Sunday, January 30

Sosa Trade: Good Or Bad?

ESPN's major league baseball pundits are weighing in on the likely Sammy-to-Baltimore deal. Jayson Stark laments that it had to happen this way but approves of the trade:
We'll almost certainly never know now what the 2005 Cubs would have been with Sammy Sosa. But we do know this:

It's best for everybody that they'll never have to find out.

It was barely a week ago that Sosa's image appeared on the big screen at the annual Cubs Convention, during a showing of the 2004 highlight video. You've probably heard by now what happened next.
(Boos. Lots of 'em.)
On the other hand, Chicago Tribune sports columnist Phil Rogers makes a couple good points when he figures out why the organization would "dump" a Hall Of Famer for a utility guy and two aging prospects:
The simple fact is that manager Dusty Baker convinced Hendry and Cubs president Andy MacPhail his team would be better with Sosa elsewhere when drills begin in Mesa, Ariz., and the front office gave Baker what he and many of his players wanted: Some peace and quiet, albeit at a record price. This deal happened because the Cubs agreed to pay more than $10 million of Sosa's 2005 salary -- an offer that played right into Peter G. Angelos' wheelhouse.
Ten million dollars is a lot to eat out of a contract, especially if you're going to pay someone $17 million to play. But what would the Cubs have gained for that extra seven mil? Rogers asks, "Can they really be better without Sosa, who averaged 41 homers and 97 RBI over the last three years -- not bad numbers for a guy in decline." He took the three-year average because it inflates Sammy's numbers. Here's the real story:

2002: 150 games, .288 BA, 49 HR, 108 RBI
2003: 137, .279-40-103
2004: 126, .253-35-80

Let's dig a little deeper:

2002: 150 games, 103 BB, 144 SO
2003: 137 games, 62 BB, 143 SO
2004: 126 games, 56 BB, 133 SO

I can live with Sosa racking up 150+ whiffs per year if he makes up for it by getting lots of hits and walks. But he's striking out at higher clips and walking/hitting at lesser ones. Think about that when you read this, from Stark:
Nevertheless, when that wild-card lead was disappearing on them last summer, they clearly figured out something very telling about their baseball team:

You don't make the playoffs -- and you don't win the World Series -- just by lofting 235 home runs into the Wrigley breezes. But you can sure do that if Mark Prior and Kerry Wood combine for 35 wins -- as opposed to 35 DL visits . . .

And you can sure do that if, every once in a while, you manufacture a run instead of pitching a tent on the basepaths until somebody pounds one off a brick wall on Waveland Avenue . . .

So the Cubs needed to subtract that approach as much as they needed to subtract Sammy himself.
Did the Cubs dump Sosa for far less than market value? Well, yeah. But it had to be done. The Cubs needed to get faster and smarter (and, even though nobody's really mentioning it, younger); furthermore, they needed to learn what many other winning clubs have: the benefits of keeping overpaid crybabies around isn't worth the cost, in terms of salary or team chemistry. Sosa bristled at such hardships as being moved to the 6-hole. But when you can only drive in runs, especially with homers, and can't set the table by getting on base, the 6-hole is where you'll wind up. I'd rather he be in Baltimore's 6-hole than Chicago's, and I'd gladly eat the $10 million to do it.

However, if what Rogers implies is true, I don't care for the ironfisted managerial skills of Dusty Baker. I thought, and still think, that Baker more than anyone else, including Steve Bartman, cost the Cubs their World Series shot in 2003. Now that he has his lineup feng shui, let's hope Hendry can come through with some worthwhile free agent pickups (please, GOD, not Jeromy Burnitz).

But with St. Louis still owning the Central and the Astros omnipresent, it's a long road to slog.


Location: Mishawaka, Indiana, United States

I graduated with an English degree from the University Of Notre Dame in 2001, and in 2008 I have a day job that has nothing to do with my degree but gets the bills paid in a semi-regular fashion. (I have running water five days a week!) The idea is that once I get turned around on my bills, I go to grad school. I also have an idea for cold fusion. Anyone's guess which will be feasible first. In non-work mode, I'm usually reading columns by famous and well-read thinkers, blogs by critically praised writers, or sometimes blogs by overzealous cranks who make me laugh. I yearn to be all three at once; until then I'll settle for being the third. I also have an undying love for the Chicago Cubs and Notre Dame football. Praise them and I'll buy you a beer; curse them and I'll dump it over your head. If that's not enough, I'm becoming quite the fan of no-limit Texas Hold'em. My games have one of two results: I either win all the money or whine because I didn't win all the money.

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What's Your Line?


I absolutely love the name of your site.

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Just the name? Not the content? . . . I'll take it.

You have something in common with Dave Barry, Hemingway, and Mark Steyn: I'm not linking to them, either.


That's good stuff there Mark.

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Psst, it's "Mike."

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