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Joe Morgan Chat D(a)y'er Mak'er?
2003-11-05 02:00
by Mike Carminati

You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up. Ironically, that's not far from the truth.

— Morpheus in The Matrix

In the days of my youth I was told what it means to be a man. That is, listening to heaping gobs of Led Zeppelin. Does anybody remember Led Zep?

Rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the Yardbirds at a time when the Beatles were preparing to implode, Led Zeppelin created the musical blueprint for the next three decades. They are credited with creating AOR, Album-Oriented Rock, by refusing to pilfer their carefully crafted albums for singles. They are credited (sometimes along with Black Sabbath) with creating the sound and mystique of Heavy Metal. By refusing to give interviews to a press that seemingly detested them and communicating with their audience through their albums and their legendary concerts, they inadvertently created Arena Rock and the multibillion-dollar industry that now brings you Britney and Justin.

My senior year one could go into my room or any of my roommates' rooms and hear Led Zeppelin blasting. I remember coming home once and hearing a different Page-Plant minuet playing in just about every room. A friend of mine even recorded both sides of a ninety-minute tape with "Over the F'ing Hills and Far Away" on continuous loop so that he could pop in a cassette and hear the song on demand—Of course, this predates MP3s. I also had a friend in high school who paid the unheard-of sum of $15 for an old Led Zeppelin single with "Hey Hey What Can I Do", which appears on no Led Zeppelin album proper, as a B-side.

Led Zeppelin was so cool even their albums were cool. The original pressings of In Through The Out Door came in a plain paper wrapper and had an inner black-and-white sleeve that changed color with just a few drops of water. Houses of the Holy featured freaky flipper kids and was more whacked-out than anything Pink Floyd ever came up with. Did you like the zipper on the Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers cover? Well, Led Zep did them one better with the psychedelic spinning wheel on the cover of III. But of course, the topper of them all was the bi-fold in the unnamed runes album that shows a priest on a craggy hill. When held up to a mirror, who could it be? Perhaps….Satan. Try freaking out a 12-year-old with the CD booklet that now accompanies "IV" by holding it up to a mirror. It makes you appreciate vinyl, eh?

Well, what I didn’t know then and have discovered since is that Led Zep were the main culprits in almost killing off America's greatest musical accomplishment, the Blues. Zeppelin chewed up the Blues and spit it out. They so greatly integrated the Blues into Rock'n'Roll, just after the Sixties Blues explosion, that they allowed their bastard progeny to turn it into "Here I Go Again" and the like. After Led Zep's demise or more precisely after Led Zep abandoned Blues-Rock in the mid-Seventies, the Blues was on its deathbed , rising and falling with each Eric Clapton drinking binge, until Stevie Ray Vaughan revived the genre in the mid-Eighties.

Led Zeppelin's embodiment of the Blues was so complete that they carried on the tradition of plundering other Blues artists' catalogs and calling the songs their own. It's a tradition that was probably well established even when Robert Johnson revamped Scrapper Blackwell's "Kokomo Blues" and came up with the Blues' clarion call, "Sweet Home Chicago", back in the Thirties.

Led Zep borrowed from Memphis Minnie ("When the Levee Breaks"), from Blues poet laureate Willie Dixon by way of Muddy Waters and former Yardbird Jeff Beck ("You Shook Me"), Willie Dixon again by way of Otis Rush ("I Can't Quit You Baby", almost a note-per-note copy), Dixon yet again via Muddy Waters ("You need Love"/"Whole Lotta Love"), and guess who?—Dixon via Sonny Boy Williamson (II) ("Bring It on Home"). Willie Dixon was almost a member of the band except that they failed to mention his contributions until Dixon sued for pilferage.

So you ask in wild bewilderment, what the heck does this have to do with the estimable Joe Leonard Morgan? A bit "Dazed and Confused" for so long it's no use? Well, since witnessing firsthand the debacle that was the Fox postseason telecast, I've broadened my indictments to baseball analysis in general. Joe seems just a tiny, even benign, speck in that sea of network shilling, corporate sponsorship, celebrity genuflecting, overreliance on often meaningless data, and heaping bucketfuls of blather.

I started to realize something while Fox was busy jamming down our throats playoffs cum advertising windfalls for themselves and—not to mention names but—a cellular phone company who sponsored an annoying, game-interrupting poll, a fast-food Mexican chain who sponsored a section in the Florida stands somewhere in Orlando that if reached by a ball would deliver a free taco to everyone in America—or at least those who want it—, various beer and soft drink purveyors, and Robin Williams' electric ego. I realized that the sabermetric revolution that was started by Bill James in the late Seventies and nurtured by the Society of Baseball Research, of which I am a member, I realized that that revolution was dead and buried in the vaults of Elias Sports Bureau.

Why the gloomy gus, you ask? Amid the Yanni references, Fox actually mentioned batter-vs.-pitcher stats, the pitcher's percentage of runners caught stealing, and team batting average with runners in scoring position. Those are stats that wouldn't have been on the commentators' radar screen before Bill James, right? That's true, but wouldn't it be preferable for them to use the rights stats in the right situations? How often do we hear that a certain batter is 4-for-8 with a home run in his career against the current pitcher as if that statement were fraught with portent? Is that any more significant than throwing a die and having it come up three in four out of eight throws? Probably not. What if they told you that the 4-for-8 was based on one four-hit game in 1998 and an 0-for-4 earlier this year? What if the four hits soft grounders for singles? What if the 0-for-4 were on hard liners right at fielders?

James is an investigator and a storyteller. The journey was always of utmost importance. The results were nice but sometimes they were superfluous. The problems were like the proofs in my senior-year Calculus class where the answer was not graded but rather the method used to get there was (even if one came up with the wrong answer).

Unfortunately, baseball analysts have lost their appetite for the journey and like rabid dogs dig right into those meaty though oftentimes empty results.

So in the end result, all that sabermetrics has done is to provide more easily available stats to people who have no facility for them and no interest in developing an understanding of them. In the end, there's more confusion or to be more precise adumbration, i.e., obscuring and overshadowing more useful information.

The greatness of the sabermetric revolution has nurtured this stunted existence for baseball analysis just as the greatness of Led Zeppelin brought about Styx, White Snake, TicketMaster, and Madonna on stage kissing everyone and anyone in sight to get a bit of publicity.

So I leave you with the bleak wreckage of the baseball analysis landscape hidden under the unruffled veneer of Elias' canonical and never-changing view of baseball statistics, the perfect visual image as the third Matrix films hits the box office. In such a world, Joe Morgan isn't even as bad as an Agent Smith. So are you a Neo or a Mr. Anderson? Do you choose the blue pill or the red?

So without further, ado let us go down the rabbit's hole to Joe Morgan's befuddled Matrix. The SaberMetrix? I'm just trying to find the bridge. Where's that confounded bridge? (By the way, "The Crunge", from whence this quote emanates, is my favorite Led Zeppelin song, an odd choice, I know.)

The Good

mike,mtpleasant,mi: hey joe, is there any hope for the hapless tigers, will any free agents want to come to motown?

(11:14 AM ET ) No.

[Mike: Hee hee hee. To paraphrase Eddie Murphy, "I kid the Tigers fans, because they Tigers fans."]

Mike(chicago): Of all the free agents out there, if you were building a team, who would you try to get first?

(11:17 AM ET ) Vlad Guerrero. Because he's the best player out there, best free agent on the market.

[Mike: I was going to say Jeff Fassero, but why not?]

Al (Little Rock, AR): Good morning Joe! Who do you think that the Giants will pursue in the off-season to fill the hole that Cruz has left in the outfield? What the Giants' chances of landing Vladimir Guerrero? Will Snow return for less money?

(11:17 AM ET ) My belief is they'll go after Sheffield. Not Guerrero. Not sure on Snow. Sheffield would be a choice and someone they can afford.

[Mike: By next July, Bonds will be 40, Marquis Grissom 37, and Sheffield 35. It'll be like watching Space Cowboys in the Pac Bell outfield next year. But Sheffield would be the Kent to Bonds' Bonds, the Salieri to Bonds' Mozart, the Stimpy to Bonds' Ren, the Mary-Kate to Bonds' Ashley. Why not?]

Marcus(Sterling, VA): Joe please answer my question!!!!!!!!! If your team makes the playoffs, who do you want as your closer, Mariano Rivera or Eric Gagne.

(11:18 AM ET ) Mariano Rivera has proved he can do it in the postseason. I'm sure Gagne can. But Mariano is best in postseason, so I have to go on past performances. Mainly because he can pitch two innings in a lot of games in a series.

[Mike: Please! How about Bobby Thigpen or Mariano Rivera?]

yves-montreal: If expos get the 22 games in puerto rico for increased revenue, is guerrero a lock to stay in Montreal.

(11:31 AM ET ) First I don't think they'll get the 22 games. The players have said they aren't up for that travel. Playing those games hurt their chances of winning the Wild Card this year. Players don't want to go through that again. One has nothing to do with the other.

[Mike: Right you are, Joe! Now, maybe if they permanently moved the club to San Juan… Anyway, it’s good to see that you are still a good union man after all these years, supporting the players and all. I'm sure that all the players would love to play in their hometown, but if that means excessive traveling is required during the season, I think they'll pass.]

Deebo (Fairview, NJ): Hey Joe! My question concerns the recent awarding of the Silver Slugger awards, which I understand are not very newsworthy to even the most die-hard fans, but given you were an NL second baseman, you might appreciate this: I was somewhat dumbstruck to see Jose Vidro being given the award over Marcus Giles, who, when compared, literally had greater numbers in EVERY offensive category than Vidro, from OPS to HRs to Hits, etc. I won't go into it here, but check the stats. What's the point of having this award if it isn't given to the guy who deserves it??

(11:16 AM ET ) I agree with you 100 percent. I would have voted for Marcus as well. I didn't see the Silver Slugger Awards. It should be taken seriously. I won the award once or twice. I took it seriously. The voters should too. It's definitely an oversight of Giles.

[Mike: C'mon isn't this just nitpicking? Just because Vidro was third in OPS among NL second basemen (Giles .916, Kent .862, Vidro .861, Polanco .844), fourth in RBI (Kent 93, Loretta 68, Giles 67, Vidro 65), third in home runs (Kent 22, Giles 21, Vidro 15), and fourth in slugging (Giles .526, Kent .511, Polanco .471, Vidro .468)? He led them all in on-base! Maybe they broaden the silver slugger to include OBP.

Besides picking all those players is a tough job. As opposed to the year Rafael Palmeiro won a Gold Glove even though he played only 28 games in the field (1999), they at least picked out an actual NL second baseman. That's tough to do! There are only, what, 16 or so of those in the entire world. It’s like a needle in a haystack really.

So they selected the third or fourth best candidate. At least they didn't give it to Rafael Palmeiro. I bet you never thought about that when you were sniping at their wonderful selections, eh, Deebo?

Charlie Mikolajczak points out: "Loved the fact that Joe Morgan thinks the award should be taken seriously, yet he can't even remember how many times he won it..."]

matt (chicago): so we've heard what everyone else is planning for the offseason but so far no word from the cubs. what are they gonna try to improve? and why did they decline the option on Guthrie??? 2.2 mil for a reliable reliever? sounds like a deal to me.

(11:25 AM ET ) They must not have thought he was reliable. They didn't use him in tough situations with the Marlins. The Cubs need to shore up bullpen, that should be top priority right now.

[Mike: And when they did go to him he didn't perform: 9.00 ERA albeit in only one inning and two appearances in the NLCS and a 16.20 ERA in 1.2 IP and 3 relief appearances in the playoffs overall. He did have a 2.74 regular-season ERA, but it was in only 42.2 innings over 65 appearances. He also had 22 walks to 4 strikeouts, 6 home runs allowed, and a 1.45 WHIP (Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched). Besides a situational lefty is just not worth $2.2 M in today's market.]

Neil (Chicago, IL): Hi Joe. Do you think the Cardinals can improve their pitching staff enough to reach the postseason through free agency alone, or do they need to move some of their offensive players such as Drew or Edmonds?

(11:33 AM ET ) The Cards problem the last couple years has been health with the pitching staff. I think you can trade Drew or Edmonds to shore up the staff. I think one of those guys will be traded. Other than that, they need to stay healthy.

[Mike: The Cardinals have not been able to have a healthy rotation since the days of John Denny. Look at Matt Morris. He has been able to start 30 games only three of his six major-league seasons. Woody Williams missed half of 2002. Garrett Stephenson has only made 30 starts in two of his four years as a Cardinal. In 2002 they had nine men start 10 or more games, and only one made over 25 starts. Throw in whatever happened to Rick Ankiel's career and I think you have a better case for a curse than in Boston or Chicago's North Side.]

Trevor (Novato, CA): Do you see the A's making an effort to get Hudson and Chavez inked long-term before their impending free agency? Big up to Castlemont High.

(11:39 AM ET ) Looking at history, I'd say no. But they may change that. That's not the way they've done it in the past though.

[Mike: Terrence Long ruined it for everyone Big up to Terrence.]

The Bad

Duke (Dallas, TX): As a Yankee fan, I am proud of this team winning 6 of the last eight American league pennants and 4 of the last eight world series. This level of success can only be matched by Yankee teams of other eras. With all this sucess, why is the "Yankee Nation" so down? (PS- you and Miller on ESPN Radio are great)

(11:06 AM ET ) The real problem starts at the top. The owner says it's not successful unless you win the championship. Derek Jeter voiced the same opinion. They aren't going to win every year. It puts a lot of pressure on them to play. People feel they are supposed to win every year. Unless they make some great changes, they might not get back to the league championship next year.

[Mike: No, Steinbrenner has been there 30 years, and the expectations have not always been this high. That's what happens when you have a dynasty or, I guess, in the wake of a dynasty especially one that has spent as much as they do.

"Unless they make some great changes…"—why? The Red Sox fired their manager, may be trading arguably their best player, have serious problems on the staff and in contract negotiations at the end of next season. The A's are probably losing arguably their best player in Miguel Tejada. The Twins are the Twins. The M's are getting older. Given that the Yankees have the resources, they have the best shot to make the playoffs next year. Then who knows.]

Mike Piazza NY: Joe, what do we (Mets) need to do (via trades or free agent signings)in order to get back to the postseason this winter?

(11:20 AM ET ) The Mets had two good starters, Leiter and Trachsel, who pitched well. They need to add a more consistent offense and shore up the defense. Overall they need what everyone needs, better talent.

[Mike: That' a bit facile, isn't it, Joe? "Everybody needs better talent"? The Mets need help basically everywhere as opposed to teams who need to shore up, say, their middle relief corps. The Mets' pitching is average at best, their offense was only better than anemic LA in 2003, and they have a goodly number of albatross-shaped contracts hanging about.

By the way, thanks Mr. Piazza for identifying your point of origin. I though you were the Mike Piazza of New Orleans. It sure aint the Piazza of Flatbush.]

Danny NYC: I read a report from one scout that the Mets should make Mike Cameron their #1 target this offseason. Do you agree?

(11:26 AM ET ) I agree they need defense and centerfield and he'd be the guy to do that. He'd make them much better. They do need to shore up the defense.

[Mike: The Mets biggest problem? How 'bout hitting? Beyond Floyd, Piazza, and Phillips, no position player with significant playing time had an OPS over .715. In center, the had an Ordonez-like team OPS of .602. Who cares what kind of defense you get if your center fielder is killing you at the plate.]

Matthew (Washington D.C.): Why is nobody mentioning Larry Dierker for the Boston managerial job? (Or for any job for that matter) It seems as if he'd be a perfect fit...

(11:21 AM ET ) I can't answer that. Not sure why he'd be perfect in Boston. A lot of names would be pretty good. Dierker is one but I don't know about a perfect fit.

[Mike: Well, maybe because of the Red Sox pitching which you constantly deride.

By the way, "nobody is mentioning" him? It seems whenever I hear about the job opening in Boston, I hear Dierker's name mentioned.]

Steve (Seattle): Mr. Morgan, do you think that LaTroy Hawkins is just as big a free-agent as the other big-names because of the amount of teams that struggled with their bullpens this year?

(11:22 AM ET ) I think he should be a highly sought after free agent. I would say yes, he should be, considering the team's that struggled in the bullpen.

[Mike: Hawkins will be as big a name as Chris Hammond was last year. But seriously, Hawkins has been revelatory the last two seasons: In 2002, he had a 2.13 ERA and 15 walks to 63 strikeouts in 80.1 innings. In 2003 1.86 ERA, 15 walks, 75 strikeouts, and 77.1 innings.]

Brian - Sioux Falls, SD: With the offseson on us, I was wondering what happens if a player whose contract is up does not file for free agency. An player for example would be Eric Karros. Thanks

(11:23 AM ET ) If he doesn't file, the Cubs still own his rights. What happens from there I don't know. You're opting out of the contract with the team if you file for free agency.

[Mike: Actually it' a bit more involved, Here's the Uniform Player's Contract by way of Doug Pappas' peerless site.

10.(a) Unless the Player has exercised his right to become a free agent as set forth in the Basic Agreement, the Club may retain reservation rights over the Player by instructing the Office of the Commissioner to tender to the Player a contract for the term of the next year by including the Player on the Central Tender Letter that the Office of the Commissioner submits to the Players Association on or before December 20 (or if a Sunday, then on or before December 18) in the year of the last playing season covered by this contract. (See Article XX(A) of and Attachment 12 to the Basic Agreement.) If prior to the March 1 next succeeding said December 20, the Player and the Club have not agreed upon the terms of such contract, then on or before ten (10) days after said March 1, the Club shall have the right by written notice to the Player at his address following his signature hereto, or if none be given, then at his last address of record with the Club, to renew this contract for the period of one year on the same terms, except that the amount payable to the Player shall be such as the Club shall fix in said notice; provided, however, that said amount, if fixed by a Major League Club, shall be in an amount payable at a rate not less than as specified in Article VI, Section D, of the Basic Agreement. Subject to the Player’s rights as set forth in the Basic Agreement, the Club may renew this contract from year to year.

10.(b) The Club’s right to renew this contract, as provided in subparagraph (a) of this paragraph 10, and the promise of the Player not to play otherwise than with the Club have been taken into consideration in determining the amount payable under paragraph 2 hereof.

Brian Boston: who should Boston be looking to get Colon or Millwood or someone else?

(11:27 AM ET ) I like Colon. But I don't know if I like him in that ballpark. Millwood wears down in second half, doesn't sustain first half efforts each year. Good in first half, average in second. Bartolo eats up a lot of innings and pitches deep into games.

[Mike: OK, have you covered all the bases yet, Joe? Your usual decisiveness.

First, both pitchers log over 200 innings a year on a regular basis, Millwood in four of his six full big-league seasons and Colon in five of six, though Colon has pitched 233.1 and 242 in the last two. Colon gets the edge in my book since a) he's an AL pitcher, b) he has an adjusted ERA advantage over Millwood (21% better than league average vs. 14%), and c) Millwood is coming off an uninspired season in Philly (aside from the no-hitter), one that got worse as the season progressed (ERA only 3% better than league average), while Colon has yet to have a mediocre season (an ERA 11% better than the league average is worst yet far). Besides, Colon has had great success in the few games he has pitched in Fenway: 3-0, 1.52 ERA in three starts since 2000, including a complete game shutout in 2003.]

Peter Angelos (Baltimore): Should I go with Eddie to manage my team? Do I have a shot at Tejada or Colon? Thanks, you're the best.

(11:28 AM ET ) I think Eddie would make a great manager if he had a right bench coach. He would be a great manager of players. Good choice for Baltimore. And you definitely have a shot at both of those guys. Especially if you get Eddie.

[Mike: Angelos? Wow, there are more celebrities here than during a Fox World Series broadcast.

As far as Murray, Joe's right. He'll be as good a manager as Alan Trammell.

But seriously, Murray may be a good manager, but given his reputation for being truculent, selfish ballplayer, there's really no reason to believe he would be.]

Joe (St Paul, MN): Hey Joe! I was wondering where you see the Twins next season with the free agent struggles that are ahead of them? If you were Pohlad, would you shell out the extra money (which you have) to keep Stewart or Hawkins, or do you let them go, rely on some of your farm talent (too bad Mauer is a year off) and then try to put some of that money towards a big bat on the market?

(11:30 AM ET ) I think they need to keep Shannon Stewart. He's the reason they got to the playoffs. I would keep him. The rest is a matter of how much you can spend. But Shannon kept that team together.

[Mike: Well, obviously Pohlad should try to keep the valuable core of the team in Minnesota, and Stewart and Hawkins are part of that. But Stewart was far from the team savior Joe makes him out to be.

Stewart played well for Minnesota last year (.854 OPS, his highest since 2000), but what turned the Twins around was their pitching. Minnesota's team ERA was 4.74 in the first half and 3.96 in he second. Radke lowered his ERA by 2 runs in the second half. Johan Santana stayed in the rotation the entire second half, while he execrable Joe Mays dropped out. The bullpen was also stellar in the second half: Hawkins, 2.56 ERA in the first half and 0.85 in the second; Guardado 3.75 and 1.84.]

Danielle(NY,NY): Mr. Morgan, I hope you finally get to answer my question! Would you trade Nick Johnson, Soriano, and Weaver to the expos for Vasquez and Vidro

(11:34 AM ET ) Probably not. That's too much for the Yanks to give up. But they're in a weakened position so it may work. I think that's a little too much.

[Mike: But the Yanks would still have to eat Weaver's contract, so where's the advantage? Why not just cut him loose?

Joe should point out that deals are very rarely just about talent being traded straight up nowadays. As far as talent Joe's right. ]

jimbob (asheville, nc): the braves - which moves will be the most necessary for them - and which players are you thinking they'll lose?

(11:35 AM ET ) They can't afford to lose Sheffield but that's up to them. They'll probably lose Maddox because he wants a long term deal. I think they'll get Smoltz back. Braves situation is hard to figure, not sure what budget constraints will be. Owners have to decide that. They win the division every year but get no farther.

[Mike: The Braves have a number of players who had aberration highs in 2003. Some readjustments are due but will the management know what to do or be able to work under those circumstances?]

Patrick, Iowa City, IA: Hi Joe, I am a long time White Sox fan. I was excited at the end of the dissapointing 2003 season because it seemed Kenny Williams was going to try and keep most of the key players for 2004. My question is what is the deal with Colon? He says he likes Chicago and his teammates on the sox but, then why did he reportedly turn down the 3 year 36 million dollar deal which seems to be very fair. What do you think the chances of Bartolo resigning with the sox at this point are and do you think the White Sox will be able to sign Robbie Alomar?

(11:38 AM ET ) First, we can't say what's fair concerning what the market will be. I think Colon wants to find out what the market is and maybe wants more than three years. I was disappointed the Sox didn't play well down the stretch, losing five straight to Minnesota, that killed them. They can't lose Bartolo and do as well as they did last year. They'll suffer if they don't sign him. Roberto will be in position to see what his value is as well, then he'll decide what to do.

[Mike: Good noncommittal answer. At least you defended Colon's right to shop around. He would be crazy not to hear what the Yankees will offer.

By the way, I would let Robbie Alomar walk if I were the Sox. His .680 OPS last among qualifying second basemen in the AL. I would imagine his stellar career would be over in a year or two, something that seemed highly unlikely after his great 2001 season.]

The Ugly

Brian (NY): Joe, what do you see the Yankees doing this offseason? Thanks.

(11:07 AM ET ) I don't know. They need a lot of help, relief in bullpen, better defense and more consistent offense that doesn't just depend on the home run. And they'll need starting pitching if Clemens, Pettitte and Wells leave.

[Mike: No, they need to work on their starting rotation this offseason—that's true. But every needs relievers. The new paradigm is to clean out the bullpen on a yearly basis. It seemed to start in Atlanta a year or two ago. You pick up an old veteran or two for cheap as non-roster invitees and rebuild in spring training. Also, the Yankees defense was poor in 2003 and it didn't seem to hurt them.

Isn't this just Joe transferring the mantle of HR-dependent team from the A's to the Yanks. Joe loves to say that the A's lose in the postseason waiting for their next 3-run home run fix, no matter how untrue it is. I guess this is now the Yankees problem too even though the stole 98 bases, tied for fifth in the AL.]

Aaron (Cleveland): I can understand the Red Sox putting Manny on waivers, because they'd get his salary back to use on other players, but I've heard they'll trade him for virtually nothing and pay half of his salary. Are they nuts??? Regardless of his issues, he's still one of the top two or three hitters in the AL.

(11:08 AM ET ) I can't answer what they will or won't do. I don't think they'll trade him and pay half. I don't know exactly what they are doing. Last year they used a bullpen by committee, I don't know what they're doing.

[Mike: "Bullpen by committee"! They are completely out of control, just plain nutty.

Uh, well, no, they actually didn't use the "bullpen by committee" concept after the first disappointing week of the season. Little gave up on the concept and to quote Tony Montana, "You stupid f', look at you now ."

Also, James never espoused the BP by Committee theory. He just proposed using your best reliever in the most critical situations as opposed to saving him for a meaningless ninth inning stint, that may never come if the middle relievers give away a lead. The just didn't have the right personnel. What if they had gone with the straight bullpen concept with Fox, Lyon, Kim, and then Williamson as the closer in turn?

As far as Ramirez, obviously they won't trade him without getting something they feel is equal in return. I guess there could be a scenario in which eating half his salary would make sense, but that is very unlikely even for sabermetrically mad team.]

Blair Bartlett (Saratoga Springs, NY): Hi Joe- I was just wondering what in the world is going on with A-Rod? He signed a long-term contract with Texas and word has it that he really wants out. Clearly, the Rangers are struggling (mainly because they refuse to get a front-line pitcher!). However, I actually believed when he signed this enormous contract that he would make it through at least three or four years. Also, is there any chance in your opinion that Texas will go after Pettitte or someone worthwhile to lead its rotation? Thanks.

(11:11 AM ET ) First, Texas wouldn't sign Chan Ho Park. They spent a lot on pitching. They have tried. Maybe they haven't made the best decision but have tried. I personally have a problem with fact that someone says they haven't tried. They signed other pitchers and it hasn't worked out partly because it's a hitter-friendly ballpark. It's not as easy as the Yankees make it seem. They make good decisions. A lot of teams spend money and don't make wise decisions. I can't speak for A-Rod. He made choice to go to Texas, he'll have to make choice if he stays or not.

[Mike: Joe, what the …? Texas did sign Park. I'm not sure what you are trying to say there, maybe shouldn't have signed him. Well, hindsight is 20-20, but he looked a pretty good bet at the time having four good years out of five with Dodgers. Maybe he wasn't worth the money, but those were different times in Texas.

I don't think you can blame the ballpark. They've been there since 1994 and from 1995-'97 their staff ERA was about average for the AL at the time. However, since 1998 they haven't a staff ERA better than fourth from the bottom in the entire league, and have had the league-worst ERA in three of those six years. And yet, they won two divisions (1998-99) in that span and have never been a truly bad club (71-91 was the worst record). And you can't blame A-Rod who came in 2001 in the middle of the mediocrity.

So what changed in 2000? The Rangers feel from second in runs per game in the league to tenth. The offense has rebounded since, finishing third, fifth, fifth. However, given their park, they need to score more runs. Maybe they need to sign a pitcher who has had success outside of run-arid Dodgers Stadium, but they also need position players that can produce. They need to fill some major holes in the outfield and at catcher. Also, Michael Young is a fantasy league superstar, but his OPS is just average for their ballpark (actually 2% worse). The same could be said of Max Texeira (only 3% better), who needs to get on base a bit more or he will be a liability even if he does hit 26 home runs. The return of Kevin Mench and Rusty Greer, who were just average themselves, does not bode well for the outfield.

If I ran this team, I would scrap together a pitching staff on the cheap and spend my money on offensive power. Either that or figure out a way to decrease scoring. Until that happens, the Ballpark is basically a Coors light and the Rangers should learn from the Rockies and their own past successes there.

As far as what is going on with A-Rod, he is a great player who wants to win and is frustrated. His offer can be seen as a heroic move to stir the Ranger management to win or a bid to get out of town. Either way, the Rangers should try to improve the club to the point where he does not consider leaving even magnanimously. And, Joe, the decision as to whether he should leave is bigger than A-Rod's alone. The Rangers have some say. So too would the team to which he would go. Someone would need to swallow his big contract, whether it's the Rangers, the other team, or a combination of both. A-Rod ceded a lot of control for a quarter of a billion dollars, but I don't think he should be so broken up about it.]

Mik (Miami, Fl): After the Marlins great season in your opinion will they get a new stadium and which players will they get rid of, thanks.

(11:13 AM ET ) I saw at some point where the Marlins and the city have put up $220 million but need $360, not sure where that's going to come from. As far as who they can keep, they'd have to add $40 million to keep everyone. Urbina, Castillo, maybe Lowell might be going. They have to cut some payroll. I see those guys going as free agents. I think they'll try to keep Pudge because he's the key.

[Mike: Where does this $40 M that Joe keeps repeating come from? The paid Pudge $10 M, Lee $4.25 M, Castillo $4.85 M, Lowell $3.7 M, and Hollandsworth $1.5 M last year. Urbina made $4.5 but that was paid by the Rangers. Pudge will probably get a couple of million more, but given Hollandsworth's reduced or non-existent role, they should be able to save most to all of his $1.5 M. Castillo cannot possibly expect to make much more. Lowell and Lee should get significant increases, but should both be in the $10 M range. If Urbina re-signs, it shouldn't be for more than what he made last year.

So Castillo, Pudge, and Hollandsworth should be a wash—let's say there's an extra $5 M from all the World Champion good cheer. Add in Urbina's $4.5 and increases of about $6 M for Lee and Lowell, and you get about half what Joe keeps citing. Maybe he expects Castillo and the rest to all get "Big money, Amigo money," but they would have to A-Rod-esque re-adjustments for each player. I would let Castillo, Urbina, and Hollandsworth walk myself.

As far as the $140 M disparity between what the city is paying and what the new stadium will cost, how about Loria ponying it up? The man is worse than a welfare mother.]

DAVID (BRANDON,FL): What do u think the chances of the drays landing sheffield seeing we actually have money to pay market value? and do u think is worth it if than can sign him?

(11:14 AM ET ) I think it's worth it. Not sure if he wants to go there. He is from Tampa but Gary Sheffield's agent doesn't allow him to be part of rebuilding. I don't think the D-Rays will win this coming season.

[Mike: Hold the phone, Joe. The man will be 35 next season and will undoubtedly want a long-term deal. Why would a rebuilding team be interested in him, especially given Tampa's free agent history? That's all they need, another Vinny Castilla.]

Oz (Eatontown, NJ): Being a 2nd basemen yourself do you think Alfonso Soriano would be better off playing centerfield for the Yankees and allowing the aging Bernie Williams to switch to leftfield ?

(11:24 AM ET ) He should be a second baseman but it takes a lot of hard work when you aren't a natural. If he's willing to put in the work, he can become a good second baseman.

[Mike: This is Joe's mantra re. Soriano, if he puts in the work all will be well. Well, he has put in three major-league seasons and has yet to improve.

The funny thing is I agree with Joe: he should stay at second. His value is much higher there. His defense is poor, but his offense makes up for it. It least it has so far (2003 playoffs notwithstanding).]

Tyler : (South Dakota): I think managing is something you need to do you'd be a great manager!

(11:40 AM ET ) Thank you for the compliment but managing is not in my immediate future. I love what I do and enjoy sportscasting on ESPN. That's it.

[Mike: Damn!]

(11:42 AM ET ) Since this is my final chat, I want to thank all the people who have e-mailed in and as I said during the year, we've had some great questions and comments from you fans. I don't care who you like as long as you are a baseball fan. I'm a fan first and sportscaster second. After watching all the teams in the playoffs who are supposed to be the best teams, I feel we have expanded too much and there is a shortage of talent in the majors because every team in the playoffs had glaring weakness. That's attruibutable to a shortage of talent for 30 teams. Have a great winter and figure out how many days to spring training. Let's look forward to it.

[Mike: This was the subject of Joe's article this week, although he didn't say anything beyond what he says here. He thinks the final four teams had weaknesses. Well, the Braves, Giants, and A's were knocked out early. And what team does not have some weakness no matter how small. The 1976 Big Red Machine's best pitcher was Gary Nolan for heaven's sake. They still swept the playoffs. Besides, a few years ago everyone was bemoaning the competitive imbalance in the majors. There were a number of teams that were good enough to win it all. Isn't that a good thing? This is simple it-was-better-in-my-day-ism, pure and simple.]

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