One again...Lord Stanley Resides In The Windy City.
One again...Lord Stanley Resides In The Windy City.
He is the face of a franchise with no soul.
It's the perfect role for Adrian Gonzalez.
You can take the man out of San Diego, but you apparently can't take the laissez-faire SoCal nonchalance out of the player who is quickly becoming the maddening, non-charismatic answer to JD Drew.
Just not in God's plan, I guess.
Oftentimes, it can be a stretch to criticize a baseball player's fire and desire, the patient game not exactly on par with the passion exhibited in other sports. But this guy is a wonder.
Has there ever been a more forgettable MVP campaign in recent memory than what Gonzalez gave the Red Sox last season? One-plus seasons into his Boston contract, is it realistic to add the first baseman to the elongated list of colossal Theo Epstein blunders the former GM orchestrated before escaping the increasing disaster that is this franchise?
Yesterday was probably the worst game of Gonzalez's career, an epic 0-8 afternoon with a pair of strikeouts in Boston's 9-6, 17-inning loss to the surprising Baltimore Orioles. After the game, the stand-up Gonzalez defended his performance by slinking away, refusing to answer any questions from reporters, just what you want from a $154 million franchise cornerstone, and supposed leader.
For the second time in a week, Gonzalez's failure to come through in the clutch spoke volumes about the man's charisma. Think about it. Gonzalez struck out against Orioles DH Chris Davis on three pitches. That's almost impossible to fathom, isn't it?
In the end, the Sox fell to 11-16 on the young season, 7 ½ games in back of the 19-9 Orioles. They are just four wins up on the 7-20 Minnesota Twins for the worst record in Major League Baseball.
What a disaster. An unmitigated disaster.
The fact that Gonzalez refused to answer any inquisitions about his failures yesterday is simply the perfect way to sum up what this team has become. It's one thing to fall apart, it's something else to not stand up for your actions. The Red Sox are in freefall mode, losers of five in a row, and when it comes time to face the music, their star player plays coward.
That's your 2012 Boston Red Sox.
They are a completely unlikable failure of a team, a roster built with players few fans can figure out and bloated, overrated egos. Ben Cherington should get credit for attempting to fix the team that collapsed in historic fashion one year ago, but the damage has been done. The Red Sox are in deep trouble, and thanks to ridiculous decisions about Carl Crawford, John Lackey, and yes, Adrian Gonzalez, it's a sinkhole that doesn't seem like it's going to get better any time soon.
Gonzalez is a heck of a ballplayer, and perhaps he'll even rebound from one of the worst starts of his career.
But he doesn't belong here.
Not even two months into his second season here, that's becoming more and more evident. A player's "comfort" can be somewhat overrated in sports. Each person carries himself a different way, whether or not it's effective in different markets and lifestyles is another matter entirely.
Adrian Gonzalez is signed through 2018. There's no way he's here through then.
One has to wonder if he ever really mentally got here. He's totally unprepared for what it means to be a team leader in a place like Boston.
He is perhaps the most boring superstar in the game, and now it appears he's running away from the heat. Maybe he should take a breath and dash for it.
Like back to sunny San Diego.
Starlin Castro is Good at Baseball.
During his chat last Wednesday, Dave Cameron ranked the top MLB shortstops as Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Reyes, and then a huge chasm before the next best guy. As we are no longer in the era of offensive shortstops, the guys who can swing a big stick like Tulo really stand out from the crowd. I agree with Dave for the most part, but there is one guy I would add to that list who is quickly closing the gap on Reyes: Starlin Castro.
Castro doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention other than when he is screwing up, but he is one of the best young pure hitters in the game. There have been a lot of knocks on Castro thus far in his young career which has led to the lack of respect. His defense is suspect at best, he doesn’t walk much and there have been some attitude/effort problems. These are legitimate concerns. Talented players can wash out if they don’t have their head screwed on straight, and he loses some serious value if he has to move off shortstop.
My counter-argument to these points: Through his age 21 season he posted a 103 wRC+ across 1221 PA. Troy Tulowitzki was still wearing a Long Beach State Dirtbags uniform at the same age. To put that in perspective, only 47 players since the deadball era have even accumulated 1000 PA before their age 22 season, let alone post above league average offensive numbers. Among these 47 players, Castro’s 103 wRC+ mark comes in at #29. I’ll let you take a guess at how many of the guys above him did it at shortstop.
Obviously all of these players were better hitters than Castro at the same age, but that list includes five Hall of Famers (assuming induction for Rodriguez and Griffey), which is impressive considering center fielders are notoriously underrepresented in Cooperstown.
I’m not trying to predict future greatness for Castro here. There are a lot of variables at play. If he can’t stick at shortstop much longer, as many scouts suspect, he isn’t quite as special. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate what he is doing right now. Sure, his play on defense is at times laughable, but since he stepped foot on at MLB diamond at age 20 in 2010, only five shortstops have posted a higher wRC+ than him. He also does it in an exciting way. I appreciate the value of a walk as much as the next fan, but there is something to be said for a guy who puts the ball in play 80% of the time, with 20.3% of those being line drives and only 6.2% as infield flies. Add 16 triples, 64 stolen base attempts and .308 average into the mix, and he is a fun guy to watch at the ballpark. If I’m a GM trying to win a World Series, I probably want Andrus due to his stellar fielding and plate discipline, but if I’m Joe Sixpack heading out to the park, an afternoon in the bleachers at Wrigley watching Castro hone his craft sounds like a pretty good time.
So far in this young season, Castro has posted a .359 wOBA on the strength of a .392 BABIP. While this is high for a guy even with Castro’s swing and speed, he has shown that he can operate comfortably in the .340-.350 range. ZiPS projects a rest of season wOBA of .338, which would put him right around last season’s production. Given his age and the fact that his plate discipline numbers can’t get any worse, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him best that projected mark.
As a guy who relies on his batting average to maintain most of his value, Castro isn’t exactly a SABR darling, but value comes in many packages, and Castro is an example of how a high-contact/low-walk approach at the plate can still produce a valuable player.
Andre Ethier will be the first major question for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ new ownership. The 30-year-old outfielder will become a free-agent at the end of the season, and he has recently indicated that he would be willing to sign an extension with the club.
Since 2006, Ethier has emerged as a mainstay in the Dodgers’ outfield, and he has become one of their most integral players — along with Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw. At the same time, Ethier will be a year older next season, and the team may not be willing to commit a substantial amount of money to a player entering his decline phase. But some other team will. And if Ethier is allowed to hit free-agency, there’s a good chance he’ll get the contract he desires.
Ethier has reportedly been looking for a deal that might exceed $100 million. But when we look at some comparable players, it’s tough to find another player that commanded that type of money on the free-agent market.
Nick Markakis, Alex Rios and Nick Swisher each signed extensions before hitting free-agency — none of which were anywhere close to $100 million. Ichiro was given a five-year, $90 million contract extension, but he was entering his age-34 season and he was one of baseball’s best players before he signed the deal.
There’s one player on the list who is somewhat similar to Ethier, and another player who isn’t on the list because he became a full-time first baseman by the time he hit free-agency. Both Magglio Ordonez and Adam Dunn each reached free-agency at the same age as Ethier. All of the players were exceptional hitters, but they struggled defensively in the outfield. As a result, Dunn became a full-time first baseman with the Washington Nationals — and he only received a four-year, $56 million deal with the Chicago White Sox. That’s a major difference from what Ethier is asking for. While there hasn’t been talk about moving Ethier to first base, his defense could force the issue in a few seasons.
Ordonez, on the other hand, makes for a pretty interesting comparison. Though he was coming off a devastating knee injury, the right-fielder signed a five-year, $85 million contract with Detroit . Ethier could use that deal as a benchmark — then point to a better market today — and demand somewhere near the $100 million he wants.
Another interesting player ranks a little lower on the list: During the same time period, Jayson Werth accumulated just 12.4 WAR. After two more seasons of strong production, Werth snagged a seven-year, $126 million contract from the Washington Nationals. Some folks have speculated that Ethier will look for a similar contract, but that notion seems crazy.
Werth’s deal was seen as a huge overpay by the Nationals at the time — and it’s going to be incredibly hard for Ethier to convince a team to give him that type of money. Werth was a year older when he signed his deal, but he was coming off three consecutive seasons with at least 5 WAR and was regarded as a strong defender.
That’s what’s going to make Ethier’s next contract so interesting. No one can argue with his offensive production with the Dodgers: He has hit .291/.364/.479 since 2006. But his defense limits his ceiling. Because of that, Ethier has consistently been pretty good, but he has never great. And while he has posted a yearly WAR total of about 3 each season, he has never be able to top 3.5 during a single season. His 5.3 UZR actually rated alright last season, but his career -27.9 UZR tells us much more about his defense. Since his defense is unlikely to improve with age, it should be a major concern for any team looking to sign Ethier this off-season.
While first base might hide some concerns, we’ve seen how much it can affect players on the free-agent market. At this point, Ethier needs to separate himself from Dunn as much as possible if he wants to make $100 million — but there’s no way a team will give him the deal that Werth signed.
If Ethier hopes to make the money he wants, he’ll be best off matching Ordonez’s previous production and then using Werth’s contract to illustrate how much the market has changed. While the dollar figures are debatable, one thing is certain: Ethier will cash in on the open market.
Late last week the Yankees (and really all of baseball) got some bad news when Mariano Rivera tore his right ACL shagging fly balls before Thursday’s game. It’s been part of his pre-game routine throughout his entire professional career, but it wasn’t until now that he took a misstep and hurt himself seriously. Rivera did announce that he will return to pitch next year — “I am coming back. Write it down in big letters … I’m not going out like this,