be a solid fourth outfielder and pinch hitter for the Padres. Excellent trade fore the Padres. If I'm a Rangers fan, I would be very upset. About this trade, I mean, not just that I was a Rangers fan!
Old-man Kenny Lofton (ok, just 38) signed with the Dodgers yesterday. It's not a bad deal for the Dodgers. What it likely does is allows Andre Ethier to spend a year at AAA rather than be pushed up too soon. But it really is a new lineup for the Dodgers in 2006 than it was in 2005. The Infield at the start of 2005 was Jose Valentin and Norihiro Nakamura at 3B, Cesar Izturis at SS, Jeff Kent at 2B and Hee Seop Choi at 1B. The new infield will be Bill Mueller at 3B, Rafael Furcal at SS, Kent still at 2B (for now), and Nomar Garciaparra at 1B. Dionner Navarro will likely start this year as the team's catcher. JD Drew remains in RF with Lofton in CF (last year, Milton Bradley) and some combination of Jayson Werth, Jason Repko and Jose Cruz in LF (unless they still chose to sign Reggie Sanders). They are better now than they were a year ago, but how much more depends on their pitching!
The only decent names who were not tendered contracts are Dan Kolb, Jason Phillips, Ryan Franklin and Ramon Ortiz... and none of them would help the Twins at all.
And on those notes, I am going to call it a day. I certainly hope that you have found the "Why Baseball" article by Sarah worth reading. I will be back tomorrow with another very interesting guest column, another position analysis by "Roger". If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me, or of course now you can just enter some Comments for all the world to see.
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