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Perhaps no team needs a day off more than the Blue Jays, unless we're talking about the Detroit Tigers, which, fortunately, we are not. After today's off-day, Toronto will finish the non-mathematical first half of the season with six games against the Red Sox and Yankees. Once the final out has been recorded Sunday -- hopefully for Jays fans with an Alfonso Soriano strikeout in the top of the ninth inning -- we will be that much closer to knowing which end of the buy/sell arrangement Toronto will fall upon.

Meanwhile there is the (equally non-mathematical) mid-summer classic itself, and, no matter what you may think of the new format in which the game now "matters," it has generated renewed interest in an idea -- the supposed best players of both leagues dueling "mid-summer" -- which calls to mind memories of Fred Lynn, of Ted Williams, of Pete Rose, of Fernando Valenzuela, and, more than anything else, of tedious 2-1 games. These latter incidents are a delight when it's Roy Halladay vs. Pedro Martinez in September, not as pleasing in exhibitions in July.

But now that the all-star game has become the Game Formerly Known as an Exhibition Game, there is, as I said, a sense of renewed enthusiasm for it, even though that renewal came about because of last year's tie and subsequent Bud Selig machinations. Most anything involving Selig, other than if he said "I am resigning, effective immediately," connotes negativity, but as any shrewd PR director, Rupert Murdoch, or Mick Doherty will tell you, there's no such thing as bad publicity. Most of the time, that is. Ask Kobe Bryant, among others, his opinion.

Yesterday, of course, rosters for the revamped game were selected, and, as always, there were the usual omissions and Say what? picks. There's not much we can do about the starters, because our control over such matters is limited, but that does not stop us from nit-picking the other selections. I won't get into much detail -- I'll leave that to the other members of the ZLC, if they're so inclined -- but for my money, I would like to have seen Tim Hudson make it, as I discuss in my latest ESPN column, and there is virtually no justification for putting Mike Williams on the NL roster. Lloyd McClendon, the rotten hitter he was, would have been as deserving. I was, however, pleased to see Brendan Donnelly, who was selected by the players and other managers, make the AL team. Those are just three observations; there's more to say, of course, but I'm mindful of the 'ol journalism/writing saw, "Know your audience." In this instance, I suspect this audience, like Aaron Gleeman, couldn't care less about the game or its players. If that is not the case, then I am mistaken. And in that happy and frequent event, let us go then, you and I, and discuss.


On a previous thread a poster had mentioned one of the Blue Jays' announcers describing a home run as a "Shallow fly ball to the outfield," or something of that sort. Probably we all know this, but if there's one thing harder than playing baseball it's announcing it. Not long after I moved from southern California back to the San Francisco Bay Area, an independent minor-league team started in Rohnert Park, a small town about 35 miles north of San Francisco. Rohnert Park Stadium had once been home to a low-A-ball California Angels team, and I recall seeing Mark McLemore, Devon White, and Kirk McCaskill, among others, and I further recall White being the fastest player I had ever seen. (I myself had the pleasure of playing in Rohnert Park stadium, where in the same game I broke up a no-hitter in the sixth inning with a single to right field and gave up a ton of runs pitching in relief of another pitcher who had similarly given up a ton of runs.)

When the Sonoma County Crushers, the new independent team, started up, they naturally needed announcers. And naturally my friend Ed and I decided to send in an audition tape. We had played baseball all our lives, we had followed it just as long, we had degrees in communication studies, we had decent voices, we had done a public access TV sports-talk show together, etc. Plus we had low-paying, crummy jobs. There was nothing to lose, in other words. Oh, but so much to be gained!

So to make our tape, we decided to go to a Cal-USC game over in Berkeley. (I can't recall why we didn't go to an A's or Giants game; surely one or the other was in town. Perhaps, like everything else for 24-year-old roustabouts, it was a matter of finances, or to be more precise, a lack of finances.) Arriving a few innings into the contest, a tape recorder in my hand -- well, technically in my pocket at that point -- we spied a spot under a tree near the left-field fence, away from the students and scouts, and made it our base. And so we went to work.

After two innings we gave up.

What did it for me was when USC's Jacque Jones, in the middle of a long hitting streak, had just singled up the middle to extend the streak to 35 games or something, and all I could say was, "That is truly amazing." In a sense, I was spot on. It is truly amazing Ed and I thought we could do it, and it is truly amazing that anyone can do it, let alone do it with the ease and mastery of someone like Vin Scully. What was even harder than the play-by-play were the natural interstices of the game. I must have mentioned, during the gaps, ten times that Mark McGwire, Randy Johnson, Jeff Cirillo and other big leaguers had also played for USC. It's not easy to fill those holes; some can do it, some can't. Whatever the case, it's not easy. I'm sure it would have been easier if we had actually seen major leaguers; I knew a fair amount about USC's team, but not nearly as much as I did about, for example, any major league team. Besides, "easier" is a long way from "easy."

I won't defend the inanity that comes out of many play-by-play announcers -- color commentators and studio hosts like Rob Dibble don't fit here -- but I will defend the difficulty of their "job." Next time someone says "Neifi Perez was a great pick-up for the Giants," chastise them, to be sure, because they deserve to be chastised. But remember that these people are often as not hired not for their baseball acuity but rather for their skill at a craft which, if done adroitly, a la Scully, is as difficult, if not more so, than hitting a Pedro Martinez slider.
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_StephenT - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 09:09 AM EDT (#98316) #
3 Jays ($51m) made the All-Star team, same number as the Yankees ($149m), and one more than the Red Sox ($96m). The high-paid Rangers ($104m) just have 2. The Yankees and Red Sox have a chance to add one more in the last player vote.

I like that the All-Star Game now has more impact on the World Series schedule than whether the year is even or odd.
_A - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 10:32 AM EDT (#98317) #
Hijack: has Jayson Stark's analysis of the All-Star selections...He's on record as saying Vernon Wells should be the games starting CF. I'm surprised to say the least.
_Jabonoso - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 11:49 AM EDT (#98318) #
There have been at least 3 weeks now that all ESPN commentators are repeating after Gammons " the best CF in the AL is Vernon "
_Craig S. - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 11:55 AM EDT (#98319) #
I can forgive poor play-by-play much easier than I can poor analysis from the color man. The action in baseball can move pretty quickly, and certain calls - whether a ball was caught or trapped, a close play, or the ball coming off the bat a certain way - are difficult even as a fan sitting in the park.

For the color commentators, there's no excuse. I think the example given above of Rob Dibble is fitting, since there seems to be no justification for a guy like him working on what is supposed to be a ESPN's anchor baseball show, Baseball Tonight. I've gotten to the point where I can't even watch when he's on. What I once found funny is now just annoying. My guess is that he's on there because he's outspoken and because he had a "nasty" reputation as a player. As I've said before, I think may ex-major leaguers have a difficult time stepping away from having played the game, and looking at baseball from an objective point of view.

A few examples from Mr. Dibble, from 2002:

"Right now I don't think the Rangers have enough pitching to win the AL West or the wild card. But if they do pick up Bruce Chen, they'll be right on the cusp" (uh, yeah)

"If Jordan can stay healthy, he'll put up almost the same numbers as Sheffield"

"If the Red Sox don't sign Pokey Reese they are crazy!"

So I can forgive the play-by-play guys, and save me invective for guys like Dibble and Steve Lyons!
Craig B - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 12:04 PM EDT (#98320) #
There have been at least 3 weeks now that all ESPN commentators are repeating after Gammons " the best CF in the AL is Vernon "

I find this bizarre. I like Wells an awful lot, but I certainly don't think he's a better player than Mike Cameron.
_DS - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 12:11 PM EDT (#98321) #

I hope you're talking about defense, because offensively it's not even close.
_Jurgen - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 12:20 PM EDT (#98322) #
Vernon's certainly amazing, and I'm glad to see him pass over-hyped Hunter and rangeless Williams on most people's lists, but if Mike Cameron wasn't playing half his games at Safeco Field the honour would likely fall to him.

He's tops in MLB in Zone Rating (.931 to Wells' .927) and Range Factor (3.37 to 2.54), and no slouch with the bat.

Cameron's splits this year:

Home: .213/.310 /425
Away: .319/407/.528

Cameron's 30, and Vernon's 24, so you tell me which one you'd rather have.

I suspect Wells and Cleveland's Bradley will be battling each other for the honour of "Best AL CF" for the next couple of years--at least until Wells shifts to RF when Rios comes up.
_Craig S. - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 12:26 PM EDT (#98323) #
The only offensive category in which Cameron has the advantage over Wells is OBP, but Wells make this up with his slugging %. Wells also strikes out far less. I don't think Cameron's superior defense can make up for their offensive differences, but those debates are what make the All-Star decisions at least somewhat interesting.
_Bob Uecker - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 12:36 PM EDT (#98324) #
Vernon Wells leads centerfielders in most of the offensive categories, including most nose hair.
_Jurgen - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 12:36 PM EDT (#98325) #

It's closer than you think.

OPS: .848
OBP*1.4+SLG: .994
EQA: .302
EQR: 54.1
VORP: 23.7

OPS: .896
OBP*1.4+SLG: 1.034
EQA: .298
EQR: 64.0
VORP: 29.4

And I know it's heresy, but I'm starting to think Delgado isn't the mid-season MVP anymore. I think Boone's passed him.
_DS - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 12:43 PM EDT (#98326) #
Maybe I'm bias, but seeing how Wells has progressed the past two seasons, I would take Wells any day of the week. I think Cameron is still underrated compared to other CF's (talking about you Erstad), and he won the Griffey trade for Seattle single-handedly, but Wells seems like he can still get better whereas Cameron has definitely stagnated.
_Jurgen - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 12:47 PM EDT (#98327) #
And I know mid-season Win Shares are supposedly bunk, but that won't stop me from quoting them.

Cameron's leading all AL OF:

Cameron 1st
Bat-10.67 Field-3.99 WS-15

Wells 5th
Bat-11.62 Field-2.15 WS-14

It certainly suggests that Cameron's fielding more than compensates for his "inferior" bat.
_Jurgen - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 12:50 PM EDT (#98328) #
I don't know why I put "inferior" in "quotes".

Wells definitely has the advantage at the plate, although the extent of that advantage is perhaps unfairly exaggerated due to Safeco.

And given Well's age, sure, I'd take him over Cameron. I just don't think he's there... yet.
robertdudek - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 12:57 PM EDT (#98329) #
Mid-season park factors (AL 2003)

Toronto 1.130, Seattle .903.

This means that Vernon's offensive numbers have been increased by something like 13% on the runs scale, and Cameron's have been reduced by about 10%.

Cameron is a better defensive centrefielder. I've watched a bunch of Mariners games this year, and Cameron is superb at coming in on balls. Vernon isn't really good at this (yet).

Cameron is better than Wells overall.
_Jurgen - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 12:57 PM EDT (#98330) #
Hmm. Just looked at Lee Sinins' Weekly RCAA, and maybe this bickering is irrelevant.

Cameron: 12
Wells: 11

Bradley: 33 (tied with Giambi for 3rd in the AL)
_Jurgen - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 01:03 PM EDT (#98331) #
Also from Lee:

1) According to Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Twins asked for BlueJays LF Shannon Stewart, but didn't like the BlueJays offer of prospects Michael Restovich and Adam Johnson.

Because what the Twins really need is another OF. Who the hell is running that team?
_DS - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 01:24 PM EDT (#98332) #
Who the hell is running that team?

Hopefully Ryan wants to counter Kenny Williams' moves for veteran players. C'mon Ryan, it's panic time!

A quick question about park factors. How much is it offset by a team like Toronto who has great hitting, but anemic pitching. It seems like Skydome is usually a neutral ballpark.
_Brent - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 01:24 PM EDT (#98333) #
Hell, I'd take Adam Johnson straight up for Stewart. I'm guessing that the Twins turned down that offer to keep Johnson anyways. Aaron, your thoughts?
_Chuck Van Den C - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 01:27 PM EDT (#98334) #
And I know it's heresy, but I'm starting to think Delgado isn't the mid-season MVP anymore. I think Boone's passed him.

Boone is at 368/579. Delgado is at 423/639. The question is, do the following make up the 115 points of OPS that Boone is giving up to Delgado?
* Boone plays in a pitcher's park
* Delgado plays in a hitter's park
* Boone plays the second most important defensive position, and by most, accounts very well
* Delgado plays the least important defensive position, and by most accounts, below average

I think the answer is yes, and clearly so. Boone has been more valuable than Delgado this year.

But, lest we forget, AL voters have a recent track record of undervaluing middle infielders at MVP time. Except for Tejada, whom they overvalued.
_DS - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 01:29 PM EDT (#98335) #
Looking at Johnson's stat line for this year, I don't think it's that bad an offer.

3-10 W-L, 7.51 ERA, 14 G, 13 GS, 1 CG, 70.2 ip, 90 H, 60 R, 7 HR, 8 HB, 33 BB, 39 K, 6 WP

He's been awful.
_Jurgen - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 01:48 PM EDT (#98336) #
Except for Tejada, whom they overvalued.

Over a fellow middle-infielder, who was better at the plate and with the glove.

Go figure.
Craig B - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 01:55 PM EDT (#98337) #
given Wells's age, sure, I'd take him over Cameron. I just don't think he's there... yet

Given Wells's age, you'd have to be completely insane to trade him for Mike Cameron, or almost any other player. With the new five-year deal in place, Wells has more trade value than any other outfielder in the American League.

But I do think Cameron's a better all-around player right now than Wells, and I'd particularly like to have Cameron in a park other than Safeco. Cameron's defence should start to drop off in the next couple of years as well.

Cameron is superb at coming in on balls. Vernon isn't really good at this (yet)

That's a key part of the equation. Yes, they're all singles, but we're probably talking 20-40 singles a year for Vernon versus 20-40 outs for Cameron. That's a lot of hits. It's not just where Wells pulls up on balls in front of him... Cameron dashes in to take line drives that Wells doesn't even try for.

I'll take Wells with anyone on going back to the wall (mind you, Torii Hunter is better than anyone at getting up on the wall).

Delgado plays the least important defensive position, and by most accounts, below average

I wouldn't think so this year, but that's anecdotal observation.
Mike D - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 02:22 PM EDT (#98338) #
Not to toe the company line, but I've got to stand up for Vernon and Carlos amidst this Mariners love-fest.

Wells vs. Cameron: Their respective ages are dispositive in terms of the "who'd you rather have" question. A better question is who's playing better right now.

Defensively, even those who attend sabermetric religious services know that at this time, you can only really evaluate defensive contributions with your eyes. And it's true, Cameron is better -- comparisons of Cameron to the Devon White of 1991-93 *are* justified, and comparisons of Wells to Devo in his prime are *not yet* justified. But Cameron has one huge edge: He can cheat by overplaying hitters' and pitchers' tendencies in positioning himself, since he has two sidekicks in the M's outfield with excellent range into the gaps. Wells has to basically stay at home in centre with inferior glovemen to his right and left. I think Wells plays a bit too shallow sometimes, even with his good range going backward. But it's often necessary, as I agree with Robert that he doesn't charge as effectively as Cameron. Cameron's a much smoother centrefielder overall, but Wells has as good of an arm (if not better).

But the gap between the two players will increase in Wells' favour over the rest of the season -- mark my words. To me, it's plain that Wells is on a sharp upward career slope, while Cameron has had a hot first half. Moreover, Cameron's AVG and OBP numbers have virtually no upside with his medium power/high K rate -- his balls-in-play average has got to be very high, and won't likely improve. Call it the Jose Hernandez Effect, so named on behalf of all second-tier mashers with first-tier K's.

Judging from his history, he'll keep up his strikeout rate (which has nothing to do with Safeco), and his numbers will regress unless he improves his SLG. Meanwhile, Vernon's been hitting the ball hard, but right at people, as of late. When he snaps out of this slump, there'll be no comparison.

Delgado vs. Boone: I'll make just this argument...Even conceding for purposes of argument that lineup protection has no effect on a player's OPS, surely runs scored reflects a mix of (1) a player's ability to get on base and the (2) ability of the hitters after him to move him around, given the player's speed.

Boone is a quick player followed by Edgar, Olerud and Cameron, and has 63 runs. Delgado is slow as molasses, followed by Uber-Catcher, Phelps and a Toronto Star Unapproved Player of the Day -- and has 72 runs. (There, I made the point without mentioning the obvious OPS and RBI dominance.)

Certainly, Chuck is right when he talks about defensive importance in this debate. I'll only make the minor quibble that Boone plays on grass with one of the rangiest and best-fielding first basemen of all time to his left. As a Blue Jay, Robbie Alomar used to finish dead last in total chances per nine innings among second basemen, and still won Gold Gloves.

From a positioning's a luxury playing next to Johnny O.
_Brent - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 02:31 PM EDT (#98339) #
3-10 W-L, 7.51 ERA, 14 G, 13 GS, 1 CG, 70.2 ip, 90 H, 60 R, 7 HR, 8 HB, 33 BB, 39 K, 6 WP

Ouch. My original post came from a quick glance at his previous minor league numbers over at the Cube. He had a 112/55 K/BB ratio in 151 IP last year in Edmonton, but surrendered 25 HRs. Previously, he had a 110/39 ratio in 113 innings in New Britain. To tell you the truth, I was wrong about the whole Stewart/Johnson straight up thing. I retract my statement.

Although, it seems that the kid has some talent, and I can see why JP would want him in some sort of deal.
robertdudek - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 02:34 PM EDT (#98340) #
The park factors I listed are calculated by comparing hitters at home versus road and pitchers home versuis road, separately, then averaging the results. There is a further adjustment due to the specific road parks a team plays in. Since hitters get a higher percentage of PA on the road (and pitchers the converse) PFs for pitchers and hitters are slightly different (though similar).

More info available in an earlier post at this site.
_Mick - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 02:34 PM EDT (#98341) #
... but as any shrewd PR director, Rupert Murdoch, or Mick Doherty will tell you, there's no such thing as bad publicity.

I notice Kobe Bryant's name is not on this list.
Dave Till - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 02:41 PM EDT (#98342) #
It's not just where Wells pulls up on balls in front of him... Cameron dashes in to take line drives that Wells doesn't even try for.

I don't blame Wells for pulling up on balls hit in front of him. Diving for a ball on the SkyDome turf is like jumping face-first onto a concrete floor. I'd rather see him give up the single and stay off the DL.
_Jurgen - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 02:47 PM EDT (#98343) #
I wouldn't call it a Mariner love fest. I'm just saying I think Cameron's more valuable than Wells (at this precise instant--clearly by the time he's, say, 27 Wells will be better than Cameron ever was and will likely be the best RF in the MLB), and Boone's probably the MVP over Delgado.

And for all this Cameron-Wells stuff, Bradley's been even better this year. Just ask the manager of Toronto Walrus.

More from Lee and those crazy Twins:

2) According to the Beaver County Times, the Twins have some interest in trading for Pirates LF Brian Giles, but Giles says he'd use his limited no trade clause to veto a trade to them.

A big left-handed bat would obviously help the Twins, but here's a suggestion to the front office: STOP FOCUSING ON ACQUIRING MORE OUTFIELDERS AND GET SOME STARTING PITCHING AND SOME INFIELD OFFENCE UP THE MIDDLE. Nice start by finally putting Santana in the rotation. My next suggestion? Offer to take Tatis and even Barrett (and their contracts) along with Vidro.
Craig B - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 03:05 PM EDT (#98344) #
clearly by the time he's, say, 27 Wells will be better than Cameron ever was and will likely be the best RF in the MLB),

I don't know about *that*. Vladimir Guerrero's back hurts, but he's not dead. :) Also, I'm not sure Wells has his destiny in right field; he seems pretty good all-around in center and his speed isn't bad; he might be able to play there another 6-7 years.

Offer to take Tatis and even Barrett (and their contracts) along with Vidro.

Taking Barrett would be shrewd. He is in the mother of all slumps right now, but he's a pretty decent catcher all told. Tatis, of course, is dead weight.
_Lurch - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 03:23 PM EDT (#98345) #
Did somebody change the dimensions of Skydome during the off-season to make it favour hitters? No.
_Jurgen - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 03:39 PM EDT (#98346) #
Vladimir Guerrero's back hurts, but he's not dead. :)

Well, I'm being a little coy about the whole playing RF thing (although Rios would make a good CF in 2005). But with his build Wells seems more likely to be a Larry Walker type at the corner than stay in CF. (Neyer once called Walker the best defensive RF of all time, if memory serves.)

Hmm. Come to think of it

Wells age 20--.261/.293/.352 88 AB

Wells age 22--.312/.350/.427 96 AB
Walker age 22--.170/.264/.170 47 AB

Wells age 23--.275/.305/.457 608 AB
Walker age 23--.241/.326/.434 419 AB

Wells age 24--302/.344/.552 377 AB
Walker age 24--.290/.349/.458 487 AB

Walker age 25--.301/.353/.506 528 AB

Walker age 26--.265/.371/.469 490 AB

Walker age 27--.322/.394/.587 395 AB

Wells looks like he's developing faster than Larry. And Larry didn't get that big spike in OBP until age 26, so there's plenty of hope for Vernon.

It's not unlikely to believe Wells at 27 could be better than Guerrero at 30--or even Guerrero at 27.

Taking Barrett would be shrewd... Tatis, of course, is dead weight.

Just getting Vidro to replace Rivas would justify it for the Twins, even if it cost them a top prospect (Vidro's under contract for 2004).

Barrett's making $2.6 M this year, and Tatis around $3.5 M, while Vidro's making $5.5 M this year and $7 M next year. That's a lot of dollars to save the Expos.
_Jurgen - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 03:59 PM EDT (#98347) #
WS--3 (bat--0.57, field 1.86)

WS--13 (bat--10.22, field--3.06)

Getting Vidro (and dumping Rivas) would be worth a hell of a lot more than trying to squeeze another bat into the OF/1B/DH spots.
_rodent - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 04:22 PM EDT (#98348) #
Regarding the Delgado/Boone thing. Could someone explain to me the (apparently) tacit agreement that first base is the least important defensive position? Guy at first handles the ball maybe 15-20 times a game under a variety of difficult conditions...left fielder may get a nine-inning nap.
Dave Till - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 04:56 PM EDT (#98349) #
Could someone explain to me the (apparently) tacit agreement that first base is the least important defensive position?

It's not the least important, but it requires the least athletic ability of any on-field position (i.e. other than DH). First basemen don't have to run very much, and they don't have to be able to throw the ball very far.
Gitz - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 05:06 PM EDT (#98350) #
Cameron vs. Wells? From a "pure" hitting point of view -- that is, discounting the considerable value of drawing walks -- Wells is the better hitter, because Cameron really does strike out too often, and he'll go weeks, as he did last year, looking like he's Michael Jordan trying to go from an NBA superstar to a minor-league wannabe. Getting out of Safeco would, of course, be something of a panacea to Cameron, but he struck out a lot with the White Sox and the Reds, so it's unlikely a move to, say, Arlington would help him in that regard. That said, a whiff is just another out, and if Cameron could put the ball in play about two more times a week without sacrificing too much of his very good plate discipline, the argument wouldn't be if he was better than Wells right now, but how much better he'd be than Wells. I haven't seen enough of Vernon to comment on his defense, but I do know that Cameron is a joy to watch in CF; he gets to balls in the gaps that maybe even Andruw Jones wouldn't.

Wells has a high ceiling, obviously, certainly as high as Cameron did when emerged as a "five-tool" prospect, which is nonsense when you consider that Cameron has always drawn walks, while other five-toolers like Juan Encarnacion have not. And if Vernon could draw one or two more walks a week, without sacrificing too much of his power, well, then we're talking about something of a right-handed Jim Edmonds, as we discussed in a previous thread.

To say that Cameron single-handedly won the Griffey trade is not quite accurate, however, because Junior has been hurt so much, and there's no way Pat Gillick made the trade thinking that Griffey was about to embark on an over-the-top Paul Molitor impersonation. But it sure looks like a nice deal for the Mariners because of Junior's health woes.

From a purely visual standpoint, Boone is a helluva second baseman, with great range and a surprisingly good arm. I don't know what the numbers will reveal. Olerud certainly makes his other infielders look better, mainly by reducing their throwing errors, with his tall frame and ridiculously good ability to dig out low throws. I have always regarded Alomar as an overrated defender (while still being great), and I regard Boone as being somewhat underrated.

In addition, Bret's a lot of fun to watch as a hitter. He swings as hard, if not harder, than Jose Canseco, even though Boone's about as tall as Tejada -- that is to say, about 5'8", or two-to-three inches shorter than listed. And he's got as much power as Miggy, too, especially to the off-field. That little bat twirl he does after he goes yard has got to go, however.

Is Boone the MVP this year? Forgetting for a moment the difference between who DESERVES to win it and who WILL win it, he possibly is. And I don't expect the voters to ignore him, since he's playing on a contender who should make the playoffs, while Delgado and the Jays will in all probability fall short of the post-season this year. Of course, playing for a non-playoff team didn't stop the AL voters from selecting Robin Yount over Ruben Sierra in 1989, among other poor decisions by the BBWA. This was bad enough, but there were some who actually used the argument that Sierra did not play for a contending team. Yeah, those Brewers sure were in the race that year.

It would be fascinating to see what would happen if the Rangers were in first place this year and Alex Rodriguez was having the exact same year he's having. It hasn't been A-rod's best year, which only shows just how good he is, but it would not surprise me if A-rod took home the award in the above scenario (the Rangers winning the AL West). Wouldn't it be odd if he was to win the MVP in a year where, for a change, he's not the best hitter in the American League? There would be some kharmic justice in that, I suppose, much like Judy Dench winning a best supporting actress role for eight minutes of screen time in Shakespeare in Love, after being jobbed the previous year when Helen Hunt won the best actress award, over the brilliant Dench in Mrs. Brown, for her role in the abysmal As Good as it Gets. And we think MLB has problems with their voting system?
_rodent - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 05:21 PM EDT (#98351) #
Thank you. I understand, but "least athletic ability" hardly seems to quantify the arguments which would advance the slumbering left-fielder's case over that of the busy first-sacker. Total chances alone should make the case.

While I wasn't ever a great baseball coach, I sure wouldn't ever have tried to hide my duffers at first. Put 'em in left...where, I admit, Carlos would display all the range of the Chrysler Building.

I do certainly agree that Boone's excellence at the more challenging position does balance Carlos' 115 points of ops advantage.
_DS - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 05:27 PM EDT (#98352) #
To say that Cameron single-handedly won the Griffey trade is not quite accurate, however, because Junior has been hurt so much, and there's no way Pat Gillick made the trade thinking that Griffey was about to embark on an over-the-top Paul Molitor impersonation. But it sure looks like a nice deal for the Mariners because of Junior's health woes.

Cameron did single-handedly make the trade a win for tht Mariners. Griffey has been injured, which is unfortunate, but it still does not dismiss the fact that Cameron has outperformed Griffey. Even if the other players involved were complete washouts, the trade was an easy win for Seattle. No one would have known how things would have turned out, not even Gillick. Right now would anyone trade Griffey straight up for Cameron? Of course not.
Gitz - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 05:42 PM EDT (#98353) #
DS, I agree with you. Hands-down, the Mariners have won the trade. I was merely qualifying the victory with Griffey's injury woes. That's why I said "not quite accurate," which meant to convey that is was still accurate ... but not quite accurate.

_Mick - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 06:12 PM EDT (#98354) #
Gitz, very big of you to write such nice things about Boone when he and Cirillo jobbed you out of that roster spot at USC.
Coach - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 06:57 PM EDT (#98355) #
I may have influenced "rodent" over the years (he's played Zimmer to my Torre in quite a few dugouts, only we're both better looking) because the lower the level, the more important defence is at first base. We've been successful putting some statues in left -- and right -- if they can hit enough, but in high school ball, a slick fielder at 1B saves the other infielders a ton of errors, and slugging isn't required -- the biggest bats tend to play up the middle. You don't see many pitchers and catchers batting 3-4 in the majors.

In college, and even more so in pro ball, the defensive spectrum changes. Everyone can hit, so outfield range matters. The very best bats who are defensively challenged should go DH-1B-LF in that order; if you're "blessed" with five immobile, stone-handed sluggers, they go to RF and 3B. A guy like Doug Mientkiewicz, a wizard around the bag, doesn't have enough power to make up for Oh-for-Threevas and Guzman, but could be a valuable contributor on a team with slugging middle infielders.

Ideally, you have a Don Mattingly at first, but they don't come along every decade. Clete Boyer once told me, and Brian Butterfield agrees, that Mattingly (despite his "handicap") could have been terrific at 3B, and Donnie once said he would willingly move to LF if he ever played with Keith Hernandez. He would have won Gold Gloves out there too.
_Mick - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 09:25 PM EDT (#98356) #
Of course, Donnie Baseball came up as an outfielder and continued to make occasional appearances out near the monuments until 1990 or so. He played more games in the OF than at 1B until his third season in the bigs, albeit his first full one.

In going to to confirm my memory of Mattingly The Outfielder, I found it interesting to note that the three "Most Similar Batters" to Donnie are John Olerud, Cecil Cooper and Wally Joyner.

That may not say much for the annual Mattingly-for-Cooperstown debate, but all four guys were known as much for their leather as their bat.

While Cecil will never put the Cooper in Cooperstown either, I always thought he was one of the most underrated stars of my misspent youth.
Dave Till - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 10:00 PM EDT (#98357) #
Sorry, rodent - I hope I didn't give the impression I was talking down to you! I didn't realize you were a baseball coach.

I think it's easier to teach a player to play first base than it is to teach him to play the outfield. John Olerud is justifiably praised for his defense at first, but he learned the position at the major league level - he was a pitcher in college. Delgado is another case in point: the Jays were able to teach him to play an acceptable first base, but he never picked up the ability to play left field. (Had he been able to play left field, he would have been up in Toronto one year sooner.)

Michael Lewis's Moneyball has a chapter on the A's teaching Scott Hatteberg how to play first base. It's a fun read; it's entitled "Scott Hatteberg, Pickin' Machine".

Outfield is harder to learn (in my uneducated opinion) because the fielder has to be able to judge, from the sound of the bat hitting the ball, where the ball is going to go. (I still remember my abortive attempts to play the outfield in a softball league - I'd look up at the sky, watch the flight of the ball, and see it land twenty feet behind me.)
_rodent - Monday, July 07 2003 @ 11:22 PM EDT (#98358) #
Not at all, Dave Till--you are the most genteel of posters. Coach is correct: My impressions have largely been generated by adolescent players, and sometimes are confusingly contrary to major league expectations. "Easier to teach" is probably the key phrase here, and I suppose the greater opportunity for in-game repetitions at first base accelerates the learning process.
_DS - Tuesday, July 08 2003 @ 05:37 AM EDT (#98359) #
Quick minor league hijack from Auburn:

James Vermilyea: 4 ip, 0 H, 0 R, 10 K

I think it's time to take real notice of this guy.
_Brent - Tuesday, July 08 2003 @ 08:59 AM EDT (#98360) #
James Vermilyea's line: 1.80 ERA, 20 IP, 14 H, 0 HRA, 2 BB, 35 SO

How much longer to do keep this guy in the the Penn league? He's obviously dominating, so I think they should challenge him at the higher level.
Craig B - Tuesday, July 08 2003 @ 09:38 AM EDT (#98361) #
How much longer to do keep this guy in the the Penn league?

Fearless prediction : Vermilyea in Dundedin by July 15th.
_Brent - Tuesday, July 08 2003 @ 10:49 AM EDT (#98362) #
How much longer to do keep this guy in the the Penn league?

It seems I have a major flaw in my writing, and it is obviously my grammar. I still cannot believe I wrote this sentence, nor can I believe that Craig actually interpreted it. ;)
_John N. - Tuesday, July 08 2003 @ 12:25 PM EDT (#98363) #
(pitching lines: IP H BB K HR, or IP H BB K when I don't have the HR figure at hand)

Scattered thoughts on the Auburn Cartwrights (as they should properly be named):

1. Marcos Sandoval has been promoted to Charleston, where he posted a 5 5 0 5 1 line yesterday.

Sandoval's line in Auburn was 17.2 8 7 13 0: decent, but nothing like Vermilyea's. His previous minor-league stats aren't especially encouraging, so it's not like he was far ahead of Vermilyea to begin with. I'd write "Free Jamie Vermilyea!", but the phrase is getting old.

2. Vermilyea's performance yesterday merited a top-of-the-message note in Kevin Goldstein's BA Prospect Report today.

3. As many commentators have noted, JP's 2003 pitching crop is dominating the NY-Penn league:

Round Pitcher IP H BB K HR
2 Banks 16.67 17 3 20 0
3 Marcum 2.67 2 1 4 0
4 Isenberg 15.67 10 5 15 1
5 James 2.67 8 4 1 1
7 Core 13.67 13 4 14 1
8 Mulholland 3.33 3 0 3 0
9 Vermilyea 20 14 2 35 0
11 Mastny 14 16 3 16 2

Total 88.67 83 22 108 5

Last year's crop did the same:

Round Pitcher IP H BB K HR
2 Bush 35 23 9 48 2
3 Maureau 44 24 12 51 1
4 Peterson 31 29 9 19 2
5 Pleiness 74 48 32 70 2

Total 184 124 62 188 7

(In each case I cut the list off at the first guy who got sent to rookie ball -- Jayson Rodriguez and Brian Grant).

I hope that Banks, Isenberg, Core, and Mastny will follow Vermilyea up the ladder fairly quickly if they continue their success in Auburn. How long must 22-year olds stay on a short-season team playing .762 ball before they adjust to the minors? I think the evidence is in that JP's early-round college pitchers aren't going to find much of a challenge in the NYP league. Vermilyea's line in particular is practically a carbon copy of David Bush's 22 13 7 39 in Auburn last year, and Bush didn't exactly scuffle later on in Dunedin, either in a late-season promotion (13 10 2 9) or in the first few months of 2003 (77 64 9 75 6).

The 2003 pitchers have actually been better than the 2002 hurlers so far:

Year $H $BB $K $HR K/BB
2002 .251 .084 .255 .003 3.03
2003 .330 .059 .291 .013 4.91

Even I will admit that much of the difference in batting average on balls in play has to be chalked up to luck and defence.

While the season is still young in Auburn, JP deserves kudos for picking another fine group of pitchers. And I'll be disappointed if Vermilyea isn't in New Haven by Dominion Day next year.

4. One last Auburn pitcher who has had a good start is Charles Talanoa. A 6'5" 230-pounder chosen out of a community college in the 14th round of the 2000 draft, he had one terrible year (55 65 33 30) and one good year (79.2 77 23 91 6) in Medicine Hat and has started this season with a 17.1 12 7 20 0 line in Auburn. If he survives to pitch in Toronto in 2006 or so, he could be the last gasp of the Ash regime.

The Jays don't have a Cole Hamels or Scott Kazmir in their low minors (although with Vermilyea's 46% strikeout rate...), but they sure do have numbers on their side.
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