Thursday, February 03, 2005

Guillen, Sosa and Bowden

MLB also has a piece on yesterday's ESPN Zone event that focused on Guillen. I like what I read:
I'm looking to buy a house here. I've already talked to Jim and we already had some great conversations," Guillen said. "I'm looking to be here for many years.

Guillen weighed in on the Sosa trade, saying he talked to Sosa, and Sosa had the ability to choose whether he was going to Washington or Baltimore. That conflicts with all other reports. Most of the reports say that the Nationals didn't want to give up the player that the Cubs were after (either Sledge or Wilkerson), and never got serious about a counter-offer, but kept discussions alive up until the end. Unlike the conspiracy theory, this seems logical.

I give Bowden both the benefit of the doubt and credit, here. I think he takes too bad a rap in the blogging community on the whole. I think pursuing a deal for Sosa along the lines of what the Orioles gave up was worthwhile. I also think it's commendable and quite probably the right decision not to mortgage our future by shipping off one of the two people on that short list.

I've been reasonably ambivalent to happy with most of Bowden's moves, with Guzman and Castilla being the big exceptions. I can start to see some justification for Castilla based on clubhouse leadership, but Guzman is still a mystery (particularly when you factor in the four year deal). Even Loaiza, with the dollar amount involved, it's hard to brand it a bad deal. While I think it needlessly pushes an equal to better arm into the bullpen (or even AAA), I'm still close to neutral on it.

I'm not saying that I'm Bowden's biggest fan, as my comments on his previous transactions will show. I'm just trying not to view his actions through the filter of a skeptic. I think he's probably an intelligent man who had reasons for the moves he made that were reasonably sound. For instance, even going beyond Castilla's "leadership qualities", I can seem him thinking the guy was worth taking a chance on, because while his away numbers were a big step down from his recent past, he magically learned how to take a walk, doubling his walk total from each of the two previous years. Maybe he thinks the guy is worth the risk, particularly considering we supposedly have a good hitting coach. Once you throw in the leadership qualities, the deal starts feeling more sensical. I'm not saying that it's what I would have done, but I at least believe there might be method to Bowden's madness (though I'm still trying to explain Guzman).


At 11:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You write,

"While I think [Loaiza] needlessly pushes an equal to better arm into the bullpen (or even AAA), I'm still close to neutral on it."

And I wonder, "What is he talking about?" We do not have any "equal arms" in the starting rotation. Loaiza is, by any standard, a worse pitcher than at least six, possibly seven starters already on the Nats 40-man or triple-A roster. If we had an eight-man rotation, Loaiza would be a valuable addition. Now, maybe it makes sense to let one or two of our younger pitchers, all of whom are better than Loiaza, spend more time in the minors, or even season for a year in the bullpen like Johan Santana. But Esteban remains the worst pitcher to wear a Nationals uniform. But just because it might make sense to keep them down on the farm doesn't make Loaiza their equal.

Also, Loaiza's contract is for two years, not one, as is widely reported. Well, it's guaranteed for one, but either Esteban or the Nats can option a second year. So if Lioaza suddenly doesn't suck, the Nats will pick up his option for 2006. And if he does suck, he'd be a fool not to invoke the 2006 option himself. Either way, we're stuck with Loaiza for a good long time.

The problem with Bowden isn't any particular signing. It's the style of thinking that the deals he's made demonstrate. Only someone whose valuation of players was radically disconnected from the realities of how baseball teams win games could make the package of signings Bowden has made. He honestly seems to think that RBI translates from team to team, for example. He seems to think that one homer, two singles, and five strikeouts is better than three singles, two walks, and three strikeouts. He seems to judge players on their best performances, not their overall records. (Thus Loaiza and Guzman.) He also speaks total and undeniable nonsense to the press, contradicting himself practically from sentence to sentence. Is he dishonest, or does he simply not know his own mind? It's one or the other, and neither is a particularly good trait for someone in his position. (He has a history of leaving players and agents feeling deceived in Cincy, so this is not a new thing or signs of rust from his time in sports-talk TV.)

Still, Guillen could be a great catch, and most of Bowden's tomfoolery will be but a memory by the time we move into the new stadium. Assuming, of course, that the new owners can his sorry hide when they take over this summer.

At 12:51 PM, Blogger John said...

You're right that Loaiza is below the level of Patterson, Rauch, etc. I argued that quite vehemently and thoroughly before we were even pursuing the guy, and certainly through the pursuit and capture. By saying "equal to better" I was trying to take into account the large rash of injuries we've had, and the thought that maybe Loaiza has another 2003 in him, it's just that Mel Stotylmyre can't get anything out of any of his pitchers. That said, I always have been extremely skeptical of the guy. But I don't think the minimal amount of money his contract entails is anything to worry about, particularly past 2005, when real owners are in town. I can see Loaiza getting released outright without causing any hardships whatsoever if it turns out to be the right thing to do. We don't have this huge wealth of pitching talent that we're hurting by keeping him on the roster. Even Hinkley is better served continuing in AAA if he can't land a starting slot, which I don't think he would have done, even without Loaiza.

Also, are you sure you looked at all of the dregs that spent a lot of time on the roster last year? We had lots of players with horrible VORPs and high ERAs who nonetheless saw many innings in relief. Several of them will still be in contention for slots of suckitude, even with Osuna, and a few good potential starters shoved to the bullpen. Even when they had a better year than Loaiza, the Yankees thing was clearly a bad situation that took a mediocre player and magnified his flaws under a microscope.

Your paragraph ranting on Bowden is exactly what I was talking about in this entry. While it's clear that he ignored the numbers, I think you're jumping to conclusions when you say, "[his] valuation of players was radically disconnected from the realities of how baseball teams win games" and "He seems to judge players on their best performances, not their overall records."

I think that's one way to interpret the evidence, but I think you're drawing inferences that are more or less based on the implicit assumption that all the data you have is everything used to make decisions. I tried to point out that there are a lot of factors that can come into play that we don't see. In the case of Loaiza, do you think that was Jim Bowden's first choice? No way... just looking at players he went after (and thus thought he might be able to afford) it was about his 5th choice of players. That doesn't count people he would have rather had who were taken off the market, said outright that they wouldn't come here, etc. Clearly, when you factor in injury and lack of experience in our pitching staff, there are many risks. I see no problem in getting some mediocre veteran that is at least a known quantity of mediocre and who has given you at least some reason to think that you might get lucky and get a nice surprise.

Actually, I watched Loaiza pitch a lot last year, and while I was hating life every time it happened, he'd actually do just fine the first time through the order. If he fails as a starter, and it's him in the bullpen, instead of Rauch, I think it's money well spent, because I think there's a very good chance that he'd do a lot better than a Gary Majewski (1.52 WHIP, 3.86 ERA, .362 OOBP, -1.7 VORP). Now, I don't think that will happen, but let's not rule out the possibility yet.

I can't believe you made me defend Loaiza! You should be ashamed of yourself! ;-)


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