October 2007

Angels on Curt Schilling’s Shopping List

From Curt Schilling’s blog, 38Pitches.com:

The list of teams that our family has talked over, that we think would be a fit for next year, should we not come back, are pretty much teams in cities we agree would be ok for our last year, and teams I think have a legitimate shot at being in the post season and/or World Series. Teams we didn’t include aren’t for any one reason. There are a million little things that go into this from stadiums to school districts to travel to spring training to etc. etc. etc. but the list represents the teams after Boston that have some of the off the field things that are big to us, plus the potential to go into October next year.

Cleveland, Detroit, Anaheim, New York Mets, Philadelphia, Atlanta, L.A., S.D., Arizona, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis, Milwaukee

In my October 9 blog, I wrote, "We need the equivalent of a Curt Schilling, a veteran who can stabilize a young rotation."

Well, the man is available.

Of course, it depends on his contractual demands. The man turns 41 in November, his velocity is down, and he’s good for about six innings. But he does have that rare "it" that puts teams in the World Series — Philadelphia in 1993, Arizona in 2001, Boston in 2004 and 2007.

I think Schilling’s best value might be to bring some emotional stability and leadership to the pitching staff. Not only would he be a positive influence on John Lackey, but his "colorful" side would probably appeal to Jered Weaver. Bring back Troy Percival — who also just declared free agency — to the bullpen and the Angels add a toughness to their pitching staff that might have been missing in 2007.

The Angels Lawsuit You Never Heard About

This was first posted on the MLB.com Angels board.  The arbitration ruling was back in May 2007.

Los Angeles Angels Lose Fight for Angels.com Domain Name

The Los Angeles Angels Major League Baseball team has lost its fight for Angels.com. The organization filed for a UDRP in February claiming rights to the trademark “Angels” and that the current registrant was using it in bad faith. The Angels filed for arbitration after the owner of the domain, Lee Dongyeon of South Korea, offered to sell it for $300,000 to an unidentified agent. Dongyeon purchased the domain for roughly $25,000 in 2005.

Click Here to read the arbitration forum’s decision.

Click through to Angels.com and you see in big letters, "Angels.com is not for sale" with a photo of a girl wearing angel wings, along with a screen capture of a news story about the arbitration ruling.

After ownership’s bullying tactics with the City of Anaheim, it’s nice to see that karma decided to hand them a loss.

Dollars and Sense

In an October 26 on-line chat about the 2007 draft (subscription required to read), Baseball America analyst Jim Callis made this interesting observation:

Q: Jerred Gracey from York, Pa asks:
Why don’t more teams spend on the draft? It would make sense to get a lot of good young talent, they will play for several years for dirt cheap and you can always trade some of them to get a veteran?

A: Jim Callis: I answer this question all the time, but it keeps coming up because it’s an important question in this era of draft slotting frenzy. I think some teams use the commissioner’s mandate as an excuse to not spend on the draft, but the real answer is that any team that doesn’t take advantage of the system is just hurting itself. MLB has it set up so that anyone who wants more than slot money will fall to a team that will pay the freight, and only a few teams will do so. Why not take advantage? The average big league team spends $70 million on big league salaries and $5 million on the draft. If you made that $65 million and $10 million, you wouldn’t notice much difference at the big league level but you’d grab a ton more talent in the draft. This is the only way for smaller-revenue teams to compete with the larger-revenue teams for talent, but only the larger-revenue teams are taking advantage of slotting.

Bottom line, it’s a lot wiser to invest your money in future talent than it is to stuff it down the rathole for some "name" veteran with a bloated salary.

(This means you, A-Rod.)

The Minor League Game of the Week


Matt Holliday

Brad Hawpe
Today’s Colorado Rockies stars Matt Holliday and Brad Hawpe were in the Tulsa Drillers lineup on July 6, 2003 to face Bobby Jenks and the Arkansas Travelers.

The new Minor League Game of the Week has a deliberate World Series flavor.

As the Colorado Rockies took the national spotlight with their incredible post-season run, I thought, "Hey, I know some of those guys." Sure enough, some of them were playing for the Double-A Tulsa Drillers in May 2003 when I visited Ray Winder Field in Little Rock to photograph the Arkansas Travelers.

Two of the Drillers, Matt Holliday and Brad Hawpe, homered in that series, a portent of things to come. The Rockies’ presence in the World Series this week is proof of what happens when a team is patient and builds from within instead of caving to the instant-gratification demands by a few big-mouths in the press and fandom who don’t represent the majority that know better.

On July 6, 2003, the Drillers hosted Arkansas and faced Travs’ starting pitcher Bobby Jenks. This game really sums up all the problems Bobby had while he was an Angels property. This was his first Double-A start after rehabbing an elbow injury two months earlier. It was his second year at Arkansas after being suspended in 2002 for trying to sneak alcohol onto the team bus. And Bobby’s weight problems were rather obvious.

When shut down after his May 2 appearance, Jenks had made five starts, pitching 23 innings, striking out 27, walking 19 while allowing only 16 hits and had a 3.52 ERA. In this game, he started off wild, but when he left the mound after the 5th inning he’d allowed no runs, only one hit, and struck out six while walking four.

After the 2003 season, Jenks pitched in the Arizona Fall League, then went on to winter ball. With only a few weeks’ rest, he reported early to the Angels’ spring training camp in mid-February. With an already brittle elbow, it’s no wonder it stress-fractured on him again on April 19, 2004 when Salt Lake was at Fresno. FutureAngels.com was there; Click Here to watch the video of Jenks’ injury. (You need Windows Media Player and a high-speed Internet connection to watch.) By the way, the trainer racing to Bobby’s rescue is Adam Nevala, who today is one of the Angels’ trainers.

Jenks went to the minor league camp in Mesa for rehab and didn’t pitch again that year. While in Mesa, ESPN: The Magazine published an unflattering profile of Bobby in which he admitted to burning his own flesh for kicks. Jenks was suspended not for the article, but for a reported fight with a Mesa teammate.

Even with all the disciplinary problems, the poor physical conditioning, and the bum elbow, the Angels kept him around — until December 17, 2004, when they attempted to move him off the 40-man roster to the Triple-A roster, so they could make room on "the 40" for pending free agent signee Orlando Cabrera. That meant he had to pass through waivers. The Chicago White Sox claimed him.

Some people engage in revisionist history, posting on fan boards that the Angels stupidly "released" their best pitching prospect. The facts are (1) Jenks wasn’t released, he was claimed on waivers as the Angels tried to put him on the Triple-A roster, and (2) Jenks’ career at that point was pretty much in the toilet.

After that season, Jenks’ minor league career ERA was 4.97. In 391 IP, he had 401 strikeouts but also 270 walks — 6.2 free passes per nine innings. The last time anyone had seen him throw in a game — that would be the above video clip — his velocity was down into the mid-80s. He self-restraint was not far above that of a wild animal, and his ill-advised ESPN interview didn’t help. Beating up a teammate wasn’t the last straw, but Jenks’ future was so clouded at that point that it didn’t make much sense to continue protecting him on the 40-man roster while risking the loss of top prospects in much better physical condition and with their heads screwed on straight.

Fortunately for Bobby and his family, the White Sox acquisition seemed to wake him up to the reality that he could lose his means of income and spend the rest of his life pumping gas for a living. (And in a self-serve world, there aren’t many calls for that skill these days.) Jenks was on the mound when the White Sox won the 2005 World Series, and those blinding themselves to the facts surrounding Bobby’s departure started a disinformation campaign on fan boards to make it look like the Angels had let him go without cause.

So with all that historical context, Click Here to listen to the game. You need Windows Media Player to listen. The Travs’ broadcaster is Phil Elson, who will be a big-league broadcaster one day, you’ll see.

Angels 2007 Draft in Review

Baseball America has posted its American League Draft Report Cards, including the Angels. You need to have a BA account to read it, so I’ll give you the highlights.

Best Pro Debut: Mike Anton, with mention of Mason Tobin and Jay Brossman.

Best Athlete: The unsigned Pat White, also mention the signed Jon Plefka.

Best Pure Hitter: Jay Brossman, with mention of Justin Bass.

Best Power Hitter: Trevor Pippen.

Fastest Runner: Andrew Romine, DeAndre Miller and Terrell Alliman.

Best Defensive Player: Andrew Romine.

Best Fastball: Jordan Walden, although he was a 2006 draft-and-follow. Among the 2007 class, Jon Bachanov although he hasn’t pitched due to a sore elbow.

Best Secondary Pitch: Cites Mike Anton’s changeup and Trevor Reckling’s curve ball.

Most Intriguing Background: Mike Anton, and the unsigned Matt Scioscia.

Closest to the Majors: Mason Tobin.

The One Who Got Away: Matt Harvey, with mention of Tanner Robles and Martin Viramontes.

Assessment: “The Angels were disappointed by the players they failed to sign, and Bachanov’s injury add to the disappointing early returns. However, Walden has a first-round arm, and second-day selections such as Anton, Reckling and Tobin have promise.”

You can find in the FutureAngels.com Audio Gallery interviews I recorded this year with Anton, Bachanov, Reckling and Walden.

Braves Claim Chris Resop on Waivers

MLB.com reports that the Atlanta Braves have claimed Angels reliever Chris Resop on waivers.

This is the time of year when disabled lists go away, so organizations have to either put an injured player on the 40-man roster, release him, or try to pass him through waivers so he can go on the Triple-A roster. That’s how the Angels lost Resop — trying to move him through waivers to the Salt Lake roster.

This is a natural part of the game. These rules were drawn up long ago to ensure that one organization doesn’t bury a player forever. For example, to make room for Resop on their 40-man roster, the Braves designated for assignment Chad Paronto. He might get claimed by another organization too.

This process is how the Angels over the years lost players like Bobby Jenks, Derrick Turnbow and Joel Peralta. A front office has to weigh the risk of protecting one player forever versus protecting one of the minor leaguers who must also be protected. The rules require that a minor leaguer go on the 40-man roster after three full seasons (four if he was signed out of high school or a foreign sign), or else he must be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft in December.

Some people gripe endlessly on the Angels boards about losing Jenks and Turnbow, but let’s not forget that both had crippled arms requiring screws to put them back together, and neither had particularly impressive careers at the point they were waived. Jenks also had many disciplinary problems and didn’t give a darn about his physical condition. Going to another organization seemed to wake him up to the reality that he could lose his career if he wasn’t more responsible. Would that have happened if the Angels protected him forever, sending the message that his behavior was okay? Probably not.

Despite what some people falsely claim on fan boards, being waived does NOT mean a player has been released. If he passes through waivers, he goes on the Triple-A roster. If a team does lose a player to waivers, they receive cash in compensation, something like $30,000 give or take a few thousand.

Resop was acquired last winter from Florida for Kevin Gregg. His fastball was in the mid-to-high 90s but his mechanics were messed up, as he was converted a few years ago from the outfield. After making a significant improvement in Salt Lake, Chris was called up to Anaheim mid-season, only to be shelved due to a sore elbow. He had surgery to remove bone chips and was expected to report next spring ready to go.

Hopefully Chris has a long and productive career. Too bad it won’t be with us, but that’s part of the baseball circle of life.

The Angels Add Up

One of the myths peddled by some stathead zealots who treat Moneyball like a holy book is that the Angels ignore statistical analysis, that they’re "old school," that Bill Stoneman and Mike Scioscia haven’t the first clue how to use a computer, ad nauseam.

I’ve written many times over the years, most recently in my October 18 entry, that the Angels do statistical analysis, the only difference is that no one wrote a book about it. The Angels have employed for several years an outside statistical service, and two years ago created a full-time statistical analyst on staff. But the zealots have ignored all this, continuing to insist that the Angels are statistical ostriches, sticking their heads in the sand, refusing to accept sabermetric orthodoxy.

Baseball Hall of Fame sportswriter Ross Newhan of the Los Angeles Times told the truth in today’s article about the stress on today’s baseball management. Newhan wrote:

The Cardinals are interviewing candidates to replace [departed general manager Walt] Jocketty, but he will be younger, more new-school than old-school, a concession to baseball’s new world of metric models and computer analysis, underscoring the ongoing "Moneyball" debate over statistics versus scouting.

Much of that is overblown, however.

Almost all clubs employ metrics and computers to differing degrees and most pursue a balance between these newer tools and their experienced scouts.

The Angels, for example, have remained scouting-based while putting increased significance under older-school Stoneman on the contributions of 29-year-old computer analyst Tory Hernandez, whom they promoted last week from player performance analyst to manager of baseball operations.

"If our scouts are irreplaceable, Tory has been invaluable," Stoneman said. "Nothing will ever replace the human mind, but I don’t know how we would operate without the computer."

Goodness.

"Almost all clubs employ metrics and computers"?!

Say it ain’t so!

As I’ve written over and over, the A’s are not doing anything particularly unique — other than getting a lot of hype out of a semi-fictional book.

I don’t expect the zealots to finally admit their wrong, because zealots can’t admit their ideology might not be the one true word. But for those who want the truth, the truth is in Newhan’s column.

Alex Rodriguez Thoughts

A couple articles on CNNMoney.com in recent days about Alex Rodriguez and his potential free agency.

Columnist Chris Isodore suggests that "A-Rod will bring in far more money to a team than the average fan bemoaning players’ salaries might think."

One amusing notion: Rodriguez would return home to Miami and play for the Florida Marlins.

The team that might see the greatest economic boost from signing A-Rod could be the lowly Florida Marlins, which paid its entire roster about $30.5 million this year, and is in negotiations with elected officials about a new stadium deal.

If Miami-native A-Rod were to return to his hometown team, it wouldn’t have to worry about paying 40 percent of his salary to the league as a luxury tax, as the Yankees would.

And if good young players there continue to develop, A-Rod might actually help lead the team back into postseason, producing revenue that could be worth between $2 million to $15 million a year. The Yankees have a far better chance of making the playoffs without A-Rod than would the Marlins.

"The Marlins are an interesting possibility," said Tim Mahon, principal for Anderson Economic Group, a business valuation service, who has studied team values. "I think it makes much more sense than it does for some of the other choices."

As for the Angels and other potential suitors:

Mahon said that for deep-pocketed successful teams like the Yankees, Mets, Cubs, Red Sox or Angels, "there’s a marginal economic benefit from bringing him in, even as fabulous a player as he is. But look at the upside for the Marlins, not just in ticket revenue but also the structure of a new stadium deal."

A subsequent column by Isidore quotes agent Scott Boras saying Rodriguez may leave the Yankees due to the current managerial turmoil. Of course, it’s just Boras posturing. Boras quoted "an estimate from Vince Gennaro, a consultant to numerous major league teams and the author of Diamonds and Dollars, a book about the economics of baseball, that calculates that Rodriguez could produce $48 million per year in revenue and asset appreciation for the Yankees, allowing the team to pay him $34 million in salary, along with a 40 percent luxury tax, and still break even."

I found an article on CNBC.com where they contacted Gennaro directly. As you might suspect, it turns out Boras was fudging a bit.

"A player of A-Rod’s stature can have an impact on the value of a team’s regional sports network. However, Boras’ assertion that he contributes $50 million per year is completely unreasonable. For that to be true, the primary programming would need to be a nightly three-hour talk show hosted by A-Rod and it would need to secure the same 4.7 ratings point on YES that the average Yankee game telecast scored in 2007. More realistically if the Yankees went forward without A-Rod, it’s reasonable to expect the team would suffer in terms of wins and losses. Losing seven or eight wins could cost the Yankees nearly a full ratings point, which translates into about $12 million per year in YES revenue. If you add A-Rod’s marquee value (same as Boras’ ‘iconic value’), that could impact the value of the YES Network as an asset to the tune of about another $10 million per year. Keep in mind the Yankees own 36% of YES, so the impact on the Yankees (and therefore the portion of A-Rod’s YES Network impact for which they should be willing pay) is about $8 million per year (36% of the total YES impact of $22 million)."

The Yankees are a unique economic model for many reasons, one being their ownership of the YES network. That model doesn’t apply to the other 29 major league teams, although there have been occasional rumors that Angels owner Arte Moreno was exploring the creation of an Angels TV network.

By the way, a search of the CNNMoney.com archives found an article from February 1, 2001 titled "Can Money Buy Victory?" The article was published after Rodriguez signed with the Rangers. Subsequent events would suggest the answer is no, because Rodriguez has yet to appear in a World Series.

Years ago, Baseball America published a study concluding that it cost about $1 million to develop a major league player, when you average in the cost of scouting and drafting all players, the cost of minor league managers and coaches, equipment, trainers, etc. Just for argument’s sake, let’s say that number today is $2 million.

If a team signs free-agent Rodriguez and pays him the rumored $30 million/year, that’s fifteen potential major leaguers who won’t be developed each year for the length of his contract. Would one of them be the next A-Rod? Probably not. But baseball is a team game, and that’s why Rodriguez has never reached the World Series. Those fifteen additional players a year collectively could be the raw material to build a championship ballclub.

According to the USA Today baseball salaries database, the average payroll for the World Series-bound Colorado Rockies was about $54.4 million this year. They did that without an A-Rod. They chose instead to hold on to young talent like Matt Holliday, Troy Tulowitski, Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe, Jeff Francis and Manny Corpas. But if you want to believe the self-proclaimed experts running around on fan boards, all that young talent should be dumped for "name" players who "guarantee" a World Series. Well, A-Rod won’t be in the World Series this year either.

My feeling is the Angels can listen to what Boras has to say, but they won’t get a return on their investment. A-Rod alone will not take them to the World Series, and his ridiculous salary will siphon money from elsewhere in the business.

Firestorm

Nothing to do with baseball, but …

For we Southern Californians, today is the day we knew would be coming.

After a prolonged drought that saw only 2 1/2 inches of rain last winter, we expected that when the Santa Ana winds kicked up in October we’d start experiencing firestorms.

Right now Malibu is under siege. Wind gusts have been clocked over 100 MPH, the temperature is expected to reach the mid-80s, but the real killer is the extremely low humidity, expected to drop under 10%.

These conditions are expected to last for another couple days at least, so it’s quite possible we’ll see more firestorms break out throughout the Southland before the week is over.

CNN is offering some coverage, but other options you can follow over the Internet:

KFWB Radio 980 AM — The 24-hour all-news radio station. KFWB streams live through their site.

KTLA Channel 5 — The local CW affiliate which seems to be the only local station streaming live video.

KCBS Channel 2 — The local CBS affiliate.

KNBC Channel 4 — The local NBC affiliate.

KABC Channel 7 — The local ABC affiliate.

Report: Paul Byrd Ordered HGH

Today’s San Francisco Chronicle reports that Cleveland pitcher Paul Byrd bought $25,000 of human growth hormone between 2002 and 2005, which would include the 2005 season he spent with the Angels.

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