Sunday, April 20, 2008

Today's secret word is "Surreal"

Sometimes, when I'm hauling my nets across the web in search of a fresh catch of links for my readers, the stories of the day will all seem to cluster around a theme. It is, of course, just an example of the human brain playing tricks on its owner/operartor, but if you'd still like to take today's false pattern recognition for a test drive, read on:

*This isn't really a new story, but it was new to me, and since I managed to miss it despite a pretty substantial interest in both baseball and politics, I figured I might as well repost it here anyway in case it slipped past any of you guys, too. In the early 1950s, Honus Wagner was living in Carnegie, winding down his career as hitting coach for the Pirates. At that time, he had his milk delivered by a teenager from Greentree, the fifth son of a German immigrant who opened a dairy farm. And that young milkman grew up to be... Texas congressman and fringe presidential candidate Ron Paul. Huh.

*It's been a while since we've seen a good trade rumor, and while this next item isn't a rumor (or, for that matter, good), it's still kind of entertaining. Belleville News-Democrat writer Scott Wuertz thinks that it'd make sense for the Pirates to trade Bay to the Cardinals for Chris Duncan or Skip Schumaker, Anthony Reyes, and either catching prospect Bryan Anderson or a "prospect pitcher", because such a move "would give the Pirates an infusion of young talent". For the record, Reyes is 26, Duncan is 27 (and in his final pre-arb year), and Schumaker is 28. Bay is 29. When you're trying to make a package of young talent, I've generally found that it makes sense to focus on players that are actually, y'know, young. And in the case of Schumaker, some talent wouldn't hurt, either.

*From the mouths of babes:
A few days ago, Gunnar came home from kindergarten and had this conversation with his mother:

Gunnar: "Mom, Josh said something mean today."

Mom: "What did he say?"

Gunnar: "He said the Pirates stink."

Mom: "Well, honey, they do."

Gunnar: "They do?

Mom: "Yep."

Gunnar: "Oh."

-John Steigerwald, The Observer-Reporter

*The previous three items were kind of funny. This one isn't funny at all. Remember what I said about MLB slamming Forbes's numbers without ever providing any of their own? Right on cue, here's Frank Coonelly providing the requisite lies-and-slander quote (via Rob Biertempfel at the Trib). He also spun out a pretty bizarre explanation for the team's planned use of their annual welfare check:
The Pirates expect to receive about $35 million this year through Major League Baseball's revenue-sharing system, Coonelly said, adding that it's incorrect to believe that money must be used only to increase player payroll.

"The revenue-sharing plan says you have to use those proceeds to improve your performance on the field," Coonelly said. "That's written extraordinarily broadly, and we did that on purpose. Paying down debt can help you improve on the field. You can't get any better while you're taking a (huge) interest hit on all the debt you have."

I'm sure that Coonelly's process interpretation is probably correct - if there's one guy you can trust on the rules of baseball, it's probably a lawyer who's the former VP of MLB. Still, any standard that includes debt service as an approved use for the money is so vague as to be completely meaningless.

Jayson Stark at ESPN wrote a column during the labor troubles a couple of years ago that does a really nice job of addressing some of the same issues addressed by Coonelly's quote. I'd like to crib a bit of Stark's work here:
[T]he only meaningful issue in this labor tug of war is competitive balance. And any attempt to harp on anything else is, at best, irrelevant and, at worst, an indication that the competitive-balance talk is nothing but a smokescreen.

"What you're seeing," says one longtime baseball man, "is inconsistent messages. On the one hand, Bud's saying, 'We need more revenue sharing so we can have competitive balance.' On the other hand, you're hearing him talk about all this debt.

"But if these clubs are going to spend that revenue-sharing money on their debt, how does it allow them to spend money on players? If it's about competitive balance, the money has to be spent on the players. And if it's not, what this really is all about is increasing franchise value."

If the industry as a whole is losing money, says another baseball person with no ties to the union, then more revenue sharing doesn't solve that problem. It only changes the problem -- because it doesn't bring any more money in. It just redistributes the money that has already come in.

Emphasis mine. So, like J. Wellington Wimpy, the Pirates will gladly give you a competitive club on Tuesday for another $5 today. It's just a con game. Don't be the mark.


Thunder said...

I wouldn't discount the Cardinals trade blindly. Anderson is only 21 and seems to carry a good stick. Reyes would be an improvement over CyMo, and over the 2008 version of Gorzo. Duncan is pretty much LaRoche playing out of position with less defense. Schumaker they can keep. We've already got too many OF's with his tools.

Vlad said...

There are two big problems with that trade: Service time and upside.

Anderson is by far the most valuable piece in that deal, IMO, because he hasn't started his arb clock and he's got at least a decent amount of ceiling. That said, I still don't think that he's a top-drawer catching prospect (like Teagarden, for example).

Duncan and Reyes are considerably less valuable, in that both have burned up a significant fraction of their cheap years, and neither one has any real ceiling remaining due to their relatively advanced ages. Our team isn't going to be any good until 2010 at the earliest, and by 2010 both of those guys will be 30-something vets making 8-9M a year, not something we can really support if the Nuttings are going to keep funding this operation on a shoestring (as seems likely). To be blunt, we can't afford to pay market rates for anything less than star-level talent, if we want to be competitive.

For a Bay deal, we need to target guys with star-level ceilings and zero ML service time, even if that means taking guys who aren't ML-ready and/or assuming some degree of risk. This offer is just like the Cleveland one: all helper, no hamburger.