Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Major League Baseball Talk - January 4th

I know none of you come here to read my thoughts on college football, but I’m sitting here watching the Orange Bowl, and I just have to say SOMETHING.

The prevailing theme of the game, up until the end of regulation, was “wow, Florida State doesn’t have their shit together.” Twelve penalties for 131 yards, a botched extra point, and a complete inability to run the ball defined FSU for the game, so it made perfect sense when they couldn’t even march the correct personnel onto the field for Penn State’s final drive.

(Also, a holding call turned a first and ten from the 13 into a second and 23 from the 28 in OT, which resulted in a missed field goal. It just never ends with Florida State.)

But even as Florida State bumbled around like Panamanians on a battlefield, Penn State still managed to blow it, as their freshman kicked missed a chip shot from 29. And as I type this, he’s lining up for a 38-yarder, which he missed just as badly as Florida State kicker’s previous attempt.

The real question here is: do either of these teams deserve to win? Can’t we send them both home losers?

My first thought after Gary Cismesia missed his second field goal in OT: "well, at least this guy made his game-tying kick in regulation." Can’t say that for Kevin Kelly, who is one missed field goal away from getting the Bucky Dent/Aaron Boone treatment.

And if anyone caught Mike Tirico’s "season of restoration…devastation" bit at the end of the game, I’m willing to bet it he spent 30 man hours conjuring it up.

Now to baseball, where I will completely change the mood of this piece because I wrote the preceding diatribe after I wrote the rest of it.

Oh ESPN, you – like Peter Angelos – slay me. Only the worldwide leader would start off an article on a free-agent signing like this (emphasis added):

The Houston Astros agreed to a $4 million, one-year contract Tuesday with outfielder Preston Wilson, hoping to bolster an offense that was one of baseball's worst last season.

The right-handed Wilson hit .260 (editor’s note: with a below league average .325 OBP) with 25 home runs and 90 RBI with Colorado and Washington last season. He also struck out 148 times.

Houston made the World Series despite batting .256, 13th among the 16 NL teams. The Astros hit .203 in the World Series and were swept by the Chicago White Sox.

And just because ESPN pisses me off more and more every day, a copy error (which very well could be corrected by the time you read this):

Wilson has played primarily center field, where Willy Taveras started last season. Wilson batted .291 and stole 34 bases, finishing second to Philadelphia's Ryan Howard in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.

So let’s get this straight. The Astros hit .256/.322/.408 last year, and expect to immediately improve with the addition of a player who hit .260/.325/.467. What will that slight bump in slugging percentage add, maybe a win or two?

To be clear, I understand the signing. Bringing in Wilson gives the Astros a bit more depth, a valuable commodity as we’ve learned from the Yankees. What I don’t understand is the hyped up press release. Realistically, Wilson might not even be starting for the ‘Stros.

Think about it. Berkman will move back to the outfield to make way for Bagwell at first. That makes the outfield Berkman, Tavares, and any one of Wilson, Jason Lane, or Chris Burke. We’ll forget Burke for the time being, since his stats are rather atrocious. Lane’s line from 2005, however, was .267/.316/.499, very comparable to Mr. Wilson. Hence, Wilson provides no real upgrade.

That is, unless Bagwell goes down with another injury, forcing Berkman back to first and a Wilson-Tavares-Lane outfield. So in essence, Wilson is a Bagwell/Lane/Tavares insurance plan. The press release would have you think otherwise.

A sure sign you know your team sucks: Jeromy Burnitz spurns you to sign with the Pirates. Last week, we all figured that the Orioles had secured the whiffing right fielder. And by all indications, the Orioles brass had figured that, too. But news broke late Monday and carried all the way through Tuesday that Burnitz was on the brink of a deal with Pittsburgh.

I’m not familiar with the logic of Jeromy Burnitz, but I figure his decision must have come after a revelation of sorts. Maybe he figured that the Orioles aren’t going to do jack this year, and that any sub-par performance would be amplified, a la Sammy Sosa. So why put yourself in such a tight situation? Why not sign with a team making a few quiet moves over the off-season like the Pirates? If Burnitz fizzles out there, it’s fine. He’s old, and it’s not like the Pirates are expected to do much of anything this year, off-season moves or not.

And, from a biased standpoint, this move looks even better since it potentially frees up Craig Wilson for a trade, hopefully with the Yankees. Cashman preaches roster flexibility, and Wilson provides depth at first base, corner outfield positions, and DH. And since he’ll make between $3 and $4 mil via arbitration, the Pirates would likely take someone like Proctor for him. Scott Proctor for Craig Wilson: do it every time.

I know this news is a few days old, but I just have to weigh in on Tejada being more upset that the Orioles haven’t beefed up their lineup over the off-season. Apparently, Miggy doesn’t pay attention to the papers or anything, or he’d know that the Orioles tried to retain B.J. Ryan (RE-jected) as well as sign A.J. Burnett (DE-nied). They also made a run at Johnny Damon (SPURNED!), Paul Konerko (shyeah, right), and were in talks for Manny Ramirez and Mark Prior (though both of those deals involved Tejada, so I guess they don’t count).

Basically, Tejada is flipping out because he made a decision based on money when he signed with the Orioles in 2004. And now he’s pissed off because he makes a lot of money on a crappy team. Well boo-friggin-hoo, Miggy. Remember, you have no leverage in demanding a trade. So shut up and play for the crappy Orioles. Because in reality, they aren’t going to trade you.