Top 10 MLB Storylines of 2008 (4-1)

Here are the remaining top stories that we see developing throughout the course of the 2008 season.

4. Explosion of Revenue and Popularity

Yes, even today in the age of steroids, fans are flocking to the game like never before and the owners are raking in record profits. Here are just a few examples from FOX Sports’ MLB Insider Ken Rosenthal:

“MLBAM, baseball’s new-media arm, generated $36 million in revenue in 2001, its first year of existence. That number grew to more than $450 million in 2007, according to the Sports Business Journal.”

Every time you log-in to watch MLB.TV, listen or watch a game on-line, revenue grows.

This speaks directly to the heart of why baseball’s popularity can match the NFL.

“No matter where you live, you can pay to listen to your favorite team on satellite radio, pay to watch your favorite team on cable television or MLB.com, pay to buy tickets on-line.The Internet gives baseball a perfect platform not only for streaming video and ticket sales, but also fantasy leagues, merchandise and collectibles. Yet, compelling as the new technology is, it is only one element of a larger story.”

Oh, and blogs are important too.

3. Milestones

Last season we saw a ton of milestones passed. Some were personal, some historic. Here is what is on tap for 2008

Ken Griffey Jr.- needs 7 HRs to reach 600 Will have a chance to pass Sammy Sosa (609) provided Sosa doesn’t play for 5th all-time

Greg Maddux- Needs 8 Wins to pass Roger Clemens (354) for 8th all-time

Tom Glavine- Needs 5 Wins to pass Mickey Welch for 20th all-time

Jim Thome- Needs 6 HRs to pass Ernie Banks for 19th all time

Billy Wagner- Needs 10 saves to pass Jeff Reardon for 6th all time

2. Santana Sweepstakes

One of the biggest non-trades made during the Winter Meetings in December was the rumor mill surrounding Johan Santana. The Yankees being the biggest player dropped out-or so they would like us to think-of the Johann Santana acquisition talks due to the high price the Minnesota Twins were asking in return. Plus, with Santana’s free-agent status upcoming after the 2008 season (he’s due $13.5 mil plus incentives), he will command the biggest return of any player being shopped if the Twins are able to find a home for their ace. Coming down to the trade deadline this summer it will be all Santana, all the time.

1. Detroit Baseball City

The Detroit Tigers and GM Dave Dombrowski made the biggest splash of the relatively slow and uninteresting off-season when they acquired Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis in return for six prospects that were sent packing to south Florida.

The reason that this story will dominate the headlines is not necessarily the names, but the expectations of the Tigers and their fans. After losing 119 games in 2003, the Tigers have gone through a renaissance, and the organization has recommitted itself to finding solid young talent as well as a very strong, young rotation. Only a few years removed from a World Series appearance in 2006 and after a somewhat disappointing 2007 season in which the Tigers finished a distant 8 games behind the American League’s second best team Cleveland Indians, Detroit has upped the ante and brought a lot of excitement back to Detroit. Ticket sales are up and so are expectations of what should be a very explosive offense coupled with a very formidable pitching staff. We foresee Cleveland and Detroit batting it out for the next few years for the AL Central crown.

And there it is. Your top 10 stories of 2008. If you missed the first 5, here is the link to the story.

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Lazy Sunday Links and News II

Brandon Phillips and Matt Beslisle arbitration
Both Brandon Phillips and Matt Belisle filed for arbitration this week. 

For Belisle: Salary-$390,000 Asking-$1.65 million Reds Counter-$1 million

For Phillips: Salary-$407,000 Asking -$4.2 million Reds Counter-$2.7 million

JinAZ has a nice breakdown with some figures

Spring Training Home
Former COO John Allen made a trip out to Goodyear, Arizona this past week looking at a new site for the Reds’ spring training home.  Looks like Sarasota wants to make a counter offer to “re-build” Ed Smith Stadium which is in bad need of repair and to come up to code with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Read about it here and here

MLB Congressional Hearings
Last week Senator George Mitchell, Commissioner Bud Selig, and Player’s Union President Don Fehr had an appearance before Congress about the Mitchell Report.  Although I have barely watched some of the nearly four hours of testimony and questions, nothing much was gained; except for the fact that some Congressmen and Congress women know little or nothing about baseball.  One Congresswoman compared steroids in baseball to Britney Spears shenanigans. 

Baseball Prospectus Prospects List
BP has put out some information on Jay Bruce and the rest of the minor league prospects in the Reds system.  A subscription is required for the entire article.

Top 10 MLB Storylines of 2008 (10-5)

Today we thought we would look at the crystal ball and find some of the top stories that will dominate the 2008 season in the media and on the field.

10. Steroids/Bonds Trial/Clemens Lawsuit/Tejada Investigation

Yes, this will still be in the news and the cloud of steroids will be with us for sometime.  I would even go as far as to characterize it as a “cold war” that is hanging over baseball.  The games will go on, but the specter of BALCO, the Mitchell Investigation, and wild accusations will be present for sometime.

Home-run king, for the time being, Barry Bonds is set to face four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice after being formally indicted on November 15 of last year.  A pretrial hearing is set for February 7. 

Roger Clemens, filing a defamation lawsuit against former trainer Brian McNamee for McNamee’s testimony for the Mitchell Report alleging that he injected steroids into Clemens, will be another ongoing story.  Both Clemens and McNamee will appear before Congress on January 26 and again on February 13th in order to prepare for the trail. 

New Houston Astro Miguel Tejada is also facing an investigation of his own by the FBI about having possibly lied to authorities on his steroid use.  New GM Ed Wade cannot be happy about having the baggage that comes along with an FBI investigation on top of having the re-build a franchise that has fallen far after its appearance in the World Series in 2005.

9. Red Sox Repeat?

Is it possible? Are we actually talking about a repeat?  A team that hadn’t had a World Series title in 86 years and then they win 2 of the last 4 years.  With young stars like Jacoby Ellsbury, 2007 AL Rookie of the Year Dustin Pedrioa and Jonathan Papelbon mixed with veterans Manny Ramiriez, David Ortiz and newly extended Mike Lowell this team seems poised to have another great year. 

8. Rockies and D-Backs, rest of NL West

The National League West is starting to become one of the biggest pools of talent in the National League if not MLB.  The Rockies’ improbable run to the 2007 World Series, the Diamondbacks being in the NLCS despite being outscored during the regular season, and the San Diego Padres making it to the play-in game, losing to the Rockies in dramatic fashion were great stories that I expect to make some more waves in 2008.  With the exception of the Dodgers, who have signed Joe Torre as manager, and the San Francisco Giants blowing up the franchise after the departure of Barry Bonds, the NL West is very strong.  Can the Rockies and D-Backs have a repeat performance of last season? Will the youth movement of these two teams mature even further and become a bigger force in 2008?

With the Rockies signing Matt Holliday 2 year/$23 million contract to avoid arbitration, the organization seems committed to having a long run.  They also have strong pitching with Jeff Francis, Ubaldo Jiminez, and closer Manny Corpas.  

The Diamondbacks acquired Dan Haren from the Oakland A’s to go with pitching ace Brandon Webb for a strong 1-2 punch. 

The Padres added a questionable Mark Prior to a rotation that includes the NL Cy Young winner Jake Peavey, future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, and pitcher Chris Young who had an excellent start of the 2007 season before falling off a bit. 

7. Glavine and Smoltz in the ATL

This one is a bit sentimental for me as I came back to baseball in the 90s and what a decade it was for these two men. Glavine returns after five season with the New York Mets to the team who drafted him way back in 1987.  I wish that he Smoltz and Maddux all go into the Hall of Fame together. 

6. New Yankee Skipper

After spending 3 years (1996-1999) with the Yankees behind the plate as a catcher, Joe Girardi goes from the FOX broadcast booth back to the field as manager of the Bronx Bombers.  While managing the Florida Marlins in 2006, Girardi won NL Manager of the Year, but was later fired after clashing with the organization heads.  It will be interesting to see if he can manage All-Star talent, along with the Alex Rodriguez drama, in the Big Apple.  Will the Yankees be able to return to the Series like ownership had hoped, or will New York fans be wanting Joe Torre back? 

5. Hollywood Joe Torre

From the Big Apple to the bright lights of Hollywood, Joe Torre goes west to the LA Dodgers.  Torre is supposedly a great manager of talent, but he will have to find a way to quiet down a tumultuous clubhouse that pitted veterans against the younger players in the Dodger lineup.  This will be his third stint in the National League where he wasn’t very successful.  Atlanta (257-259), New York Mets (286-420), St Louis Cardinals (351-354)

Reds Hire Ex-Cardinal GM Walt Jocketty

On Friday, the Cincinnati Reds hired ex-St. Louis GM Walt Jocketty as a special assistant to owner and Chairman Bob Castellini. Jocketty will report directly to Castellini, as will current GM Wayne Krivsky.

 

 

 

 

Background

Jocketty has one World Series title and seven National League Central titles to his credit during his tenure from 1994 to 2007. One of the major factors in his firing by the Cardinals and Chairman Bill DeWitt was the conflict of how to develop young talent and the use of a more analytical approach. Farm director Jeff Luhnow was promoted from his position of scouting director. This clash of approaches was documented in Baseball America’s preview of the NL Central (Issue 0725 Dec. 3-16 2007)

“Luhnow was hired as a consultant to reboot the Cardinals’ use of statistical analysis.”

The statistical analysis used lead Luhnow to draft Colby Rasmus, the Cardinals’ top prospect, during the 2005 draft. This rubbed Jocketty the wrong way. Jocketty is a noted “old school” baseball guy, going by gut instinct and a master at acquiring veteran talent. However, when Luhnow was given increasing power, Jocketty was not happy.

“Some in the organization said Jocketty considered the move as an erosion of his power.”

Obviously it was. Most of the “old school” types and new analysis or “Money Ball” approach type scouts and GMs are very much at odds. “Money Ball” of course is the groundbreaking baseball book written by Michael Lewis about the success of Billy Beane in Oakland and the use of raw statistical analysis (objective) rather than going by what a scout can see by his eyes (subjective). While some clubs have been able to successfully marry the two approaches together, like the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox, many people find that there is a lot of resistance to the “Money Ball” approach.

Reds Hire
While we do think that having an experienced baseball man in the front office is a good thing, CFT has mixed feelings on this hire. First, the relationship between Castellini and Jocketty goes back several years when they both were part of the Cardinals organization. With Jocketty having the ear of Castellini, will he seek to undermine the job of GM Wayne Krivsky? Clearly Krivsky needs to make something happen soon to appease Reds fans, but how can he do his job properly while at the same time having to look over his shoulder? We are no defenders of Krivsky, but he has done a decent job of getting the Reds headed in the right direction. By acquring Bandon Phillips, Bronson Arroyo, and Scott Hatteburg, Krivsky has made some positive moves. The farm system is finally starting to bear fruit (Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto) and player development has obviously improved. Many publications have talked about the improvements being made in a system that was barren and had no discernable talent coming up from the minor leagues.

The other question we have is: Will there continue to be an investment made in the minor league system and what method will the Reds be taking? Given that Jocketty meddled with and eventually was fired for not embracing the analytical approach, one can assume that he would not be giving Castellini advice to embrace it as well. Although we are in the dark about Wayne Krivsky’s exact time line and mode of thinking (he never answers any questions that give out any type of usable information), we hope that Jocketty doesn’t impart his ego on the organization and undo what we see as a positive step forward by trading away minor league talent for aging veterans for the quick fix.

In an organization that has yet to see stability at any level, the Reds can ill afford inner-office turmoil.

 

—Quotations via Baseball America Issue 0725, Dec. 3-16, 2007

—Photo via AP

Statistics Can Prove Anything

If you have noticed, we here at CFT don’t really quote many statistics.  Part of that is due to the fact that it is the middle of winter and there isn’t any baseball going on.  The other part of it is we are still learning more about sabermetrics; how to use them, interpret them, and how to calculate them.  However, we love new and usable statistics to better understand the game of baseball.  Pitch f/x data is one of the emerging areas of sabermetrics which we quite don’t understand, but still find fascinating. 

On just about every broadcast, an announcer will remark, “This is one of the grittiness players of all-time.” Thankfully,   JinAZ found this webpage quantifying grittiness in a new, fun stat called General Requirements of Intangible Talent or GRIT. 

We are shocked that the Reds’ own Ryan Freel didn’t make the list.  If “dirt on uniform” is any measure, Ryan would be near the top of the list.  We wonder what went wrong and where he ranks beyond the data set provided.  This even after breaking a lady’s nose in Dodger Stadium after diving for a ball and for having his own “Ryan Freel Dirty Shirt” promotion night.

Die Hard Fan?

MLB Urn

If so, you can be buried or have your ashes bear your team colors as you head to the great beyond. 

No Reds caskets or urns yet, but Eternal Images plans on more teams soon.

Reds Announce Winter Caravan

Yesterday, the Reds announced their annual Winter Caravan event which brings the Reds players, coaches, and personalities to areas around Reds Country.  This is the semi-kickoff to the spring training season and eventually the regular year. 

CFT attended the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory stop last February and had a blast.  Pitcher Homer Bailey, CFT favorite Brandon Phillips, announcer Marty Brennaman, former Red Chris Sabo, and GM Wayne Krivsky were all in attendance.  Unfortunately, we forgot to bring something for the players to sign, so this year we will make it a point to do so.

Scheduled to appear in stops on the Northern Leg are Krivsky, second baseman Brandon Phillips, pitcher Todd Coffey, Reds Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Browning, Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman and Reds mascot Gapper.

The Southern Leg group includes Baker, outfielder Ryan Freel, Reds Minor League Player of the Year Jay Bruce, Reds broadcasters Thom Brennaman and Jeff Brantley, senior vice president of business operations Phil Castellini and Reds mascot Mr. Redlegs.

NORTHERN LEG FAN STOPS (free and open to the public)
Thursday, January 24

Columbus, Ohio, Flannagan’s in Dublin, Ohio, 7 to 9 pm
Friday, January 25
Columbus, Ohio Columbus Parks and Rec at Driving Park, 10 to 10:30 a.m.
Lima, Ohio Lima Mall, 6 to 8 pm
Saturday, January 26
Muncie, Ind., Stoops Automotive Showroom, 11:30 am to 1:30 pm
Indianapolis, Location TBA, 6 to 8 pm
Sunday, January 27
Dayton, Ohio, Fricker’s in West Carrollton, Noon to 2 pm 

SOUTHERN LEG FAN STOPS (free and open to the public)
Thursday, January 24

Marietta, Ohio, Location TBA, 6 to 8 p.m.
Friday, January 25
Charleston (WV), Charleston Towne Center, 3 to 5 p.m.
Huntington, W.Va., Huntington Mall, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, January 26
Lexington, Ky., Faytette Mall, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, January 27
Louisville, Metro Parks at Wyandotte Park, Noon to 12:30 pm
Louisville, Louisville Slugger Museum, 1 to 3 pm