Archive for January 29th, 2007

Curt Schilling: the antithesis of Roger Clemens

Much hoopla has been made over Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens. Schilling claims that his early career failures were the result of his lax work ethic. That changed when he met Clemens and observed how diligently the man worked. From that day forth, Schilling decided to fulfill his potential. It paid off, of course, in 2001 and 2004, when he won World Series titles.

Roger Clemens has once again made himself the center of attention by declining to decide whether he will pitch during the 2007 season, and, most importantly, where he will pitch. The media eats this kind of thing up, printing weekly articles on the status of Clemens which, invariably, is “no decision.”

Curt Schilling, on the other hand, has made himself the center of attention (or at least that was his intention) by announcing that he will pitch in 2008. And, to stir the pot a bit more, he said that it won’t necessarily be with Boston.

“Where I’m going to play beyond 2007, I hope it’s Boston, but I will go out and find a home to pitch,” he said. “I hope it’s here but there’s also that possibility [of pitching for another team].”

He tries to come off as affable throughout the article, but it’s easy to see right through Schilling. He sees the attention falling on J.D. Drew, Julio Lugo, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Manny Ramirez and, most recently, Todd Helton, and wants his own part of the action. So he does what he does best, run his mouth to the media, crying for a new contract, all while spinning it to make him look like the good guy.

There is no doubt Schilling was one of the best pitchers of his era. But, entering his age 40 season, there are no more guarantees. Theo Epstein would be wise to ignore Schilling and play it like he was still going to retire after 2007. I understand his value as a pitcher, but 1) he’s trying to hold up your organization and 2) he was expected to leave after this season anyway. If Curt had pure intentions, he wouldn’t change his retirement plans during the slowest baseball news time of the year, and he wouldn’t set such a tight deadline on getting a deal done.

But the people of Boston will love him anyway.

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Helton is owed what?

I got about three paragraphs into this column before I had to stop for fear that I might vomit. Bernie Lincicome of the Rocky Mountain News believes that the Rockies owe Todd Helton a trade.

Excuse me? How in the world do the Rockies owe Helton anything beyond the $141.5 million called for in his contract? From Bernie:

Helton ought to be allowed to touch baseball’s real adventure before he is through, as Larry Walker did with the Cardinals, as Andres Galarraga did in Atlanta. Aaron Miles, for crying out loud, was just awash in clubhouse champagne in St. Louis.

Why didn’t you say that earlier? Maybe I wouldn’t have been so skeptical. The logic is impeccable: because Aaron Miles just so happen to land with the World Series winning team, Todd Helton should have his chance to win it all. Never mind the great players who have yet to win it all — Alex Rodriguez comes immediately to mind, along with Vlad Guerrero, Miguel Tejada, and Frank Thomas. Maybe their respective GMs should give them their due and trade them to the Tigers, Yankees, or Red Sox.

Todd Helton is owed nothing beyond what his contract stipulates. Dan O’Dowd is not in charge of doing Todd Helton right; he is in charge of building the best possible baseball team. Right now, I believe, that includes Todd Helton. And if it doesn’t, they don’t need to take pennies on the dollar for him. Trading him for the sake of trading him would be an unmitigated mistake, one that would easily cost O’Dowd his job.

In praise of shitty players

So the Pirates don’t look too bad heading into Spring Training. Well, at least they don’t look too bad when compared to the past few years. They’ve got the reigning NL batting champ, newly acquired slugger Adam LaRoche, and franchise cornerstone Jason Bay. And, though this has been the case the past few years, they boast a young and promising pitching staff.

There are still holes, to be sure. Veteran SS Jack Wilson had something to say about one of those holes at PirateFest this past weekend. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Ron Cook is not only on board with Wilson, but he even paraphrased him:

Jose, we love you, buddy, but we need you to come to spring training with your head right. If you’re not in shape, number one, and not focused, number two, we don’t want you. If you’re not ready to be your best every game, every at-bat, every play in the field, do us all a favor and stay home in Venezuela.

It’s tough to decide where to start here. Let’s start with Wilson himself, who is, by nearly every measure, not a good player, at least on the offensive side of the ball. I can call up his stats with the few taps of the keyboard, and it’s apparent that he doesn’t add much value to the Pirates offense, with a line of .273/.316/.370. If you want to get nerdy, his 2006 VORP was 4.6, ranking him 13th among shortstops in the NL. But he’s showing leadership qualities (!), which surely outweigh his dismal OBP.

So we have a shitty player calling out another player who just so happens to be shitty, too. Jose Castillo, in his age 25 season, hit .253/.299/.382. So yeah, I guess Wilson’s right in that Castillo has to come to camp focused, so that he can maybe top a .320 OBP which, while still well below average, wouldn’t be quite as killer.

The article goes on to say that Castillo’s spot will be challenged in camp by Jose Bautista. Also in his age 25 season, he hit .235/.335/.420. Well, then. He seems like he’ll fit just fine. Some may balk and say, “But Del, he only hit .235. That’s really bad.” Yes, maybe, but that makes his .420 slugging percentage look that much better. His .335 OBP is quite nice, at least relatively, and should see a spike should Mr. Bautista adjust in his second full year and up his batting average.

I understand wanting to motivate your teammates. But wouldn’t this be more appropriate coming from, say, Jason Bay, who’s actually talented with a baseball bat, rather than Jack Wilson, who has his own set of troubles with one?


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