September 28, 2007


NL could face 4 days of playoff tiebreakers: 5 teams could end with same record (From wire reports, September 28, 2007)

Here's a scenario that could mess up baseball's postseason schedule: Imagine if the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres finish with the same record.

That would create ties in the National League East, National League West and wild-card race, necessitating four days of tiebreaker games to determine postseason berths.

The Devil Rays would have won 90 in the NL.

The Mystical Collapse of a Bullpen (TIM MARCHMAN, September 28, 2007, NY Sun)

For the Mets and their fans, the last two weeks have been less like a late season collapse and more like a mystical experience in which science and religion have converged and become one. Many baseball teams have lost a lead down the stretch, but few, if any, have become the center of a temporal dislocation in which the precise same thing happens at the precise same moment, every single day. Were a theologian and a quantum physicist inclined, they could no doubt plumb the mysteries of reason and faith simply by examining these two weeks minutely; those of us who do not contemplate the meaning of existence for a living can just stare on in horror.

The full blame for the disaster rests with the Mets' bullpen, and with the men who run it. This doesn't mean that the starting pitchers or position players have played perfectly, but they've given the bullpen lead after lead only to see them squandered. It takes more than the odd booted ball, vacuous base running play, or lousy start to sink a team as the Mets have been sunk. It takes the full force of a relief corps that has, from top to bottom, simply imploded.

Between the beginning of the series against the Phillies and the start of last night's game, the Mets' seven key relievers threw 41.1 innings, in which they gave up 30 earned runs for a 6.54 ERA. This is actually the kindest possible light in which to put their struggles, because this doesn't count unearned runs (usually at least as much the fault of the pitcher as they are of the defense) or inherited runners who have been allowed to score. Nor does it account for the soul-deadening timing displayed by Mets relievers, who have managed to give up their runs just when they counted most

Teams with five inning starters always kill their bullpens.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 28, 2007 6:19 AM

The above scenario isn't possible; Arizona and Colorado can't tie, especially after the Rockies win last night. It will all become clearer once the Mets lose another game or two.

BTW, I'll just give you this little reminder: Colorado swept the Yanks and got 2 of 3 from your beloved Sawx (at Fenway, no less).

Posted by: Brad S at September 28, 2007 7:18 AM

More hot air blowing out from the Sawks nation.

Posted by: mike m at September 28, 2007 7:53 AM

I thought Orrin was a born-and-bred Mets fan.

Posted by: Bryan at September 28, 2007 8:50 AM

I love the Mets. They have a poorly conceived pitching staff which made them a sketchy team from day one. They're actually lucky that the Braves underperformed, which is all that kept them in it this long.

Posted by: oj at September 28, 2007 9:52 AM

Colorado won't make the playoffs - unless a long history of choking can be overcome. Which, as any Red Sox fan should know, can't be done unless you buy all the good players from the poorer teams.

Posted by: Brandon at September 28, 2007 11:02 AM

Would be funny if the Sox somehow slipped out of the division lead...and then won the Series as a wild card. Which, of course, is the way they won in 2004.

The Devil Rays, with their -162 run diff, might not play .500 in Triple-A. The pitching is that bad.

Posted by: Casey Abell at September 28, 2007 11:20 AM

The Devil Rays would have won 90 in the NL.

Unfotunately, for once SawxBoy is almost right. For example, the Idiot Mariners, who took themselves out of the running with over two straight weeks of losing, still have a better record than the entire NL Central and would be a part of this playoff mess if in the NL.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 28, 2007 11:28 AM

Sox management has made it pretty clear that they don't care if they get the wilds card as long as they get everyone healthy and rested. It's a sensible decision given how much better wild cards have done than division winners.

Posted by: oj at September 28, 2007 12:22 PM

The Sox team that won the world series was made up of players they got from poor teams as much as anything--Ortiz, Millar, Wakefield, Lowe. They're just run better. Money doesn't matter.

Posted by: oj at September 28, 2007 12:25 PM

The D-rays pitching isn't that bad. The starters are actually quite good. Check out this post from USSMariner.

The problem is their horrid fielding.

If they can build a decent bullpen, and their fine hitting youngsters can somehow learn to field their positions better, the Rays could be a team to be reckoned with as early as next season.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at September 28, 2007 12:34 PM

Money does matter. And don't try to make me get over being bitter about Curt Schilling for Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon and Jorge de la Rosa.

Posted by: Brandon at September 28, 2007 12:42 PM

What history of choking would the Rockies have? I always presumed you had to be in the hunt until the end, and lose, to be considered a choker. Except for '95, the Rockies lost early and often.

BTW, you are aware of the pitchers the D-Backs face today and tomorrow, right? I presume you're also aware of the D-Backs issues with hitting lefties, right:)

Posted by: Brad S at September 28, 2007 12:52 PM

I am also aware of their issues with hitting righties. I remain confident that they will not be swept by the Rockies.

Posted by: Brandon at September 28, 2007 1:27 PM

And BTW Brad S., are you dangling Mark Redman and his fearsome 8.67 era as a threat to shut down the Diamondbacks? 'Cause that's crazy talk.

I'd be more scared of Jimenez only because I watched him dominate Arizona three weeks ago. (From the BofA suite at Chase Field, where I want to live instead of my house)

Posted by: Brandon at September 28, 2007 1:49 PM

Yes, the Sox had young talent to swap another rich team for a contract. Now they'll let Schilling walk and a younger homegrown talent will take his spot. That's how well-run teams roll.

Posted by: oj at September 28, 2007 2:21 PM

No, they'll let Schilling walk and trade more younger "talent" (I cannot in good conscience describe Casey Fossum that way) for another top-flight player that a poorer team can't afford. That how rich teams roll.

BTW, Boston's payroll is almost three times what Arizona's is, they are not "another rich team."

Posted by: Brandon at September 28, 2007 2:50 PM

Some owners like to make themselves rich. Some like to plow the money back into the team. Just because the Sox have generous owners and the D'backs cheap ones doesn't make one team rich and the other poor, nor does the money spent make much difference in terms of winning games. Ask the Mets.

Posted by: oj at September 28, 2007 3:16 PM

That is just nonsense. Teams don't have equivalent revenues to "plow" into the team.

Value $724mil
Revenue $234 mil

Value $339 mil
Revenue $154 mil

That's a big difference

Posted by: Brandon at September 28, 2007 3:42 PM

Check the revenue per capita. Phoenix is three times the size of Boston. Boston management just runs the brand better. And then they put more of the revenues back out on the playing field, creating a virtuous loop.

Posted by: oj at September 28, 2007 4:35 PM

The Sawx have had longer to establish the brand, and for years were able to make money off of gullible fans willing to pay good money for losers. Now that they've actually won something, they're just able to cash in. Better comparison would be Sawx vs. Chicago's NL team. (except for the winning part.) and Los Anaheim or Florida vs. Arizona.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 28, 2007 5:16 PM

Runs the brand better? How? What does Boston do to that Arizona doesn't?

Attendance? Boston had 540,000 fans than Arizona in 2007 - did each of those tickets cost $150? That's what it would take to rake in $80 million more.

Marketing? MLB handles that.

TV network? Okay, NESN brings in $40 million. But to own your own TV network, you have to be RICH!

And the Boston metro area is 400,000 people larger than the Phoenix metro area. Plus, outside of Boston are all those little towns filled with people. Outside of Phoenix is desert.

Posted by: Brandon at September 28, 2007 5:31 PM

Yes, the Sox created a Nation of fans. Were the D'Backs well run they'd similarly dominate the SouthWest--Tucson is the size of Boston--and portions of Mexico. The Sox marketing, via NESN, is especially brilliant. Also, the Jimmy Fund is a unique way they tie into the community.

The Sox made NESN worth alot, not vice versa.

Posted by: oj at September 28, 2007 7:07 PM

they didn't though. The brand work has all been in the last few years.

Posted by: oj at September 28, 2007 7:11 PM

This is great, this discussion really falls in line with a theory I've been building about the Red Sox (and Patriots, being a typical diehard Boston sports fan).

Indeed, it's immutable that the Red Sox are a team that is better run than most.

I really think the paradigm change over the last few years in sports changed with belichek/pioli in football and money ball, and eventually, theo epstein/henry/luchino in baseball. What they did, and continue to do, is build teams using the main concept of "team" versus "I", which is a life truism that is, indeed immutable, but too often overlooked, and constantly innovated and updated their methods.

For instance, Belichek is coaching and recruiting differently now than 3 years ago. Because his team became the "it" team to play for the last few years he's changed his free agent signing methods. Now he has the opportunity to sign the best, and he's pounced on that. Remember a few years ago it was always the case where the pats were known as a team of "no stars". Now that's all they are, one all-pro after another. It's been suggested that video-gate was compelled because the Pats were so fait-accompli to win the super bowl that belicheck had to come up with something to ensure the pats had something to play for, beyond talent. And he played his back-stabbing protege into his hands. He knew Man-Genius would call him out. The rest is history. Now the Patriots are playing for the integrity of their past greatness. The old mantra of playing one game at a time has become a league-wide standard mantra, so now Belichek is ahead of the curve, going back to a page out of the playbook, and switching it up, because it works so brilliantly well.....make the Pats, a team of all-pros, and super-bowl winners, avoid complacency, put their backs up against the wall, make them play for the very thing that seemed to be widely-accepted, the integrity of their greatness. Note that as much as the patriots continue to say they are playing one game at a time the press are already starting to talk "undefeated" season and "juggernaut." No matter how much Belichek preaches one game at a time he may have foresaw that that truism would be weakened by the fourth estate, and he needed a backup. The point, the team, is well run, better than the rest.

A few years ago the red sox really went with the moneyball theme, looking at on base percentage to recruit unknown players, a la david ortiz. Now everyone is doing it, looking for the needle in the haystack.

So how have the red sox maintained? of course they spend alot of money, that's true. But, JD Drew? Would any team be jealous of that expensive signing right now?

Really, what they've done is create a constant paradigm shift. They started spending their money at the baseball draft level. Now they have a young nucleus of players that are adding well to carefully chosen veterans. But not only that, they are spending wildly on staff, hiring great people, at the development level, instead of the castoffs coaching, training, et al, in the minor leagues. That's why they run their team better.

What will the Red Sox do to stay ahead of the curve. I don't know, other than to say they will stay ahead of the curve. That's why they are, as Orrin says, a better run team than most. Maybe, like the Patriots, they will have a few years where they can go into the free agent market and sign players at levels lower than market because they want to play in Boston.

Here's something else I've noticed. The Red Sox continually trade away players that succeed with another team, when they have not succeeded here. They've gotten fairly burned. But that paradigm will change, as this is starting to actually have the black swan effect. The Wily Mo Pena effect. Teams are simply going to start noting that players on the Sox are better than their stats, and begin to overpay, which will give the Sox a few years of trading leveragibility. David Murphy. Bronson Arroyo. Pena, Renteria...the list is pretty extensive.

Read the Tom Verducci article on Papelbon. Better run team.......oh yeah, look how they saved Paps shoulder. Did not the loss of francisco liriano kill the chances of the twins this year? if the twins had exercised caution last year the way they should have they would have been a world series contender this year. liriano simply outpitched his limit, for his age and experience. to wit, the red sox yanked clay buchholz this year in the mist of a world series run.

In football, the Pats, ahead of the Red Sox, in the "grand-master plan", Belicheck still drafts, constantly for the future. But look at what happened this year. Unlike any other year, only 2 players of the 10 drafted, made the team, or the practice squad. Belicheck realizes this, which is why he constantly trades his current picks for the future, because he knows, his team will eventually need to rebuild, but now it would be wasteful. He further realizes that unlike a few years ago, he can expect to have his way in the free agent market with players, because they want to come here. Like the Red Sox, and soon to be their ability to leverage trading assets differently than in the past, Belichek is taking advantage of an arbitrage in the market. Randy moss was gotten for a fourth round pick and actually cut his annual salary from 10mm to 2mm. Does not that spell arbitration advantage? People will say the Patriots are like the Yankees, because they sign all the great players. In reality, they've put themselves in position to do just this, and should take advantage.

Luck played into the Red Sox and Pats fortunes. The Black Swan......what's the chance of tom brady, a 6th round pick, would become one of the greatest qb's ever? what was the chance david ortiz, a castoff of the twins, would become one of the great clutch players of his generation, a true leader and hero.

And what is the chance that the pats or the red sox would put a tom brady or a david ortiz in the position to do what they did, 5-6 years ago, now? I think zero. The pats and red sox, as now constituted, are completely different teams than they were three, four years ago. the one constant between both then and now, is that they constantly change and innovate, and they maintain a truism that is immutable, which is team over the individual. That fact is hard to maintain, through greatness, super bowls, and world series.

Posted by: neil at September 30, 2007 8:48 AM

The big thing that Belichik did is recognize that football players are entirely fungible assets and that by the time your good young guy can command a big salary it's time to replace him anyway.

The Sox, somewhat similarly, realized that you can win immediately by developing your own young players--a lesson teams like the Twins taught. And, if you have money, you can add veterans and players right at the cusp of their big dollar years--Beckett--to the youngsters and the reclamation projects--Ortz, Millar, etc.--and be really good.

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2007 12:07 PM

pats and bosox most certainly realized that point. most expensive players just simply lose their hunger after making 15mm a year. I would.

But, nevertheless, they wouldn't have won the world series without curt, pedro and manny. That was all the Sox could do to win, be a little lucky, put some parts together, and begin the process of building a farm system.

My point is that the Twins, Oakland, and San Diego model, you described, and the Pats/Bosox fine tuned, is simply the middle stage of an evolving process these teams are going through, in order to maintain long-term success.

Oakland has run out of time, Minnesota has basically run out of time, and, San Diego, next year, will be done. Those teams haven't evolved and innovated. Especially Billy Beane. He started something, Bill James, Epstein, Henry and Luchino ran with it and created something even greater, because they constantly look to change the paradigm.

And the Patriots no longer subscribe to that theory. Yes, they have built a powerhouse that can win without Harrison and Seymour. But, as evidenced last year, their super bowl run last year ran out of gas, based on the "fungible assets" theory, in it of itself. Belichek realized he needed to change it up.
Their free agent season proved that out. They caught everyone off-guard by signing all that they did.

Posted by: neil at September 30, 2007 12:35 PM

btw, you should post something on ARod, and where he goes next year. It would be interesting to hear what everyone thinks about that, especially if Sox should sign him versus re-upping Lowell for 2 years.

Posted by: neil at September 30, 2007 12:47 PM