Talkin’ Baseball #2 (February 27, 2019)

index

While doing this series, I’m trying to avoid overloading with so much White Sox coverage but considering the topic, I have very little choice right now.

I’m going to have to talk about Manny Machado again.

Not because I want to, but because that seems to be the only thing the Chicago media can focus on. Not Machado, necessarily, but the fact that the White Sox made him an offer and that seems to be tantamount to actually accomplishing something.

I don’t get it. As the old saying goes, “trying is not doing.”

That’s great that the White Sox offered Machado a $250 million deal that could have reached $350 million with various options and incentives. And the Chicago media cannot let that go, it’s like the team just exploded onto the scene because they made an offer in free agency.

I mean, I could have called Machado’s agent and offered him $150 to just stay home for the year. As absurd as that sounds, I could still boast that I had “made an offer.” Would that get me a seat at the big boy table? I doubt it. And making an offer doesn’t have any tangible value.

I preach this a lot, because I lived through it and watched it unfold. In the early 1990s, the Yankees wanted to buy themselves a World Series. They were willing to outspend everybody. They made a mega offer to Barry Bonds, more than he received from the Giants, but he turned it down. They made a mega offer to Greg Maddux, more than he received from the Braves, but he turned it down. Players just didn’t want to play for the Yankees back then. The late 1980s and early 1990s were a dark time for the organization and even overpaying didn’t get them the players that they wanted.

That’s the Chicago White Sox right now. This team is a perennial loser. They haven’t had a winning record since 2012. There is no guarantee they’ll have a winning record anytime soon. Most players want to play for teams that have a chance of winning, because the money will be there one way or another. The White Sox are the laughingstock of baseball, on a number of fronts.

And what bothers me is the fact that some in the media, and a lot of fans, have the audacity to laugh at the San Diego Padres. Really? The Padres are selling the same bill of goods as the White Sox, “yeah, we suck now, but we have a great farm system!” The only difference being that the Padres had a better record in 2018 than the White Sox and the Padres’ minor league system is ranked higher.

I’m not laughing and see nothing there to laugh about.

So the White Sox were basically willing to max out at $250 million for Manny Machado. So the thinking, after he signed with the Padres, turned to Nolan Arenado, scheduled to hit free agency next offseason. He’s older than Machado and definitely takes advantage of the thin air in Colorado (Arenado has a career .320 batting average at home and .263 on the road). Arenado may be defensively superior to Machado but not by a considerable margin. In fact, had Machado played third base exclusively his entire career, it may be a lot closer than you think to compare them from a defensive standpoint.

The point is, Arenado is basically not as good a player, overall, as Manny Machado, and I don’t think anyone would argue that point, especially with Arenado’s inflated numbers playing in Colorado. And Arenado still got a larger contract than the White Sox were willing to offer Machado.

Not only did Machado get $50 million more than the White Sox offered, but Arenado got $10 million more despite being older and just not as good. Let that sink in for a minute.

But the Chicago media doesn’t want to touch that. Oh, the fan blogs do, and they take it to the other extreme, but I prefer to stay in the middle. Yes, the White Sox will sign free agents, eventually. It won’t be Mike Trout or Chris Sale or J.D. Martinez but it may be someone like Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon (though he is rumored to be open to a contract extension with the Nats, which would be the same fly-in-the-ointment as the Arenado extension has turned into for the White Sox.

I think the White Sox took a great deal of care in constructing the rebuild so there is at least the possibility of having a homegrown or acquired minor league prospect at every position going forward. It’s entirely possible that by 2021, the Sox could feature Seby Zavala at catcher, an infield of Gavin Sheets, Nick Madrigal, Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada and an outfield of Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Blake Rutherford, with Micker Adolfo or Zack Collins handling DH duties and a rotation of Carlos Rodon, Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito, with any number of other guys filling in the bullpen (Alec Hansen, Carson Fulmer, Jordan Guerrero, Dane Dunning, Jace Fry, Thyago Vieira, Connor Walsh, Aaron bummer, etc) with Zack Burdi closing. And I think that is not only a worst-case scenario, but a recipe for disaster.

Rick Hahn himself has said he expects only one out of every four prospects to be a MLB regular. I just listed 24 players in the previous paragraph. That means that of those 24, six could become legit MLB contributors. So we figure Jimenez and Cease are the closest things we have to “guarantees.” Madrigal and Robert look solid early in their careers and certainly Kopech and Lopez have had some level of MLB success. In other words, chances are you can take everyone else on that list and scratch them off.

I know there are fans out there that think every one of those guys is going to develop into a superstar; when the end of season awards are announced, it will be a list of 10 White Sox players for AL MVP, the whole starting rotation will finish one through five in AL Cy Young balloting, etc. Yeah, that’s not going to happen. We have already watched Giolito and Fulmer and Moncada struggle mightily at the MLB level, none of the three looked ready but were rushed to The Show for some unknown reason.

The point of that is, you have to acquire some outside, established help. You can’t build a team 100% from prospects and compete. It’s not only impossible, it’s ridiculous.

The White Sox didn’t sign Machado or Harper or Arenado and they’re not going to sign Trout or Sale. So the Chicago media can stop trying to pretend that the White Sox are big players on the free agent stage. But they can supplement what they have and fill holes that prospects can’t fill, so the fans who think the White Sox are completely incapable can stop being ridiculous as well. It’s not all or nothing.

One last thing I want to touch on is the talk of a strike in 2021, which was a hot topic when the top free agents were unsigned. At the time, I kind of understood where the players were coming from, MLB is raking in money, hand over fist, and the players have a right to the biggest share of that pie. Manny Machado just signed a $300 million contract. Nolan Arenado signed a $260 million contract. Bryce Harper will make more than either of them. So the players grievance has suddenly become hollow.

And if Harper signs with the Phillies and it’s more than the $325 million contract that Giancarlo Stanton is currently playing for, that’s gonna make the players look even more ridiculous for even considering a work stoppage. The money is out there, players are just overvaluing themselves. Craig Kimbrel thinks he deserves $100 million to pitch 3 outs a game? The market says no, take the best offer you can get (probably six years at $85 million) and be happy with it. Dallas Keuchel thinks he’s worth a six-year contract? No, you’re on the down side of your career and nothing is going to change that. Take a three-year deal for $45 million and be happy with it. Guys are getting more than they’re worth, statistically.

Hell, Bryce Harper hit .249 last year. For most guys going into free agency, that would be bad news. But for some reason Harper is considered a generational talent. Though I don’t know why.

He only hit seven points higher than Yolmer Sanchez. Yes, I know, the home runs and the walks, but the fact remains, he’s not infallible or miles ahead of anyone else in the game. He’s just “good.”

The numbers are out of control, and I think a player’s strike would be pretty stupid, given the money the players who have signed are getting compared to five years or a decade ago.

And that’s my opinion on everything. Thank you for reading, and God bless.

Advertisements

My Final Analysis Of The Manny Machado/Chicago White Sox Fiasco

Manny-Machado-White-Sox

After what feels like an eternity, we’ve finally reached the end of the road on the Manny Machado Magical Mystery Free Agency Tour. Obviously, it did not end as we all wanted it to, with Manny signing a reasonable contract with the White Sox and taking over at third base. Instead, it ended in a clusterfuck with the White Sox supposedly offering more money in the form of incentives and option years and San Diego Padres finally winning the battle with a straight ten-year, $300 million deal and an opt-out after five years.

Now I could sit and complain and be aggravated that, as usual, the train has left the station and the White Sox are still standing in the baggage area looking stupid. But I’m not going to do that. Do I think adding Machado would have been a coup? Of course. Is it the end of the world? No. We still have a stacked minor league system. The future should be bright, regardless of the fact that Manny won’t be playing on the South Side.

I’m more angry about the fact that the White Sox had the option to spend the kind of money they are rumored to have offered Machado (between $320 and $350 million according to various stories I have read, had he reached his incentives and had his options exercised) but now there isn’t much available to spend that money on. The best option for this team, with a gaping hole at third base, was Mike Moustakas, who took a pitiful $10 million to stay with the Milwaukee Brewers. And given the way their respective stadiums play, Moose may well end up hitting more home runs in 2019 than Machado will. Ouch.

The White Sox have needs. Lots of needs. So far none of the “prospects” that have been called up have come close to meeting expectations, let alone exceeding them. Carson Fulmer, the 8th overall pick in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft, looks like a bust on every level, carrying a 6.68 ERA over 67 1/3 innings at the MLB level and a 5.04 ERA over 319 2/3 innings at the minor league level. Our 2016 first round pick, catcher Zack Collins, has a .232 career batting average over 924 minor league at-bats. The Sox second round pick in 2016 was considered a steal, but rolled up a 6.31 ERA in 14 minor league starts. Of course, our 2017 first round pick, Jake Burger, suffered two Achilles tendon injuries in less than a year. None of these players are close to being MLB contributors.

I would also be remiss not to call out our prospect acquisitions, including the haul from the Chris Sale trade (Yoan Moncada and his .235 batting average and league-leading 217 strikeouts in 2018, as well as Michael Kopech and his Tommy John surgery, which pushes his development back a full year) and the Adam “Dickhead” Eaton trade (Lucas Giolito and his 6.13 ERA over 32 starts, but did lead the team in wins with 10, and Reynaldo Lopez, who looks like the best of the bunch after compiling a 3.91 ERA over 188 innings and looked like a legitimate ace at times). Clearly, this team has a lot of needs.

There is also the possibility that the rookies who have had success at the minor league level won’t translate that success to the big league level. Moncada was once considered the top prospect in baseball. At this time, Eloy Jimenez is considered the third-best prospect in baseball, but what if he also hits in the .230s? None of these prospects are guaranteed stars, if any player came close, it would have been Moncada, who was the consensus best prospect and considered the front-runner for AL Rookie Of The Year in 2017.

A year, incidentally, in which he hit .231 in 54 games at the MLB level.

The White Sox need way more than one $300 million player. The only OF spot that seems secure at this moment is CF, where Gold Glove finalist Adam Engel hit .235 but did hit a robust .260 in the second half. Left field awaits Jimenez. Right field belongs to Jon Jay, who, despite whatever spin the White Sox front office wants to put on it, was signed to help lure Manny Machado. The only possible power option with a track record in the OF is Daniel Palka, who will more than likely regress and is more of a left-handed platoon DH option than a full-time starting outfielder. Like I said, this team has needs.

The starting pitching simply swapped Big Lame James Shields for Ivan Nova. Nova is an upgrade in that he has FAR superior control to Big Lame James, but is also susceptible to the home run ball. The bullpen, on the other hand, did get a bit of a makeover and should be the strength of the team. But you have to get late in the game with a lead for that to matter, and as of now, I don’t know where the runs are going to come from.

While I’d love to see the White Sox be a year-in, year-out contender, not only in the standings but also in the free agent pool, at this point I just think it’s better to tone it down a tad. A 100-loss team like the White Sox, with little improvement throughout the roster and probably staring down another 100 loss season, doesn’t need a $300 million player right now. That’s like putting $3,000 Vossen rims on my 1992 Jeep Cherokee Sport.

At this point, I would like to see the White Sox sign another free agent starter (Gio Gonzalez?) and take the ball out of Dylan Covey’s hand every fifth day because we already know what Covey’s capable of (5.18 ERA over 21 starts and six relief appearances). A power upgrade in the OF would also be a blessing (Adam Jones?).

In closing, yes, I’m disappointed that we didn’t sign Machado. I’m disappointed that we won’t sign Bryce Harper and that next year we won’t sign Nolan Arenado. Who may not even make it to the free agent market anyway. I’m annoyed that we’re coming out on the short end of the stick, as usual. Especially if the Phillies sign Harper, we’ll be the only team that was in on both, and the only team that came out with absolutely nothing to show for it. Of course, if you scroll back you’ll see that three months ago I said this would be the end result, so I was mentally prepared for it, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

I’ll suffer through another poor season with my Sox friends and in a couple of years, if everything breaks right, we’ll be celebrating a nice window of contention where we could be seeing a Sox World Series win at any time. And we’ll forget this point in time ever happened. And it will all be worth it. So here’s to that day. GO GO WHITE SOX!

Some Changes I Would Like To See To The MLB The Show Video Game Franchise

Untitled

I had hoped this blog would be about the start of Spring Training and the final destination of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, but since that never-ending saga is, well, never-ending, I figured I would take the time to address something else that’s been on my mind lately: The state of the MLB The Show PlayStation franchise.

I began playing the Sony MLB offering back when it was known simply as MLB, in 2000, which featured Mo Vaughn on the cover (apparently in those days it was easier to get an Angels player on the cover than it is now, since Mike Trout is clearly this generation’s Mickey Mantle). In those days, the game was stripped down to the absolute minimum, no franchise mode, a “minor league” system that amounted to three players per team, etc.

Prior to owning a PlayStation, my game of choice was Ken Griffey Jr.’s Winning Run for the Super Nintendo, back in the days of games that either featured real players and was sponsored by the MLBPA but had no real teams or games that featured real teams and was sponsored by MLB but featured no real players. KGJWR featured all the real MLB teams but with made-up player names, including “Big Magoo” in place of Frank Thomas with the White Sox.

Going back even further, my game of choice was Baseball Stars on the NES. Most people seemed to prefer the RBI Baseball series because it was licensed by the MLBPA, but I liked Baseball Stars because it was completely programmable. You could create your own team, players and league as well as having the ability to trade players. Back in 1993, in the days before the current generation of fantasy baseball or games like The Show, a friend of mine and I spent a whole weekend holding a player draft, creating a team, creating a minor league team, and playing a full season on Baseball Stars. It was a lot of work but definitely a lot of fun in the end.

When I bought MLB The Show 07 (featuring David Wright on the cover) for the PlayStation 2, I was dumbfounded. I thought it was everything I could ever want in a baseball video game. Real teams and players, just like the previous generation simply known as the “MLB” series, but with real expanded minor league teams and league rules, to an extent.

Now, I need to point out that, of all the gameplay options on The Show, I am a Franchise guy. I like the concept of playing GM better than the Road To The Show option (where you create yourself as a player and work your way through the system). I also don’t bother with all the bells and whistles including the card collecting and that kind of thing. I’m a baseball card collector in real life and have an extensive collection, I don’t need to collect “pretend” cards.

This is not a complaint, I have no issue with this being part of the experience, but it brings me to my first issue with the MLB The Show series:

Make Different Versions Highlighting Different Aspects Of The Game

As it is now, you can buy three different versions (though I’m cheating a bit because one is an online version and two are physical versions) but why not make MLB The Show: Franchise, where you can play the game in franchise or season mode, without all the extra card collecting and packs and stubs and things that I have no interest in.

Make a second version, or even an expansion pack, featuring the cards and all the extras that have nothing to do with playing baseball.

Release The Game When Spring Training Begins

As one who enjoys playing Spring Training games, there’s no reason why, in this day and age, the game can’t be released a month early. With downloadable patches and rosters, the game could be updated throughout Spring Training and give games like me a chance to play the Spring Training games in real time, with up to date rosters, which I do anyway because I spend the winter updating rosters on the previous year’s game, then I play Spring Training through and then transfer my saves to the NEW game once it’s released near Opening Day.

As an example, Madden NFL 19 was released on August 10, 2018. The NFL season didn’t begin until September 6. The preseason began on August 2 with the Hall Of Fame game. Why can’t Sony release The Show on a similar schedule as EA releases Madden?

Make Saved Rosters Transferable

I do my updates on saved rosters. It would make the game a lot more easy to play if I could just transfer those rosters to the next year’s game like I can transfer my season or franchise saves. This seems like a no-brainer to me, considering that, when you transfer franchise saves, the roster is going along with it, it’s just not transferable individually.

Work on that.

Upgrade The Managerial And Coach Hiring Options In Franchise Mode

While you can trade players from one team to another, and sign free agents, you cannot hire another team’s manager or hitting coach or pitching coach. That is ABSURD. Instead, you have the option of hiring your manager and staff from a list of computer-generated made-up names. There is NO excuse for this. The option to hire another team’s coach should be no different than signing another team’s free agents, it should be part of the experience.

Allow Non-Roster Invitees During Spring Training In Franchise Mode

This could be a little trickier but certainly not at all impossible. As each team has it’s MLB roster, AAA roster, AA roster and A roster, add a roster of NRI’s for spring training that can be added to the main roster if need be and released to the free agent pool if you decide not to keep them. Once the regular season rosters are set, the NRI roster would just disappear until the end of the season. There are a huge number of available free agents on the game, so this isn’t impossible by any stretch, and it would add another level of realism.

Make Regional Or Downloadable Covers For Each Team

Too much is made of the cover athlete and this year showed just exactly what a clusterfuck that can turn into. We’re six weeks from launch day and have no idea where the cover athlete will be playing. Why not make regional covers that are available nationwide via purchase from GameStop and Walmart and Target online? Or, even better, have a generic cover or a “legends” cover and make 30 different team covers available for download on the official Show website. I have made my own custom covers three times over the years, it’s not rocket science. If you can make 30 team custom themes for the PS4, I’m sure you can produce custom downloadable covers.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the game and I can deal with not having these options available but, for how little it would really take to make these few alterations, why not do it? Too much time is spent on “1,300 new defensive animations” when, does that really matter? I mean, you make a great catch, but in the long run does the style of the animation of that catch really make that big of a difference in the gameplay aspect? Or is it a wig for a bald personality? It’s just a catch. Basically, what I’m saying is the game needs more steak, not more sizzle.

I love MLB The Show, and it’s a hell of a lot better than lining up Big Magoo to play first base for the White Sox on Ken Griffey Jr.’s Winning Run or having no options to make trades or transactions on the old RBI Baseball series on the NES.

But it could be improved. Let’s work on that.
Peace.