11th and Washington

11th and Washington: November 2005

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Is Beckett deal the beginning of the Marlins' end?

I think, on the eve of the 2008 season, as the Las Vegas franchise prepares for its first season after relocating from Miami, the retrospective columns will look back upon this Thanksgiving week as the beginning of the Marlins' quick downward spiral. Yesterday's trade that sent Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston for shortstop Hanley Ramirez and two other prospects will be seen as the start of the series of events that sent the club on its westward journey. In two short years -- and 50 years after the Dodgers and Giants left New York -- we'll likely be talking about the Marlins' impending move during this holiday week.

As for the current team, Carlos Delgado will be the next to go, probably Juan Pierre after that (to one of the teams that loses out on Johnny Damon). That may be enough of a payroll cut for this season. They won't trade Dontrelle Willis or Miguel Cabrera because they're not owned by the other 29 owners and if Jeffrey Loria decides to sell, he'll need some superstars to keep the value at a decent level. Either that, or he'll need the star power to convince Las Vegas -- or Charlotte or Mexico City or perhaps even Portland, Oregon -- to build a ballpark for him.

At least Loria won't have to worry about spending too much on top free agents -- after this off-season, there won't be many players who want to come to South Florida.

Can the Mets get Delgado? The fact that the teams are in the same division shouldn't matter, as Murray Chass points out. It's not like the Marlins will be competitive enough to be in a "rivalry" with the Mets the next two or three years. Besides, they've done it before, agreeing to pay a good chunk of Mike Hampton's salary when they acquired him from the Rockies and then sent him on to the Braves.

I think, in the end, the Mets will make the move for Delgado. Chass notes that Manny Ramirez can veto any trade now that he's a 10-and-5 player, so despite Ramirez's superior numbers, there are several reasons why Delgado may be a better buy: He's cheaper (per season), he's left-handed, he plays a position of need in New York and the Mets won't have to convince him to play right field, as they will have to do with Cliff Floyd or Ramirez (provided Floyd isn't dealt to Boston in order to get Manny).

It would probably take Yusmerio Petit to get Delgado, but he might be the only big chip or top prospect they'd have to deal. Add in Steve Trachsel (at, I believe, just $2.5 million next year) and you give Florida a solid veteran replacement for Beckett. Considering the apparent depth of pitching prospects the Mets have (Matt Peterson, Brian Bannister, Philip Humber, Mike Pelfrey if he signs), not to mention the emergence of Jae Seo and Aaron Heilman last season and a relatively young Kris Benson, dealing Petit shouldn't deplete them too much. I don't know that he's even the most major-league ready of all the prospects.

In spring training 2004, the Mets wouldn't deal Jose Reyes or Scott Kazmir for Alfonso Soriano, and it appears that stance will hold up as a good assessment of the players' abilities. (Though somewhere between March and July of that year, they somehow decided that while Soriano wasn't worth Kazmir, Victor Zambrano was. Which brings up another idea: Throw in Zambrano for Delgado.) And there was no way they were dealing David Wright, either. (The best assessment of them all.)

But for Carlos Delgado, I'll take the chance that Petit could become Scott Kazmir. At least Delgado has proven himself as a major-league slugger during the past 10 seasons, whereas Zambrano proved that he was an underachieving arm who couldn't catch up to his potential, even if that potential was blown out of proportion.

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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Why not Thome to the Bronx?

I'm a little surprised that no one talked about a trade of Jim Thome to the Yankees. It's very likely that someone has and I've missed it, but to me it seems obvious enough for one of the teams to at least consider it, though both probably should. The Yankees can take on Thome's salary without any problems, and the Phillies might still be willing to pay some portion of it just to open the spot for Ryan Howard at first base. New York, of course, can use a first baseman to put Jason Giambi at DH now that they've declined the option on Tino Martinez's contract.

The Yankees have never been afraid of big contracts and have been willing to give questionable guys a second chance. Granted, those questions in the past were drugs and other off-the-field indiscretions (Steve Howe, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden), but if George Steinbrenner can forgive various illegal actions for a guy with ability and potential, why can't he do the same for a guy with the same ability and potential whose questions are physical health rather than mental.

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Six-for-six on awards picks.

Six for six. That'd be a pretty good day at the plate. It's also not a bad showing in predicting the 2005 Baseball Writers' Association of America awards.

Admittedly, the two toughest to predict will be announced next week: American League Most Valuable Player on Monday and the NL version on Tuesday. But though I was confident in my selections for American and National League Rookies of the Year, I don't think they were slam dunks.

Now, as far as today's announcement of Chris Carpenter as the NL Cy Young winner, I think we see just how much two things matter in the minds of the writers: total wins and team wins. Both Cy Young winners topped 20 wins and pitched for division champions.

As for the Carpenter vs. Dontrelle Willis debate, the Marlins left-hander may have won one more game with an ERA .20 lower than Carpenter's figure, but there were four other significant categories in which Carpenter had clearly better numbers: winning percentage (.808-.688), strikeout-to-walk ratio (4:18-2:93), batting average against (.231-.243) and WHIP (1.06-1.13). As for the last one, say what you want about fantasy baseball stats, but walks plus hits divided by innings pitched is not only a good indication of a pitcher's average inning-by-inning effectiveness, but also a figure that has, more and more, been cited in mainstream baseball reporting.

I just took ESPN.com's poll on the awards and find it interesting that the top three results, at least as of this posting, reflect the actual voting of the BBWAA for AL Cy Young, NY Cy Young and AL Manager. And the NL Manager results only differed in that the writers think more of Tony La Russa's second straight 100-win season and 11-game division runaway than the fans do. They, as I was, were more impressed with Phil Garner's turnaround of the Astros' season (I picked him to be second; he was actually third). SportsNation also gave Frank Robinson heavy props for getting the Nationals off to a fast start, giving him enough votes to rank third, ahead of LaRussa. Or maybe the nation just finds Tony LaRussa annoying.

Even though four of the six awards in the poll have been announced, ESPN continues to run the poll and ask for America's opinion. ("America voted ...") Because the poll is apparently asking the country whom they think should win the award as a fan's opinion rather than a question of how they think the awards will actually turn out, it should remain open for votes. But if there are people out there voting after the fact and selecting the actual winners where that applies, that will obviously skew the results a little bit. But with 37,521 votes cast as of 2:43 p.m. ET (about 2,000 more than were posted 10 minutes earlier), I think the sample size will balance out those votes that are influenced by the announcements already made.

Now we're down to just two. After the MVP annoucements next week, we'll once and for all put the 2005 season behind us and, with the Winter Meetings coming up in early December, start to turn our attention full-bore to 2006.

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