Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Spare Me

Spare me the holier-than-thou foreground noise coming out of Arlington, TX, Boston, MA, New York, NY, and points N, S, E and W. A-Rod cheated!!?? What will be revealed next?

It is reasonable to conclude the majority of major league ballplayers who dreamed of hitting home runs or throwing the ball over 90 MPH experimented with or used PED's throughout the final decades of the last millennium or the first few years of this one. It is equally reasonable to assume the people who owned or own baseball teams and wrote about or commented on the players on these teams were equally aware of their use, condoned it or at a minimum winked and looked the other way.

So, spare me the shock and outrage. And spare me the instant polls on websites asking people without a HOF vote whether this player or that one should be denied entrance. And let's get serious about records, to wit, which years should we subtract from Barry Bonds' output? Should we now throw out all of A-Rods' records between 2000 - 2003? And how about Brady Anderson's 52-home run season? Should it be expunged? How many wins did Roger Clemens pile up while on the juice?

Of course it stinks that these guys and hundreds of others sought some advantage. The problem is how to neutralize those advantages after the fact. It cannot be done in any official way. Instead, we will have to rely on public opinion minus the posturing, which is heavily against players like Bonds, who refuse to fess up. Some have suggested reinstating Hank Aaron as the all-time home run king. In many peoples' minds he still is the legitimate title holder.

That is all we can expect.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Fooled Me More Than Once

It can be reasonably concluded I don't have my finger on Ryan Howard's pulse. The big man fooled me and, I presume, a lot of other people when he signed a three year, $54 million contract with the Phillies yesterday. The caption beneath his picture on the front page of today's Inquirer read For the next three seasons, the Phillies’ Ryan Howard won’t have the specter of arbitration hanging over him. Somehow, the "specter" of signing increasingly stratospheric one year contracts didn't seem all the onerous to me, which is why I assumed Howard would never agree to a multi-year deal. That and the sometimes rancorous undertones flowing from his family suggested Howard would "settle" for somewhere between $14 and $18 million this year and, depending on his production the coming season, another hefty raise each of the following two years leading up to free agency. I must assume $18 million a year for three years looked pretty good to him. It sure looks good to the rest of us I dare say. I must also conclude he likes his teammates and their chances to contend if not repeat.

The deal is a shrewd one by today's skewed standards and a triumph for new GM Ruben Amaro. Howard was going to earn big money this coming season; of this there was no doubt. At age 29 he is probably entering his prime. Given his body type it is difficult to know with any certainty how long those prime years will last; however, three years is sufficient time for him and the Phillies to find out. Amaro deftly avoided the potential albatross of a longer-term deal while concluding an off-season in which he further cemented the very solid foundation of the team he inherited by signing most of its core to multi-year deals.

Despite all of these positive developments, the Phillies enter the season with a few serious question marks. Chief among these is a lineup that is way too left-handed and a bullpen that is way too right-handed. Whatever your cup of tea, old school or sabremetrics, those imbalances must be addressed. The other question mark regards the starting rotation. Though well-balanced between righties and lefties, it's ultimate success will rely on which Brett Myers shows up, how well Joe Blanton does over the course of a full season, how much more gas Jamie Moyer has in his tank and the continued health of ace Cole Hamels.

The only other major worry looming large is the recovery of Chase Utley from serious off-season surgery. The Phillies cannot win without a healthy Utley. Still, one has to like the chances for this club.