Regal Blue

Back from vacation!

Posted in Sports by gklarsen on January 11, 2010

Hey kids, I’m back from vacation!

…what?  I didn’t tell anyone I was on break?  I just stopped writing one day?  Dick move on my part.  Well thanks for hanging in there.

Since I’ve been gone, the Kings have sunk down in the playoff rankings.  Something like two points puts us out of the playoff picture, but as The Royal Half mercifully points out, we’re also four points away from being fourth.  Nothing like an eight day layoff in December to screw everything up.  Also we lost a bunch of games, including the last two to the Blues and Red Wings, the latter despite more than fifty shots on goal.

That being said, we have Ryan Smyth back and he doesn’t seem too worse for wear.  Perhaps because of that, Anze is scoring again.  Drew Doughty might be Jesus.  Wayne Simmonds still rules*.  Jon Quick is maybe, just maybe, better than serviceable.  There’s a whole lot to like.  It’s been a real long time since we’ve been able to watch our team simply because it’s good and they’re fun to watch.  There’s nothing worse than watching a team that you know is terrible for maybe one or two players that might be decent one day but you know damn well aren’t going anywhere (see, eg, Dodgers circa 2005, Kings circa last decade and a half).

*I went to go see the Kings practice last week.  Fun stuff.  Met a lot of players.  Wayne Simmonds was all kinds of cool.  Thanks Wayne!

On the Dodger side of things, there’s been nothing to speak of.  There were some rumors going around that the team wanted to sign Matt Kemp to a long term deal, but it looks as though Kemp is wisely going to go year to year.  Wise for him, at least.  Kid will be getting 12 mil by his last arb year.

By now, the big money free agents have signed.  Bay went to the Mets and he’s the perfect example of the player that Minaya likes; past his prime and expensive.  I was surprised to see Holliday end up back with the Cards, especially for that kind of money.  That’s Albert’s money.

Even the Giants have gotten into it a little.  Their latest move was to sign Aubrey Huff to a one year deal worth three mil.  Am I telling you that Brian Sabean signed an over the hill veteran for way more than he’s worth to replace a cheaper in house option?  Why yes I am.  Will wonders never cease?

Oh, and this just in, the Dodgers signed Nick Green to a minor league deal.  Yeah I don’t care either.  If you want a no-hit, good defense shortstop, we already have one.  The difference is that the one we already have is about seven years younger and might actually have some upside left.  It may also be a set up to trade Chin Lung Hu.  We’ll see.

***

And I think that gets us caught up on the major stories.  The Sharks come to Los Angeles tonight.  We’ve handled them very well so far this season, including a very satisfying beating last week.  Will it continue?  Yes, yes it will.  Kings beat Sharks 5-1, goals by Anze, Smyth and Simmonds.

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The Juan Pierre post

Posted in Sports by gklarsen on December 16, 2009

JP:  “So that’s it then?  After three years of service?  So long and good luck?”

Dodgers:  “I don’t recall saying good luck.”

I believe that’s my first Simpsons reference here at the Regal Blue.  Can’t believe it took me so long.

Most of baseball world is talking about the big crazy trade of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Kyle Drabek, some other people…I think Billy Beane got into the action…well you know what I mean.  But there’s no bigger trade in Dodgerville than the one that went down yesterday morning.

So long and thanks for all the outs

The man, and half of his remaining salary, are heading to the south side of Chicago.  Officially, the Dodgers are also getting two “players to be named later.”  Looks like Memories of Kevin Malone has the specific players and some info, so check that out.

When Juan Pierre was signed, I thought the same thing all of you thought:  “Wow, that’s a pretty lousy move there, Ned.  We ask for a power bat and you give us a guy with a career ISO of .075.  Sweet.  Oh and you’re paying him what now?”  Juan then proceeded to do what he’d always done and played a mediocre-poor defensive center field and stole some bases.  His OBP dropped from an acceptable-ish .350 for his career to .331 his first year.  Yet he kept batting lead off because you need that there speed at the top of the order, said Grady Little.

He was a scapegoat from the moment he arrived in LA.  Everyone hated that contract.  Any time we couldn’t sign someone, we wondered if it was at least in part because of Juan.  The contract was blamed for keeping Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier out of the lineup.  No rational manager could actually play JP over two of our brightest young stars, but there he was every single day in center field.  The temporary hope of Andruw Jones pushed him to the bench for a few days to start out the 2008 season but we all know how that went.

He made outs like crazy because he absolutely refused to draw a walk.  When asked about that, or any other criticism, he typically responded with something like “That’s just my game.  I know some people don’t like, but this is who I am.”  Essentially, he was a classic example of what Saber-friendly fans hate.  The only two skills he had were wildly overvalued:  batting average and speed reflected in stolen bases.  The stolen bases weren’t even that efficient, with a Dodger-career 134/39 success rate.

It took the mighty Manny Ramirez to finally kick Pierre out of starting job and on to the bench completely.  Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp had essentially become indispensable by that point so that not even Juan’s enormous contract could keep him starting.  And that was the beginning of the end of Pierre’s time in Los Angeles.  He was Manny’s backup.  Sure there was a brief resurgence in 2009 when Manny was suspended, but after that BABIP-fueled flareup in the first couple weeks as the primary left fielder, he was back to his old tricks.  Manny returned and JP was back on the bench where he belonged.

The Dodgers went in to this offseason with the goal of not adding anything to the payroll.  The Great Divorce looming, the front office was not given too much to work with.  Furthermore, Manny has another year in left field and Xavier Paul had a real promising, albeit short, season as the fourth outfielder.  There was just no excuse for keeping Juan Pierre if there was any possible alternative.  For some reason the White Sox thought we was valuable and offered to take half of his contract.  Sold.

***
I never really disliked Juan Pierre all that much.  Don’t get me wrong, though.  I completely agreed with the rest of you that he was overvalued, a liability in the leadoff position, and a rather poor fielder.  But he didn’t draw my ire the way he did for some.  To be honest, I enjoyed watching him bat.  It was kinda fun that he never struck out.  And stolen bases are entertaining.  As much as the statistics belie this, it appeared as though he genuinely distracted pitchers when he got on base and opened up some opportunities when he did manage a leadoff hit.

Of course none of that is true.  Baserunners seldom have an effect on pitchers.  Rather, it’s a prevalent myth and so we remember the few times it happens instead of all the times it doesn’t.  Strikeouts really don’t matter, especially for a leadoff hitter.  Stolen bases do little for a player’s productive value.

At the same time, I never bought in to that whole Plaschkean theory that Juan’s value laid in his hustle, his work-ethic.  You know who works hard every day?  Virtually every other baseball player.  Even Manny, with the unfortunate reputation of being kinda lazy, works out like crazy.  I remember seeing Juan Pierre in Spring Training at Vero Beach and it really looked like he was working hard.  He was the first one to take laps on the field before a game.  He took laps after the game.  But you know what?  Big deal.  His work ethic may have been a little more visible, but while he was running out on the field, every other guy on the team was with a trainer, taking BP in the cage or lifting weights.

The final tally on Juan’s Dodger career is an OPS+ of 84 in 426 games and a line of .294/.339/.357.  That’s 3.6 WAR over three seasons.  It cost 25.5 million dollars, plus the addition ten mil we’re paying for two more years.  And that’s really the bottom line.

***

Reaction has been as expected.  Jon Weisman sees it as all good for the Dodgers.  MSTI couldn’t be happier.  True Blue LA gives a nice, respectful farewell.  Matt Klassen at Fangraphs can’t figure out why Kenny Williams would do this.  Me either but that’s Williams for you, the man who would take Alex Rios.

***

In conclusion, I hope Juan Pierre has better days in Chicago.  He didn’t exactly deserve to be a pariah and I have to believe Chicago will offer a fresh start as far as opinion goes.  All the best, JP.

So we finally did it…

Posted in Sports by gklarsen on December 15, 2009

Juan Pierre has been traded to the White Sox for two players to be named later.  The Sox will pay roughly half of Pierre’s remaining salary.

This is not the first time the White Sox have come up in trade talks, as there was some discussion last year about it.  JP was undoubtedly a bit over valued after his performance last year.  His reputation as someone who stepped up big in the absence of Manny has been well-documented even though it’s belied by the numbers.  Even with his significant cool-off by the end of the year, his line for the season was still above average for him.

Imagine how surprised the Sox will be when he turns back in to Juan Pierre given a full season.

There’s more to be said, but I thought I’d take a moment away from finals to throw that up there.  My initial reaction is…nice work, Ned.  Xavier Paul is a significantly better fourth outfielder, so any mitigation in cost for Pierre is a plus.

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Finals season means infrequent posting; also, Pierre may soon be gone

Posted in Sports by gklarsen on December 9, 2009

The Kings have been on fire and baseball’s hot stove continues to churn out noteworthy rumors and transactions.  Unfortunately, it also happens to be finals season for this particular law student.  Thus, few posts lately.  My apologies.

***

First things first:  Juan Pierre may be traded after all.  According to John Paul Morosi, via MLBTradeRumors, the Tigers want Pierre and are looking for a third team to complete the deal.  The Dodgers obviously want starting pitching and likely aren’t too interested in any of the Tiger’s train wreck bad contracts.  Bonderman and the ghost of Dontrelle Willis have contracts so bad that they make Pierre look like a bargain.

It feels as though the Dodgers have been trying to get rid of Pierre since they acquired him.  Last year, there was minimal discussion that the White Sox might have been interested but obviously nothing ever came of it.  The rumors this year seem to be more substantial, perhaps because the Dodgers are more serious about unloading him.  Xavier Paul is a significantly better fourth outfield option and after his promising (though injury shortened) performance last year the Dodgers must feel they can go without Pierre as essentially Manny’s back up.

I have to believe that moving Pierre for an overpriced starter will be met with universal acclaim in Dodgerworld.  Now that Schmidt is gone, Pierre remains the most visible relic of Colletti’s poor dealing when he first started GMing after the 2005 season.  Primarily because of that bad contract, he is a lightning rod for scorn amongst the fans.

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.  Odds are if you’re reading a Dodger blog, you’ve got an opinion on Juan Pierre and it’s probably not good.  Mainstream media has done a poor job of defending him on the occassions when they’ve tried.  Features about Pierre essentially boil down to what a hard worker he is, what a good guy he is, he sure is good at stealing bases.  Not a good way to defend a player in the Sabermetric age.

Pierre’s departure would probably have more effect on the perception of the team more than the actual results.  Exiled eternally to be a back up going forward, there would undoubtedly be fewer at bats this year than last year.  I’m assuming no one will be suspended for 50 games.  So, getting rid of him would be a symbolic victory more than anything, considering we’ll still have to pay him or another equivalent bad contract.  It may demonstrate Colletti’s emerging skills as a GM.

However, it may also be another symptom of the Great McCourt Schism.  That event may be the greatest motivator and Colletti may be attempting to push Pierre out only if most of the contract can be dismissed too.  Perhaps the pitcher coming in will be one with only a single year left on the contract.

Despite all of this, I think the odds of sending Pierre out of LA remain slim.  It’s a rough contract in a nasty economic climate.  He remains as he always has: a poor OBP, sub par center fielder (not bad in left, according to Fangraphs), with zero power.  Maybe the Tigers overvalue Pierre’s notoriously illusory hotstreak when Manny got suspended.  Maybe Dave Dombrowski digs fast players now that Curtis Granderson is out of town.

More updates as they become available.

***

The Kings have been getting points like crazy lately, capped this week by a win over Jerome Iginla and the Calgary Flames.  Tonight the Kings face off against the Sharks.  It looks like Ersberg will start tonight in place of Jon Quick.  Seems like a strange piece of timing considering that the Sharks score lots of goals and Quick has been downright decent lately.

The big question continues to be the first line.  Kopitar has managed to squeeze a few assists, Williams has scored a couple, but the fact remains that it’s a worrisome drought.  Ryan Smyth is still a week away and it’s safe to assume that he’ll need a game or two to get back to full speed.

This opinion is completely without any sort of objective basis, but it feels like Kopitar has been right there as far as scoring.  He’s getting some chances and it may just be a matter of time before the pucks start to find the net.  Regardless of the reasons, every Kings fan would breathe a huge sigh of relief if Kopitar could knock one in tonight.

Irresponsible prediction:  Kings 4, Sharks 3 – Kopitar and Simmonds score.

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Free Agents, Trades and Winter Meetings

Posted in Sports by gklarsen on December 2, 2009

In the wake of the whole “we’re not going to offer arb to anyone” scandal of yesterday, many fans are wondering just what the future holds for the Dodgers.  Their plan will probably be revealed somewhat in the upcoming winter meetings.

Typically, the winter meetings are where the big time free agent signings happen or at least start to negotiate.  We already knew that the Dodgers weren’t going to be buyers this year.  So yesterday’s events don’t really tell us anything we didn’t already know in that regard.  As far as trades go, Ken Gurnick seems to believe that the Dodgers will keep their “young nucleus” in tact as has been their modus operandi for years.  In essence, it’s business as usual and this winter will look awfully similar to last winter:

As much as some fans want the Dodgers to throw money at every roster hole, that has never been the style of current ownership. Frank McCourt has indicated he’d rather develop stars such as Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw than trade them away and buy bigger names with gigantic salaries.

He could have written that two years ago and it would have been just as true then.  Virtually every big contract the Dodgers have handed out has bit them in the ass in some way or another.  This isn’t just a coincidence or bad free agent practice.  Free agents are almost always past their prime.  Because teams will at the very least keep a player through arbitration, few players with good production will ever escape their team before age 30.  And if Baseball Prospectus is to be believed (and they are), players hit their peak around age 27 or 28, contrary to the popular wisdom that it’s somewhere closer to 30.

Every team should know that a long-term contract will inevitably come with some bad, unproductive and economically inefficient years.  Even Johan Santana will begin to suck after the fourth or fifth year of his contract, even sooner if injuries start to take their toll.  He got seven years because that’s the cost of premier players.  Their production in the two or three ‘good’ years at the beginning of the contract ideally makes up for the lack of production in the waning years.

The problem with that model is that it keeps small to mid market teams from signing the bigger names.  Two years of efficient production, say, from John Lackey will cost at least five years of salary.  More than the fact that small-mid market teams simply don’t have the cash in reserve is the opportunity cost of the last three years when Lackey will be on and off the DL.  The team who signs him is essentially giving up the opportunity to spend that money two years after the beginning of the contract on international players, drafts, arbitration and the occasional bargain pick up.

Obviously the Yankees can absorb these costs.  They know full well that AJ Burnett is only worth three years at most.  The Mets too at one point were able to do that, and the Red Sox certainly can.  The Dodgers, in such a dreary situation, don’t have that luxury.  We’re a big market team with mid-market aspirations.

So, Ned will undoubtedly continue to do what he’s done for years now.  He’ll search the bargain bin and come up, hopefully, with another productive starter and maybe a serviceable second baseman.  Will he get as lucky this year?  Probably not.  But it’s the best strategy.  With the big name free agents inherently overvalued, a smart team’s only option is to wait out the big budget teams and find players that were left behind.  To quote Gurnick again:

Colletti’s past performance indicates his scouts will come up with a surprising reclamation pitching project (Jeff Weaver, Chan Ho Park, Takashi Saito, etc., in years past). He’ll patiently let the pitching market be established by early signings and pick over the available pool to come up with another Wolf. And he’ll fill the bench with this year’s version of Brad Ausmus, Mark Loretta, Juan Castro and Doug Mientkiewicz.

Naturally a question arises as to the lack of arbitration offers.  What does it mean for the off season?  As far as free agents go, I believe it doesn’t mean a thing.  Colletti will do what he did last year with some measure of success (sans Manny contract drama, of course).

There is also concern that Colletti will begin to deal arbitration-eligible players to shrink payroll even further.  First of all, that’s not necessarily a bad idea.  Players like Andre Ethier for example are at the peak of their value and performance.  Although I fully admit to being heavy into the Dodgers youth movement, I recognize that there will come a time in the somewhat near future when it will do more good to trade them (assuming a wise trade, of course).  Assuming Colletti knows that, I imagine that in five years the only Dodgers we recognize will be Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, the rest probably shipped out for younger players before they hit Free Agency.

Yet until I hear some substantial rumors or the younger Dodgers get closer to free agency, I won’t concern myself too much with it.  A trade of one of our major young players is still quite speculative.  Furthermore, even with the arbitration raises, we’ll still be under budget going into the winter meetings due to all the bad money coming off the books.  Thus, I don’t expect trades to be particularly dramatic either.

It should indeed be a quiet winter meeting for the Dodgers, and that’s the best thing that could happen.

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I think this might be really bad

Posted in Sports by gklarsen on December 1, 2009

It’s official: the Dodgers will not offer arbitration to Orlando Hudson.  In an even more stunning move, they announced that no players will be offered arbitration.  From the LA Times:

The Dodgers are not offering any of their 15 free agents arbitration, a team spokesman said today.

Those players include pitcher Randy Wolf, second baseman Orlando Hudson and infielder Ronnie Belliard.

I would refer you to MSTI who is rightly shocked and dismayed.  True Blue LA feels the same.  I cannot argue with any of it.  It just seems bewildering.  Baseball front offices and ownership make questionable decisions all the time.  The redeeming factor, however, is that they’re at least questionable.  Reasonable (and sometimes not so reasonable) people can disagree.

Reasonable people cannot disagree on this.

In a move I can only imagine was prompted by cash-strapped ownership the Dodgers have effectively decided that the short term and speculative savings of at most 14 million dollars in payroll was worth further malnourishment of their already suffering farm system.  While I would like to say that there was another side to this, that there were real savings, the fact is that this is a poor economic plan.  This is inefficient and blatantly so.  At worst, the Dodgers would get valuable players for a year who, while probably not performing at last year’s level, will still be at least productive major league players at high demand positions.  The two first round draft picks plus the two sandwich picks could yield a Kemp or a Billingsley.  Surely draft picks can and often do bust but it is by far the most effective model for running a competitive and cost controlled franchise.

No word in the above paragraph is simple opinion.  Not offering arbitration to any player whatsoever is just incredible.  I do not expect an explanation but I hope that someone can tell us exactly why this happened.

***

Normally, it isn’t my habit to get too worked up about these things.  Beyond the fact that it’s “just a game,” patience is often the best attitude because things sometimes take time to work out.  A strange decision one day may work out in the end or fade into irrelevance with the passing of even a short amount of time.  Yet I find it difficult to be patient with this decision.

And strangely enough, Jon Weisman seems rattled too.

It’s definitely not the kind of announcement you like to see your team make.  It’s neither bold nor prudent.  It’s just kind of depressing, and it renews questions about the leadership at the very top of this organization, regardless of the success of the past two years.

I quote Mr. Weisman only because he is typically our rock in the Dodgers fan universe.  When he’s not worried, I’m not worried.  He regularly preaches calm, whether it be in regards to trade rumors or managerial decisions.  Because of that, I had expected his reaction to be somewhat more tempered but he seems to feel just as the rest of us do.

If judgment of the team’s greatest fans and admirers is any kind of barometer, Mr. Weisman may be quite precient when he wrote today that “I think hard-core Dodger fans will be talking about this day for a long time to come.”

***

UPDATE:  True Blue LA just published a post detailing just how valuable draft picks are.  Highly recommended.

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Wait, who’s Felipe Lopez?

Posted in Sports by gklarsen on December 1, 2009

UPDATE:  It appears the Dodgers are unlikely to offer Orlando Hudson arbitration.  Bad decision by the Dodgers but it makes this post slightly more relevant.

***

It’s been far too long since I’ve written anything baseball-related and even longer since I wrote anything Dodger-related.  The Dodger news is slow.  No real trade rumors to speak of.  Because we’re not in the market for any big name free agents, we’ll probably have to wait awhile before we see what sort of bargain free agent starters Colletti picks up.

That being said, one name has been tossed around a little and it’s an interesting one:  second baseman Felipe Lopez.  He played for the D-Backs and Brewers last year and the Nationals and Cardinals the two years prior.  The short returns from those years are that he was average to lousy in 2008 and all years prior (except for a remarkably productive 2005), while posting an awesome year in 2009.

His 2009 was truly very good.  He OPSed .810, but the striking feature was the .383 OBP.  Considering you can never really expect much power out of a second baseman, that’s pretty much the money stat.  He won’t steal you any bases:  6 SB, 6 CS and no real speed to speak of.  Not typically a power guy, his .427 SLG was made out of a career-high LD% of 22 and a career-low FB% of 25 to produce 9 HR and 38 doubles.

Felipe Lopez is, however, an inconsistent fielder at best though again he had a great 2009 in that regard.  UZR has him at a 7.8.  Before that, he was either mediocre or bad.  He lead the league in errors by a second baseman this year with 17.

Regardless of the fielding, this all sounds pretty good when compared with the other 2Bs on the market not named Orlando Hudson.  He would seem to be cheap, despite a career year, considering he’s 30 and only made three and a half million last year and never more than four in any year.

Yet Christina Kahrl from BP is skeptical:

It’s interesting how quickly some seem to have forgotten Lopez’s wild inconsistencies in performance. Getting into a funk as a National might seem forgiveable, but it’s not exactly to his credit, and the vagaries of his performance hasn’t been a question of his position—Lopez’s carer walk rate at second is lower than when he was tasked with playing short. I guess I see inconsistency, a lofty line-drive rate in ’09, and the virtues of playing in a bandbox for a good chunk of the season, and take all that as cause to moderate my enthusiasm for him. If it’s a low-end deal, a year-plus-option deal, that works, but a peek into the periscope says, “thar be dragons.”

I concur and write separately to add to that another reason why Felipe Lopez is probably destined for League Average-ness.  His BABIP last year was a big .360.  For a guy with little power who walks about 10 percent of the time, this should be alarming.  This is mitigated somewhat by the fact that Lopez’s BABIP is typically a bit on the high side.  The career average before 2009 was a healthy .312 but the difference between last year and the rest of his career is far too striking to ignore.

What are the odds that a 30 year old second baseman suddenly discovered the secret to lacing line drives between outfielders?  Not very good.  That doesn’t mean that he isn’t worth a look.  A one year plus option would probably end up a decent value in the end.  That is, as long as the per annum doesn’t exceed four mil.

We’ll all have to wait to see how the market shakes out before determining whether or not Lopez can be had on such a deal.  Career-year players go overvalued all the time.  Marco Scutaro will likely get far more than he’s worth coming off of a stellar 2009.  But as we saw last year with Hudson, productive players may be had at a bargain for a watchful GM.  Let’s see how Colletti handles it.

***
Thank all that is holy, for Vin Scully shall return in 2010.  We already knew he would but the confirmation makes me feel better.  Sure there will come a day, sooner rather than later, when we’ll have to live without him.  But it’s best not to think about for another year.

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In re Dave Cameron on player salaries related to MVP candidacy

Posted in Sports by gklarsen on November 24, 2009

As you probably gathered from the title, Dave Cameron has a thought-provoking post on Fangraphs today.  He asks, essentially, why it is we do not take a player’s salary into account when judging him for MVP.  We talk about salary, he says, in virtually every other situation, just not MVP.

Yet, we never factor in the opportunity cost of a player’s portion of his team’s budget, even though it is the exact same concept. If a player makes $15 million and his team has a $100 million budget, he comes with a significant opportunity cost, as he has effectively lowered the budget for his 24 teammates to $85 million. If he made the league minimum, the franchise would have $99.5 million to surround him with talent, and he would invariably have more talented teammates, given that the guy picking them was not named Dayton or Minaya.

In other words, how much a player costs has massive implications for a player’s overall value if we understand value to mean more than production (which we certainly do).  To take an extreme example, Vernon Wells is of negative value to his team because of the size and length of his contract balanced against his output.  But imagine we take away the contract and long-term commitment and instead say that he gets paid about a million a year on a two year deal.  His value shoots through the roof because he’s now something of a bargain and allows those resources (hundreds of millions of dollars, or so it seems) to be distributed elsewhere in the organization.  Vernon Wells would be a moderately valuable player because he comes cheaply.*

*I say ‘moderately’ valuable because he still sucks even if he worked for free.

So, as the article asks, why don’t we think about salary when we ponder these awards?  I believe that this is no mere oversight.  Rather, not talking about a player’s salary is a result we, the baseball enjoying society, like even if we don’t consciously express it.  I really believe that if it were put to a vote whether to adopt salary as a factor in considering MVPs that it would be roundly rejected.

The MVP award is basically symbolic.  It holds no real, tangible value except for a comparatively small bonus a player may receive.  The award, and the process involved in giving it out, holds merit to us as baseball fans because it invites us to reflect on all that is good about this game that we love.  It’s about who rose to the top, salary be damned.

Reading Dave Cameron’s post made me think of college athletics and the fiction it promotes.  Namely, that there’s such a thing as an amateur, scholar athlete.  Top high school athletes may not be given a salary per se but are certainly compensated for their labor through free education, housing, numerous documented and undocumented perks and in many cases relaxed academic standards.  But because there is no salary, they are considered amateur.  Because they are enrolled at a college, they are scholar athletes.

Is this to preserve the integrity of the colleges?  Possibly, although colleges profit enormously from athletics, especially if the team is any good.  More likely, I believe, is that the amateur scholar athlete fiction is promoted because it adds something for the consumer of college athletics.  There is a perceived ‘purity’ in amateur athletics.  The players are not motivated by money, there is no trading or free agency and the whole process is not tainted by profit.

This is all a fiction, as I said.  But the perception remains.  That perception is valuable because it shields fans from the economic realities that sport is a huge, massive business motivated primarily by profit.  There’s no romance in that.  The glory of sport is reduced to efficiencies and inefficiencies, marketing and lifestyle commodities.  It is more fun and more fulfilling to see competition for competition’s sake instead of competition to sell ad space and jerseys.

Baseball, and indeed professional sports as a whole, do not get this benefit of the doubt.  We all accept that profit and economics plays a role.  Players get paid and get paid well.  Yet due in part of our affection for the spirit of amateur sports and the spirit of purity in athletic competition we (perhaps subconsciously) deny certain economic realities to the extent that they affect the game itself.

This relates directly to the unstated presumption that players are rewarded for their valiant and successful achievement on the baseball field with a lucrative contract.  In reality, the  fact is that many many players are motivated not by reaching the pinnacle of success, but by the enormous payday that their success brings.  If we consider salary in the MVP award, we would be compelled to think of salary and talent as intertwined and fans are not prepared to do so.

My point, in this admittedly long and rambling post, is that if we were to consider player salaries in our symbolic consideration of the “Most Valuable Player,” it would be impossible to deny the role that money plays in every single aspect of the game.  We would essentially reward players for earning their paycheck instead of earning our admiration through their performance.  Far too many people would feel their fandom threatened by such a calculation.  Similar to why so many fans feel threatened by the proliferation of advanced statistics, many fans would feel like their visceral enjoyment of the game was diminished.

I believe that the good majority of fans are far more comfortable denying economic value even as it stares them in the face every single game.  We like our perceptions that the sport is pure, untainted by cold economics.  And baseball benefits from it as well.

Note that I don’t actually believe that my enjoyment of the game would be diminished by consideration of player’s salaries for MVP.  Far from it.  I like reading about that stuff.  I still cheer at the games, still love James Loney even though the numbers tell me he’s going to be of poor value once he hits arbitration.  But it’s pretty clear from the national discourse that people are very wary of the intrusion of rational (read: mathematical) realities into their style of enjoyment.

***

p.s. I went ahead and changed the name and appearance of the blog.  I figured “Regal Blue” was a nice enough name for now.  It’s short and encompasses the Dodgers and Kings, two subjects of primary coverage here.  As far as the blog appearance goes, that needed a change for quite awhile but I just never got around to it.

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Link day at Dodgers, Kings, etc.

Posted in Sports by gklarsen on November 20, 2009

Ryan Smyth (or lack thereof) is the story of the day for the Kings.  A slow hot stove for the Dodgers has given everyone ample time to work on their own off-season review projects.  So let’s see what’s happening around the internets:

Memories of Kevin Malone:  Deserves top billing today simply for the sheer length of the post.  In this one, Chad (Kensai?) discusses what he would do if he were the GM.  Usually when you see these sorts of posts they feature absurd trades like “Melky Cabrera and Francisco Cervelli for Matt Cain,” but as is becoming the standard throughout the Dodger blog universe, it’s well-reasoned, rational and well done in every respect.

Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness:  He reviews each and every player so we don’t have to.  Each player is given a grade based upon expectations coming in to the season.  Valedictorians include Matt Kemp and Randy Wolf.  Doomed to repeat the third grade are Cory Wade and Russell Martin.

A Queen Among Kings:  Along with a review of the Flyers game comes a lamentation for the loss of Ryan Smyth.  As the title of the post indicates, Kopitar truly does need his Smytty.

Battle of California:  Rudy Kelly looks at the Flyers game focusing on our goalie.  Combined with the overall numbers, Rudy Kelly concludes that Jon Quick just ain’t doing well right now.

Dodger Thoughts:  In an interesting piece of research, Jon Weisman has been going over the best and worst of the 2000’s.  The most recent (linked) looks at the worst hitters.  I could have sworn Cesar Izturis was better than that.

Sons of Steve Garvey:  Turns out there’s a little bit of hot stove happening.  Orel points us to some news that the Dodgers probably won’t be pursuing John Lackey.  Fantastic!  The last thing I want is a past-his-prime starter dragging down our payroll for the next five years.  Let the Yankees have him.

Alright, that should keep everyone busy for the day.

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Seriously, what the hell was that? Kings 0,Thrashers 7 (seven!)

Posted in Sports by gklarsen on November 15, 2009

I don’t know how momentum works in hockey.  In baseball, it’s something announcers, players and managers use to describe otherwise explainable events.  But here I have to think that Atlanta’s three goals in the second gave Atlanta a ton of momentum and simply broke the backs of the Kings.

On some level I suppose I can understand.  The Kings had been putting pressure on Atlanta all game.  Pavelec refused to let anything through despite the fact that he’d been awful the past three games.  Chance after chance for LA was denied.

The first goal, off of Drewiske’s skate, probably didn’t do it.  That was a fluke.  Those happen.  It’s one goal.  Kovalchuk’s break away?  You knew as soon as he had the puck that it was getting past Quick.  The third goal anyone could have blocked.  It was as if Quick just hadn’t recovered.  In that regard, it’s easy to see why Murray pulled him.

“It’s a little bit of both there,” Murray said when asked whether he pulled Quick because of his poor play or the team’s poor play. “The goals came quickly. The third goal, that’s a critical goal. It’s 2-0, there’s still a lot of time left on the clock to get back into it, and you’ve got to make a save.”

Another goal off Ersberg like a minute later?  Yeah, that’s probably what did it.  I’m sure you saw the brawl after Williams checked a guy through his own bench.  That’s what frustration and despair look like.

There was a third period too but it just sucked, so don’t worry about it.

A tough night to be sure.  I’ll take a page from baseball and say that blowout losses can be forgotten about quicker than close losses and just hope for the best tonight.  It’s Tampa Bay, after all, so there’s nothing stopping us from making something happen.

***

I’ve been looking around for any baseball news but there ain’t much going on the past couple days.  Jack Wilson got re-signed by the Mariners for a two year, 10 mil contract which seems like a nice deal for both sides.  Fangraphs says Wilson was worth just about 8.5 mil last year alone so barring a complete loss of his defensive skills or injury, way to go Jack Z.  Remember Bill Bavasi?  Yeah that guy was hilarious.  Carlos Silva.  Heh.

In all honesty, I’m glad the Mariners finally have some semblance of direction and a quality GM.  I’ve always liked the Mariners.  With Franklin Gutierrez in center and Ichiro in right they’ve got three premier defenders in the field.  Their offensive output was real fluke-y and Jarrod Washburn’s performance was the very definition of “unsustainable” (until he was wisely traded…again, good work Jack Z).  Still, there’s a lot to like going forward.  And they’ve always got Ichiro to cheer for.  Love that guy.

You know what?  I think that’s all I got.

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