The Birdhouse Annex
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Welcome to Brian Walton's St. Louis Cardinals blog!

News and commentary about the past, present and future state of the St. Louis Cardinals. 
 
Note that all new St. Louis Cardinals-related content will be posted on the new Birdhouse site, stlcardinals.scout.com, rather than here.  An explanatory note is below. 
 
Search the archives, listed by week and month, at the bottom of this page.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

A rare reader mail item on the front page...

What about The Annex?

 

Hi Brian:

Just wondering what impact the changes at The Birdhouse will have on the Annex?

 

Best wishes,

Jim McGuire

 

Walton’s take:  Thanks for asking, Jim.

 

Our new Scout.com site will eliminate the primary need for The Birdhouse Annex.  The origin of The Annex was to give me an outlet to post my stories immediately.  Our previous publishing system used for The Birdhouse was not flexible enough to enable both Ray and me to post stories and manage the site layout.  It also was unable to easily accommodate the tables and graphs that I often use in my stories. 

 

That meant there could be a time lapse, sometimes considerable, between when I would complete a story and when Ray could post it, especially if he was on the road at the time.  Or, in other cases, we had to link between sites, which was unwieldy.

 

However, that will be fixed soon as I am able to post real time on our new site with Scout.com.  Hence, readers will again be able to go to one place to access all of our Cardinals content and know it is the most current.

 

I may decide to continue to use the Annex for personal messages or those that relate to my other interests not directly related to the Cardinals, such as fantasy baseball.

4:41 pm est

Sunday, February 6, 2005

Big Mac Shot by Canseco, or Did He Shoot Himself?

 

We’ve known for some time that disgraced former Oakland A’s Bash Brother Jose Canseco has been writing a book.  But, what we didn’t know until a story ran in Saturday’s New York Daily News that he’s taking his closest associates in the game down with him. 

 

While the book is not going to be out for two weeks, enough snippets are getting out that it is clear that Canseco is naming names.  And big names they are.  Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez, Jason Giambi and yes, Mark McGwire.

 

Canseco apparently takes pride for being the one to have introduced steroids to the game and specifically to the players named above.  He also advocates the use of them.  One particularly disturbing image was presented.  Imagine Canseco and McGwire squeezed into a restroom stall, with the former injecting steroids into the latter’s rear end.  Not very pretty from any angle.

 

Over the past six years, when he’s talked about it at all, McGwire has been steady and firm in his insistence that he used only androstenedione, pills taken from the bottle discovered in his Busch Stadium locker.  However, Canseco seems to be quite clear that andro may have just been an appetizer for the muscle-mass-hungry Mac.

 

Yet to-date, McGwire has been able to stay on the edge of baseball’s steroid scandals based on the argument that andro was not a prohibited substance when he used it.  While it is not yet known what Canseco allegedly injected into Big Mac, the implication is certainly that it is something worse, whether banned, illegal or both.

 

Sure, Canseco could be lying.  He is hardly a poster boy for credibility or clean living.  But, what if he is telling the truth?

 

That old doubt is back.  As a result, that heavy feeling that I first had in the pit of my stomach back in 1998 has returned.  I don’t think it is going to go away anytime soon.

 

McGwire’s on-field legacy is well known.  With 583 career home runs, Mac was expected by many to be a first-ballot Hall of Fame shoo-in when eligible in 2007.  Many of us can recite his legacy – topped Roger Maris’ single season home run record, led his league in home runs and slugging percentage four times, set the rookie homer record, collected a World Series crown in three appearances and much more.

 

In fact, the 2007 Hall of Fame class was expected to be a dream group, perhaps like no other since the very first year way back in 1936.  Like Mac, the other two “locks”, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn, each have spectacular career resumes.  But there’s one big difference.  The other two have squeaky clean images.

 

Then, we have Big Mac.  Hall of Fame voters will now have to sort through Pete Rose-level bluster over the upcoming weeks, months and years to decide for themselves.  All the debates and implications will come back, likely with some new twists.  Canseco and McGwire.  Mac and his close buddy Giambi.  Giambi and BALCO.  BALCO and Bonds.  Hispanic vs. black vs. white.  Nothing good will come from this.  Even the truth, if it is ever known.

 

One thing seems likely.  McGwire’s first-ballot election that seemed like a sure thing will now clearly be put in jeopardy.  At this point, there is seemingly little he can do about it.

 

By the way, if anyone cares, 2007 is also Canseco’s class.  Think he will get any votes?  Clearly, he’s cost some.

 

New York Daily News story:  http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/story/278255p-238313c.html

 

7:15 pm est

Saturday, February 5, 2005

Cons and Icons

 

News item:  Free-agent outfielder Magglio Ordonez agrees to a five-year contract with the Detroit Tigers for $75 million.  The total value could end up being as much as $105 million by the time it is over.

 

Even before Carlos Delgado and Ordonez signed, ESPN’s Jayson Stark reported that over $1 billion of free agents had been signed this off-season.  That is mind-boggling enough on its own until one realizes that one man, one agent, was personally responsible of 2/5 of that amount, almost $400 million dollars.

 

Yep, no one other than the man most despised by owners and general managers; none other than Scott Boras.

 

This off-season, Boras represented 11 free agents, having coined his own term to describe them.  “Icon players have proven to be great investments for their businesses,” said Boras during the November GM meetings. 

 

Not starving from past plundering missions, Boras previously negotiated Alex Rodriguez' 10-year, $252 million contract, Barry Bonds' five-year, $90 million deal and Kevin Brown's seven-year, $105 million contract.  Boras, 52, has been a player agent for 24 years.

 

Back in November, an AP story made this laughable observation.  “Only a few teams might be willing to spend the kind of money Boras’ guys want.”  Of course, it didn’t happen that way.  It never happens that way.  Boras waits and waits and eventually, the market comes to him.  Owners and GMs can’t resist.  It’s like the moth’s attraction to the flame and is predictable as the tides.

 

This season, Boras’ top seven “icon” free-agents have signed contracts with six different teams totaling $396 million.  Boras gets the industry-standard 5%, meaning he will be lining his pockets with just under $20 million. 

 

Like his free agents, Boras, too, is an icon.  He is universally recognized as an icon of greed and has surely earned the title.

 

Player                     New Team                          Contract     Duration        Boras’ take

Adrian Beltre             Seattle                                $64 M          5 years                  $3.2 M

Carlos Beltran            New York Mets                    $119 M         7 years                  $5.95 M

Derek Lowe               Los Angeles Dodgers            $36 M          4 years                  $1.8 M

Kevin Millwood           Cleveland                            $7 M            1 year                   $0.35M

Jason Varitek             Boston                                $40 M          4 years                  $2.0 M

J.D. Drew                  Los Angeles Dodgers            $55 M          5 years                  $2.75 M

Magglio Ordonez        Detroit                                $75 M          5 years                  $3.75 M

 

Total                                                                 $396 M                                    $19.8M

 

Rarely does Boras have to compromise, but Varitek’s deal presented a real challenge.  The leader of the World Champions stated his desire to stay with the team, but his five-year deal and demand for a no-trade clause were in direct conflict with team policy.  In addition, four other Sox players’ contracts enable them to get no-trade clauses if any one else receives one.

 

No problem.  While Boras and Varitek backed their $11 million a year demand all the way down to $10 million and five years to four, they also got a change in team policy to enact a no-trade clause after eight consecutive years of service.  ‘Tek’s the only player who is close to meeting that.  In addition, in a sad move that signaled anything can be negotiated, Varitek was named Sox team captain.

 

And, how about that Drew deal?  He can walk away from the Dodgers after two seasons if he so chooses.  Why would he do that?  Only to get more money elsewhere, of course.  If the opportunity presents itself, you can be sure that “five-percent Scott” will be right there to seal the deal.

 

In a recent Boston Herald article, Boras called the market “lush”.  He could have been using the word as an adjective, meaning “excessively productive or thriving”.  Then again, “lush” could have been a noun, which is a better reflection of Boras.  “A drunkard”, not by alcohol, but by power, ego and greed.   

 

Said Boras to Forbes last month, “Any sport or business or product is about attention.”  He went on to proudly point out the value to a team and to the game overall when his icons are in the headlines even during the off-season.  “It’s like a company that has a product.  The product is getting publicity, and you’re not paying for it.”

 

Guess who pays in the end?  Yep, you and I.

 

11:45 pm est

Thursday, February 3, 2005

All Izzy, All the Time

 

I seem to have inadvertently struck a chord with some readers with my story about Jason Isringhausen and his 2006 option yesterday.  Although I intended it to be a positive reflection of Izzy, apparently my choice of words ruffled a few feathers.

 

Specifically, I was questioned on my characterization of Izzy as a second-tier closer.  Actually, what I said was that Izzy is in the tier just below the top closers.  While I guess the readers’ interpretation is valid, it was not intended as a slam.

 

While always good since becoming a closer, Izzy has never been great.  However, at the time Izzy signed his contract in November, 2001, he was being paid as an elite closer.  Yet, since 2001, the escalation of the salary market has led to Izzy’s four-year deal (or five years with option) looking more in line with his relative contribution.

 

To drive the point home, let’s look at some facts.  We’ll take a few angles other than salary, which I covered before; specifically stats, injury and projections.

 

Stats 

Here is Izzy’s stat line from recent seasons.  (Bests in bold.)

 

 

G

W

L

SV

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

K

ERA

WHIP

BAA

 

2001 (Oakland)

65

4

3

34

71.1

54

24

21

5

23

74

2.65

1.08

.203

 

2002

60

3

2

32

65.1

46

22

18

0

18

68

2.48

0.98

.199

 

2003

40

0

1

22

42.0

31

14

11

2

18

41

2.36

1.17

.200

 

2004

74

4

2

47

75.1

55

27

24

5

23

71

2.87

1.04

.199

 

 

2004 was a very good year for Izzy.  On the positive side, his 47 saves was a new career high and his opposing batting average tied his career best.  Yet, he can do better.  His ERA was its highest since 2000 and was a half run higher than his career best in 2003.  In addition, his strikeout rate continues its decline since 2000.

 

Another evaluation method is to contrast Izzy’s 2004 with some the top closers in the game.   Again, very good, but short of the very best.

 

 

G

W

L

SV

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

K

ERA

WHIP

BAA

 

Jason Isringhausen

74

4

2

47

75.1

55

27

24

5

23

71

2.87

1.04

.199

 

Eric Gagne

70

7

3

45

82.1

53

24

20

5

22

114

2.19

0.91

.181

 

Mariano Rivera

74

4

2

53

78.2

65

17

17

3

20

66

1.94

1.08

.225

 

Brad Lidge

80

6

5

29

94.2

57

21

20

8

30

157

1.90

0.92

.174

 

 

Injuries 

2005 holds the promise to be Izzy’s first healthy season in at least the last three.  He played through a painful hip condition during 2004 that was corrected by off-season surgery.  Izzy did not make his 2003 debut until mid-June, as he was returning from shoulder surgery coming off the 2002 season.  During a longer-than-expected recovery period, there were doubts as to whether Izzy could pitch on back-to-back days, perhaps for the remainder of his career.  With proper use and care, he has been ready when needed.

 

A healthy, productive 2005 would make exercising that $8 million 2006 option all the easier decision for the Cardinals’ brass to make.

 

Projections

Granted, this may be more of a debatable area than the previous two.  In fact, projections were more the realm of fantasy players until the recent sabermetric push across the game.  Still, people who crunch numbers seem to support the general view of Izzy as good, but not great.

 

Baseball HQ’s and former Cardinals consultant Ron Shandler pegs Izzy as the game’s #8 closer and the top name in his second tier.  In addition to the three above, Shandler also ranks Billy Wagner, Keith Foulke, Francisco Cordero and Armando Benitez in the group above Izzy.

 

Rotoman Peter Kreutzer calls Izzy out as his 11th most valuable closer in 2005, while SportsBlurb’s Seth Trachtman sees Izzy as his 9th-ranked closer this coming season.

 

In closing…

Again, this was not to drag Izzy down, but instead to put his contributions in proper context.  There is no reason to believe that the 32-year-old can’t put together a fine 2005 campaign and firm up the Cardinals’ option to bring him back for 2006.

1:36 pm est

Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Addition by subtraction...

Math by Sosa

 

With Sammy Sosa’s trade from the Cubs to the Orioles due to be announced very soon, here is how the numbers shake out.

 

For 2005:

Cubs pay $15.5 million ($12 million salary + $3.5 million severance pay)

Orioles pay $5 million

 

For 2006:

Orioles pay $4.5 million buyout or $18 million salary

 

For 2007:

Option clause removed

 

Sosa gives up:

For 2006, he potentially loses the difference between $18 million guaranteed and ($4.5 million + whatever contract value he signs for next season). 

For 2007, he has given up a $4.5 million buyout (or far less likely, a $19 million salary).

 

Summary:

Cubs pay a boatload of cash to be rid of a clubhouse cancer and the Orioles pay $9.5 million for one year of Sosa, of which $4.5 million of it is deferred until next year.  The Cubs and Sosa each gave a lot to get out of a bad marriage.  The Orioles pay about fair market value for no more than one year of Sosa.  Good enough deal for them.

 

4:41 pm est

2005.02.13 | 2005.02.06 | 2005.01.30 | 2005.01.23 | 2005.01.16 | 2005.01.09 | 2005.01.02 | 2004.12.26 | 2004.12.19 | 2004.12.01 | 2004.11.01 | 2004.10.01 | 2004.09.01 | 2004.08.01

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