MLB fails to award a Gold Glove to a Third Baseman this year

The Gold Glove Award given to Eric Chavez for ...
The Gold Glove Award given to Eric Chavez for his performance during the 2005 season (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know what you are thinking,  “But, Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado were awarded the  Gold Glove for third base this year?”  Please allow me to explain:

Both Arenado and Machado are Shortstops playing third base.  Both players were drafted a SS and only moved to the third because their teams have incumbents in Matt Hardy and Troy Tulowitzki.

3rd base is a corner infield position, which means traditionally, teams try to play good hitting middle of the order batters there.   The top hitters at third base this year were guys like Cabrera, Donaldson, Beltre, Longoria and our own Ryan Zimmerman.  Longoria and Zim are exceptional at their position because they are both won gold glove winners and Silver Sluggers.  What we have with Machado and Arenado are two one dimensional players playing out of position.

This is going to come as a surprise to to some O’s fans to find out that Machado finished the season 1% above league average.

Name wRC+ Rank
Ryan Zimmerman 125 6
Manny Machado 101 14
Nolan Arenado 79 20
Anthony Rendon 100 16

I added in Anthony Rendon just for kicks to demonstrate how Rendon and Machado ended up hitting about the same after adjusting for park factors and things like OBP.

Both Machado and Arenado scored very high on UZR/150 and deserved the gold glove (Juan Uribe might argue).  One of the quirks of  UZR is it compares a fielder to other fielders at the same position.  This is another way of saying that a plus fielder can really stand out at third, where a short stop is needs to be a very good fielder to even step foot over there.

My point is this: Machado, if he were a short stop would be a Top 5 hitter (Desmond is still better) and Arenado would be around average.  At third, these guys are strangely positioned for their skill set, but …. they were rewarded for it.

Matt Williams and the Mitchell Report

Some counsel from Matt Williams
Some counsel from Matt Williams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Matt Williams hit 378 home runs and compiled 1218 RBI during his 17-year career spanning from 1987-2003.  He made 4 all-star teams and finished in the top 6 in the MVP voting 4 times. He played in 5 postseasons, including 2 World Series. As a Diamondback, he earned a World Series ring during the classic 7-game series against the New York Yankees. 

Matt Williams had a great, but short of a Hall-of-Fame, career.  Indeed, he received only 1.3% of the vote his first time on the ballot in 2009.

It’s probably just as well Matt Williams fell just short of Hall-of-Fame numbers because he wouldn’t be elected anyway.  In 2007, he was one of 89 MLB players named in the Mitchell Report, the league’s official investigation into performance enhancing drugs.

Here’s what the Mitchell Report had to say about Williams:

the San Francisco Chronicle reported that retired infielder Matt Williams purchased human growth hormone, steroids, syringes, and other drugs from the Palm Beach Rejuvination Center in 2002, when he was playing with the Arizona Diamondbacks…According to the article, Palm Beach Rejuvination Center records show that on March 9, 2002, Williams ordered $5,693 of testosterone cypionate, human growth hormone, clomiphene, Novarel, and syringes, and on May 8, 2002, Williams ordered $6,000 worth of testostorone cypionate, nandrolone, clomiphene, Novarel, and syringes….The article reported that Williams admitted that a doctor told him that human growth hormone might help him heal from an ankle injury that he suffered in 2002…

 Williams did not deny the allegations.  After the publication of the Mitchell Report, Williams reiterated that he took the substances on the advice of a doctor, and discontinued their use the following season.

Matt Williams played in the steroid era.  He is far from the only former player his age to have performance enhancing drugs on his resume.  The former players of the previous generation, Davey Johnson among them, did not have to answer questions about their drug use.  Matt Williams is the next generation–the tainted generation.  This is the new normal.

Nationals set to hire Matt Williams as new manager (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)

@algaldi has a great baseball show on Saturday morning, but he continues to be obsessed by Jayson Werth’s contract

On Saturday morning WTEM has a baseball show hosted by Al Galdi, that does a real good job at covering Nationals and O’s news of the week.  One of the thing that continues to bother me about Galdi is his infatuation with the Jayson Werth contract.  Late in the show he did a segment about Jayson Werth which was great , because he deserves the recognition for the season he had this year.  I have yet to hear Galdi talk about Werth without bringing up his contract.  It always sounds something like JaysonWerthsevenyears126million had a good year.  So, I challenged him on it after his show on twitter:

My point was pretty straight forward: This year there is a very good case to be made that Werth was the best hitter in the National League.  You would expect the best hitter in the National League to be well compensated wouldn’t you?  Isn’t he performing exactly like Rizzo said he would when he was signed.  The 2013 season was his best hitting season, better than any he had in Philly.  He is one of those players that is peaking late in his career.

Galdi is not wrong about a 38 year old Werth. It is hard to imagine the he will duplicate the 2013 year numbers the last year of his contract.  The point is, he put up elite level numbers now, that is the price of elite free agents.  The Nats believe his intelligent approach to the game will allow him to have a long productive career.

At the beginning of the season, my brother and I had the argument about the Werth contract.  It can be read here.  It covers all the angles about the  contract not including this season’s perfomance

https://halfstreetheartattack.com/2013/06/20/the-ultimate-jayson-werth-debate/

One thing our argument didn’t cover was the other MLB contracts that far exceed the money paid to Werth.  Werth’s 126M contract is only the 26th richest in MLB history and on a yearly average adjusted to inflation it barely registers in the top 40.  I guess, that by the time the contract expires it will be well bellow the top 50.

Why the continued fixation.  Three of the the final four teams in the MLB playoffs have payrolls in the top five and the Cards payroll is greater than the Nats.  These teams have players under contract like Ethier, Holliday, Fielder, and Crawford whom you could argue are also overpaid , but you could also argue that the talent those players bring to the team is worth overpaying.  One could also argue that teams need to overpay stars if they expect to win in the playoffs.

Here is the listing of the biggest contracts in MLB history:

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/compensation/cots/league-info/highest-paid-players/

My point is this: For the DC market to keep talking about the Werth contract like it is an unprecedented huge contract is really silly.  There are longer, richer, and dumber ones out there.  It shows lack of understanding about baseball free agency and the business of baseball.

Can we just call him Jayson Werth rather than JaysonWerthsevenyears126million,  I think  he has earned it.

One year ago today was the best day in Nationals history

One year ago today, I remember running out of work and into the Metro.

I remember trying to load updates of the game on my phone as the train slowly brought me closer to Nationals Park.

I remember getting to my seat just in time to see Adam LaRoche put the Nationals up 1-0.

I remember seeing Jordan Zimmermann strike out the side. I remember Tyler Clippard doing the same. And I remember seeing Ian Desmond make a game-saving catch with two outs in the ninth inning.

I remember furiously waiving that stupid red Natitude towel as if it actually had an effect on the game.

I remember counting the foul balls and thinking “wouldn’t it be cool If Jayson Werth parked this next pitch in the left field stands?”

I remember a brief moment of disbelief when it actually happened. Then I remember running up and down the aisle high-fiving any and every random person I saw.

Most importantly, I remember thinking it was a moment to enjoy for the next 50 years.

I didn’t know the next day would be the worst day in Nationals history.

20131011-125823.jpg

Do the Nationals have a “Game 5 Guy”?

Adam Wainwright is now a “Game 5 Guy”.  In other words, a guy that can start Game 5, shut down the other team, and secure a series win.

Game 5 guys win championships.  Wainwright’s epic performance last night didn’t even give the Pirates a chance to win.  Adam Wainwright finally turned in a Game 5 Guy performance after failing to do so in Game 5 last year against the Nationals (Wainwright was, of course, bailed out by his teammates in a game I’m trying to forget).

Justin Verlander turned in a Game 5 Guy performance against the A’s in last year’s ALDS, and his team went on to win the Pennant.  He has a chance to put up another Game 5 Guy performance tonight against the same team.

Game 5 Guys are important for a team trying to navigate their way through the Division Series.  Five game series are a crapshoot.  Having a reliable Game 5 Guy ensures you have a solid shot to win 2 out of the 5 games, 40 percent.

Who is the Nationals’ Game 5 Guy?  Gio failed last year.  Jordan Zimmerman bombed in his one postseason start.  Strasburg, of course, never got the chance. 

The Nationals have a solid rotation, but it’s possible none of their “aces” are Game 5 Guy material.

Do I dare mention the name David Price? 

Debate: Should the Nationals hire Cal Ripken?

20131010-093737.jpg

photoshop credit: the always great @jwerthsbeard

Justin: Would Cal Ripken be a good manager?

Jason: I haven’t the slightest clue if Cal Ripken would make a good manager and nobody else does either. That is really not the interesting question that needs to be asked about the possibility of Cal Ripken being the next manager of the Washington Nationals.

The more interesting question is: What would it mean to Washington Baseball?

Very few members of the Washington National’s fan base remember the baseball team that moved to Dallas in 1972. Until 2005, when the Nationals came into existence baseball in the Washington DC area was all about one guy, Cal Ripken. His career perfectly bridges the gap of time when the Nations Capital didn’t have a baseball team of its own. Ripken was called up in the end of the 1981 season and played until 2001. Those 21 years make up the bulk of the span between the Senators and Nats. He was the face of baseball in the region and after the MLB strike, the face of baseball period. I grew up in the DC area in the 80s and 90s, Ripken was the player all the little leaguers listed as their favorite.

Now here is something Baltimore fans probably don’t want to admit, but secretly know is true: Cal Ripken is as much as DC sports star as he is a Baltimore sports star. Go back and read the Washington Post from the 80s and 90s he got as many headlines as any DC sports star especially in the Summer before training camp. In a way he can accomplish what has always felt weird, a shared baseball identity between Baltimore and Washington.

Is this a good idea?

Justin: Cal Ripken is only a good idea if the Nationals win. The Nationals need to win. Winning is the only way to build a fan base and a franchise identity. “Feel good” hires don’t matter.

This all seems obvious and self-evident, but this town doesn’t always benefit from enlightened thinking. Washington DC is the town that imported Michael Jordan to run its basketball team and reanimated Joe Gibbs to run its football team. Both of those moves “won the press conference” but they both resulted in losses on the field.

The Nationals don’t need to win press conferences, they need to win playoff games. The time for “feel good hires” was back in 2005. Now it’s almost 2014. This team is built to win now and they need a manager to get them back in the playoffs.

The question is simple: would Ripken make a good manager? You watched him growing up. What do you think?

Jason: No other person in his playing days, except for maybe Barry Larkin, has the type of resume for managing as Ripken does. The way he played SS was like a field general. I have read stories where he played an active roll in pitch selection. That level of responsibility and leadership is unique but that is what makes him such an iconic figure. When I think of two words to define Ripken’s playing style, I think of his discipline and fundamentals. There is a reason why Jayson Werth deliberately threw his name out there. I think he recognizes that the team would play better in the type of environment a guy like Ripken would bring compared to the environment Davey had last year. Watching Ripken break down Bryce Harpers swing earlier in the year during the Becoming Bryce documentary was fascinating; the guy has the coaching skills if he chooses to use them.

Ripken has also taken a very different path since his “retirement”, Ripken Baseball, the company he founded has a yearly revenue stream of 30 million dollars. Not many professional players have been able to leverage their on field success they way Ripken has. Other players get back into coaching and pay their dues with hopes of being a manager some day. Ripken stayed in touch with the game by owning minor league teams and fostering youth baseball. I don’t know if years being a minor league third base coach is the only way to earn a managers job. Some guys are quick to the majors type guys. I think Ripken wants to be back on the field everyday like he used to.

So, based on all available information, he is the ideal candidate to hire as manager.

Justin: We have no evidence Cal Ripken knows how to be a major league manager. In fact, we have no evidence he knows how to be any kind of manager because he’s never done it.

Cal Ripken was a great shortstop and he appears to be a great businessman, but what does he know about running a modern day major league clubhouse?

There’s a reason managers pay their dues. The Cubs didn’t just give Ryne Sandberg their managers position because he was a great player. He had to earn it with another organization by running major league affiliates and playing second fiddle to a veteran manager in the big leagues. I’m not saying star players can’t be good managers. I’m saying they have to learn how to do the job, just like everyone else.

I think it’s great Cal wants to be in the dugout again. But managing and playing are different skill sets. The Nats would be taking a huge gamble turning over this roster to a rookie. Once the games start, Cal’s celebrity won’t matter at all. Can he run a clubhouse or not? That’s all anyone will care about.

I’m not even sure Cal’s hall of game resume will matter to the players. Yeah, the fans are impressed. But Bryce Harper was learning how to walk when Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s record. We all get starry-eyes when Cal Ripken speaks, but today’s players don’t care one bit what Cal Ripken did 20 years ago.

Do you really want to risk it? This could flame out spectacularly.

Jason: Trust me, I understand the flame out spectacularly final act. Michael Jordan leaving the Verizon Center with Illinois license plates still on his car is the searing image of that era of Wizards basketball. Don’t even get me started with the Redskin’s Steve Spurrier era. A similar scenario where Ripken and the Nats fail in DC and he immediately joins an ownership group to buy the O’s and doesn’t look back is not that hard to imagine.

The great news is that from every interview I have heard from Mike Rizzo he seems very skeptical. I know Rizzo’s instinct is not to try and make some splashy hire, but bring in or keep a guy he feels comfortable with. Professional sports is a copycat league, team hire grey haired slightly overweight guys who mumble a lot as managers. If Matt Williams or Randy Knorr is announced tomorrow, the entire baseball establishment will shrug. Baseball teams don’t hire rock stars to manage. If for some reason Rizzo is convinced by Ripken, then i would feel better about it because I am sure every bone in his body says no. Do I dare throw out the offseason motto of the Nats, “In Rizzo We Trust.”

Justin: Didn’t we say that about Dan Haren?

Jason: Uh yep. But this time it will be different (don’t bother defining insanity for me, I know). Span worked out pretty good, right?

Justin: Eh, managers don’t matter very much anyway. Go ahead and hire Cal. It’ll be fun.

Jason: One caveat: Does anyone know his opinion on bunting?

Justin: Ripken had 10 sacrifice bunts in 21 years. I’m officially sold.