The Winter Meetings Begin

Baseball’s annual winter meetings are this week in Orlando. The local papers review the Angels’ priorities when it comes to player personnel transactions.

Matt Hurst of the Riverside Press-Enterprise has the best article, a lengthy interview with Angels General Manager Bill Stoneman.

Hurst reports that, contrary to fan rumors on certain bulletin boards, it’s not likely the Angels will go after Manny Ramirez.

Back on October 2, I wrote that the Angels’ priorities this winter should be adding a center fielder, a third baseman and bullpen depth. So far, Stoneman has added the center fielder by signing free-agent Gary Matthews, Jr., and the bullpen depth by signing reliever Justin Speier.

That leaves the third baseman, who could be the “big bat” promised by owner Arte Moreno at season’s end.

Los Angeles Times reporters Steve Henson and Mike DiGiovanna suggest that the third base targets include the usual suspects — Miguel Tejada and Joe Crede — with Alex Rodriguez and Adrian Beltre among the remote possibilities. Although first base candidates are also discussed, personally I think the Angels are better off to go with Casey Kotchman, or Kendry Morales as a Plan B. Dallas McPherson is still in the mix as a third baseman or even a first base candidate, as well as veteran Robb Quinlan.

Doug Padilla of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune newsgroup has a quote from a White Sox source debunking the Santana/Figgins for Crede/Garcia trade, saying that “anybody with a trade idea and an outlet to present it can cause a stir,” a reminder not to believe the nitwit rumors that shows up on fan boards.

The Times‘ DiGiovanna wrote on November 30 that the Matthews signing was opposed by “many Angels fans” citing “the harsh message-board comments on the team’s website.”

But that board doesn’t represent Angels fandom by any means. My guess is that there are less than 100 people who post there regularly. Many of them are teenagers who exploit flaws in the board software to create multiple screen names so it appears someone agrees with them. In fact, an opinion column in the November 26 Times wrote about how today’s young adults have taken to on-line chat sites to create fictitious personae for themselves.

And then there are the people who worship at the Church of Sabermetrics. Even their idol, A’s GM Billy Beane, has walked away from sabermetric orthodoxy. In an interview by Baseball America columnist Alan Schwarz in their October 19 issue, Beane said:

I think the thing everyone’s most proud of around here is the ability to adapt. I think that the misnomer about us in Oakland is that we’re very dogmatic. We’re dogmatic about our desire to win, and try to do it in any possible way that we can … We’re well aware that all plans need to be adjusted on the fly, because as soon as you think you know something to be absolute fact, you’re probably in trouble.

Beane joked, “One day we will lead the league in stolen bases.”

A lot of those “many Angels fans” DiGiovanna cites are actually “statheads” who think that real-world baseball functions like fantasy baseball. Sure, the Matthews contract was ridiculous, but then 99% of the salaries in major league baseball are ridiculous. This year’s free-agent market is a function of demand far exceeding supply.

As I’ve written before, it’s unlikely Matthews will reproduce his 2006 offense output, but he’ll be an improvement over Chone Figgins. Some statheads are citing fragmentary and unproven statistical formulae to claim Matthews is the worst center fielder in baseball, which is absurd. I’ve yet to see a stat that ranks how well an outfielder runs his route to the ball, or takes into consideration the profile of the pitching staff, or adjusts the stats for playing conditions. At the very least, they should be looking at a three-year sample, which they don’t; they bash Matthews’ 2006 season offensively as a fluke, but they fail to look at Matthews’ defensive performance beyond that same one year.

It’s also unfortunately typical to see a lot of demands for instant gratification on those boards. The fact of the matter is that Opening Day is April 2, 2007 — 120 days from now.

I’m more than happy if Stoneman stands pat and goes into spring training to see if Kotchman, Morales and McPherson can handle the first base and third base jobs. Those three have plenty of power potential — and despite what some claim that acquiring a “proven” veteran equates to a “guaranteed” world championship, in the real world nothing is guaranteed. Just ask the Yankees how many championships they’ve won with Alex Rodriguez at third base. Ask the Orioles how many they’ve won with Miguel Tejada. And then look at who’s the reigning world champion — the 83-78 St. Louis Cardinals.

All a “big bat” acquisition does is generate a headline for a day. Beyond that, the game is played on the field — not on paper, not on a spreadsheet, and not on bulletin boards.

2 Comments

the “nitwit rumor” of crede and garcia for figgins and santana was reported with more than one source confirming its details by Mike DiGiovanna in the Los Anegles Times.

I don’t know why people don’t mention Morales more often. I agree that Morales can be the “big bat” that the Angels are looking for. Just watching him swing, it seems he can be a guy who can “protect” Guerrero and be a solid run-producer. At this point it appears that the Angels cannot improve the offense without severely weakening its pitching; so why not let Morales play a full year and see what he can truly do?

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