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Wired for Sports Podcast – Episode #7 – 3/20/14 w/ @SpezTalksSports & @ESPNNYChris

2/26/2014 Bob Heffner interview (Passed Ball Show)

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1/22/2014 Hal Brown interview (Passed Ball Show)

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1/29/2014 Ferguson Jenkins interview (Passed Ball Show)

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1/29/2014 Jerry Casale interview (Passed Ball Show)

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The Jason Bay roller coaster has finally idled to a complete stop

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It looks as if the career of OF Jason Bay is finally coming to an end. As many would say (particularly fans of the New York Mets), it will probably be three years too late. It is self explanatory to describe the drop in Bay’s production; which saw a six year run with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Red Sox where he was a top ten power hitting OF in all of MLB over that span that slammed to a complete halt after he signed a 4 year, $66 million contract with the Mets. But if you look at some of the transactions that have involved Bay, you will see that he was both highly desired and not taking seriously over the series of trades he was involved in.
Bay was originally drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 22nd round of the 2000 draft. What is interesting about Bay is that he was in the Little League World Series at age 11 in 1990. He then got to play on Canada’s Junior Olympic team. He was not highly recruited during high school and played at North Idaho College. It was that point where Bay started setting records, eventually transferring to Gonzaga. He would continue to dominate, but was still not scouted as a high end player with MLB potential. The Expos saw enough to take him in the June draft. The Expos GM…?…. Omar Minaya. (*Cue the typical Mets fans bashing of Minaya* Why not? This is an article about Jason Bay. I would not expect Jason Bay to bring back the greatest memories in the mind of Mets fans.)
Bay would tear up the New York Penn and Midwest Leagues in 2000 and 2001. It was in the Florida State League where he would struggle, playing in Jupiter (A+). Hitting .195 in 38 games dropped his value so much that he was traded at the end of spring training in 2002 to the Mets with Jimmy Serrano for Lou Collier (a guest on the Passed Ball Show, interview can be found at www.johnpielli.com/john-piellis-pbs-interviews.html). Collier’s value to the Expos was that of a utility infielder so it was obvious that Minaya and the Expos did not value Bay very much (at that time). Bay would put up respectable, not dominant numbers for A St Lucie and AA Binghamton. This increased his value enough to be dealt to the San Diego Padres with Josh Reynolds and Bobby M Jones in a deal that would get the Mets RHPs Steve Reed and Jason Middlebrook. He hit .309 in his final 23 games in AA Mobile to finish the season at .283, 17, 85.
Bay moved up to AAA for the 2003 season, where he hit 20 HRs and OPSed .951 in 91 games. This increased his trade value to point where he was used as trade bait; this time dealt to the Pirates with Oliver Perez (yes… that Oliver Perez) and Corey Stewart for All Star OF Brian Giles. Bay was having a solid season; he trailed only Pirates AAA OF prospect JJ Davis in slugging percentage (Davis was at .964). Bay had made his MLB debut that season with San Diego and after being traded to the Pirates, he played every day at the big league level. While Pirates fans were pissed at the thought they gave another good player away for nothing, Bay gave them something to think about.
At this point, Bay started to become a player. He would win the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2004 and have consecutive All Star seasons, with 30+ HR and 100+ RBI in 2005 and 2006. A down 2007 saw Bay’s average dip to .247. While Bay had rebounded the next season, he still had not caught up to his 2005 and 2006 seasons. Then he was dealt on July 31st for the second time in his career.
The Red Sox would deal OF Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers, getting Bay from the Pirates. The Pirates would get pitcher Bryan Morris and 3B Andy LaRoche from the Dodgers and pitcher Craig Hansen and 1B Brandon Moss from the Red Sox. To put it in perspective how valued (or overvalued) Bay was in this trade, look at it this way. The Pirates traded Bay to the Red Sox and got back Morris, Hansen, LaRoche and Brandon Moss. Though LaRoche and Hansen never panned out, Morris has become a solid reliever for the Pirates and Moss has become a solid everyday player for the Athletics. To get Bay, the Red Sox traded Manny Ramirez, Brandon Moss and Hansen! Obviously the Red Sox got some salary relief by dealing Ramirez to LA, but few saw this deal as a fair one, on paper, for the Red Sox.
Bay would have a solid 2009 season, at least in regards to HR (36) and RBI (119). His OPS was .921, which was the highest it had been since 2006. He had a career high in strikeouts, hit only 29 2Bs and finished with a .267 average entering his free agency season. While he was productive, the Red Sox felt comfortable letting him walk as a free agent.
Remember the discussion about the two free agent outfielders that offseason. I remember hearing all the bitching about the fact that Matt Holliday was getting a 7 year contract to remain with the St Louis Cardinals. While I stayed away from those complaints, I did think Bay could provide some value with the 4 year deal he signed.
It would have been very difficult to expect Bay to be a top MLB OF during the duration of his Mets contract. But, nobody saw his career coming to a crashing halt. It seemed like the turning point was that evening in LA when Bay crashed into the LF fence at Dodgers Stadium. He was never a force in the lineup after that, including an embarrassing 2012 season where he managed to have an OPS of .536. His SLG% alone for the Red Sox in 2009 was .537. It doesn’t get any worse than a .165, 8, 20 in 70 games. Both Bay and Mets fans were mercied after the 2012 season, allowing both the fans and Jason to move on with their respective lives. He would be signed by #6 org, the Seattle Mariners and would hit .204, 11, 20 in 68 games with the M’s before he was released on August 6th. Assuming Bay will no longer play, he finished his career with a .266, 260, .482 split to go along with his 222 HRs.
Similar to anyone else who watched Bay play during his time in NY, I was frustrated that he could never get it together. However, the way he played the game was an example that all should follow. Even at his worst, he ran out every ball hit, played the game with all his heart and never let his offensive woes affect his performance on defense. Maybe he should have hung it up after the 2011 or 2012 season. But nobody leaves two years of owed money on the table and only Gil Meche left money on the table his last year in Kansas City. And he was owed much less than Bay was. Bay’s slow moving coaster has been idling in the station for years now, and if it has come to a final stop, I wish the guy the best. Jason Bay will be forever remembered for being one of the many players who could not cut in NY- he’d be the first to tell you.

12/30/2013 Bryce Florie interview (Passed Ball Show)

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What it was that made the Seattle Pilots franchise so vulnerable

Going over the expansion draft of what would be the 1969 Seattle Pilots made me think about the franchise a little bit. How could a city that was given an expansion franchise lose that team after one season. The more I thought about it, the more I found some sense to the whole thing.
Expansion first hit baseball in the 1961 season. The Washington Senators, an original American League franchise, decided to move to Minnesota. While this was not the first time an MLB team changed locations, it was the first of its kind. Every other time a team relocated, it was at the expense of a team that had another baseball team in the same city of district. The Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee for the 1953 season, but Boston still had the Red Sox. The St Louis Browns moved to Baltimore for the 1954 season, but St Louis still had the Cardinals. The Philadelphia Athletics moved to Kansas City for the 1955 season, but Philadelphia still had the Phillies. As much as it was protested, the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants still moved to Los Angeles and San Francisco for the 1958 season. Because of all the New York bias, many refused to cope with the fact that New York still had the Yankees. So much, that the New York Mets were added to the National League for the 1962 season. But the move of Washington was the first of its kind.
The result of Washington’s franchise moving to Minnesota led to baseball’s first expansion. Washington, DC was left without a baseball team. That was the first time a MLB city was left without a team. MLB decided that Washington should have a team, which led to the re-addition of the Washington Senators to the AL for the 1961 season. Because scheduling conflicts would exist because one team is added, the AL added another team, the Los Angeles Angels. The decision of owner Charlie Finley to move the Kansas City Athletics to Oakland for the 1968 season bothered a lot of people, and left for Oakland for the 1968 season. The NL reacted to the unhappiness by granting the city of Kansas City an expansion franchise for the 1969 season.
So, if you have read to this point, you are probably saying, “I know about all that! What does all that have to do with Seattle losing its team after the 1969 season?” After a brief stay in Milwaukee, the Braves moved to Atlanta for the 1966 season. A similar outcry resulted in Milwaukee, but one that was for naught. Not only was Kansas City given a team for 1969, but cities that had never had an MLB team such as Seattle, San Diego and Montreal were given expansion teams. Why was Milwaukee not given an expansion team? Based on the history of the Senators and Athletics/ Royals, it was a fair question to be asked.
With new teams in San Diego and Montreal having long histories in the minor leagues, Seattle became vulnerable and a target of the baseball trust in the city of Milwaukee. Geographically, San Diego was a solid addition to baseball of the West Coast, joining LA and San Fran. There would have been some greater implications of trying to take the Expos out of Montreal. In the end, Milwaukee got a baseball team back, the Brewers from 1970 on. MLB did keep up with rewarding cities that lost teams by granting Seattle a franchise for the 1977 season. But, Washington did not have to wait at all to get a new team. Kansas City had to wait one full season. Milwaukee just four. Seattle had to wait a record seven seasons before they had a new team there. Of course, Washington now owns the record with a 33 year gap without having a baseball team. Montreal is entering its 10th season without a team in 2014. And from what has been heard, it seems unlikely there will ever be a professional baseball team in Montreal again. And that is sad.

Post midterm updates on MLB team payrolls

More retro clipart at http://www.clipartof.com/

Baseball fans should be excited as there have now been more days in the offseason than there are left until the pitchers and catchers report for spring training. Of course, teams and players have yet to submit their bids for potential arbitration cases. Within that, many of the cases will settle for somewhere in the middle of the bids of the team and the player. Plus, the amount of free agents that are out there will impact which teams are projected to have higher payrolls than they currently have. The following is a list of which teams, at this very moment, have the highest payroll. This does not include contracts that have been agreed to that have not become official. In parenthesis are the amount of the players on the 25 man roster have already been signed (not counting arbitration eligibles and players on progressive contracts).
1. LAD(16) $188.3M
2. BOS (15) $155.0M
3. SFG (14) $138.2M
4. PHI (11) $137.3M
5. NYY (11) $134.4M
6. LAA (10) $129.9M
7. TOR (15) $121.2M
8. DET (11) $119.3M
9. TEX (14) $101.9M
10. STL (8) $91.5M
11. WSN (12) $87.1M
12. CIN (12) $78.6M
13. ARI (11) $74.8M
14. MIL (8) $71.2M
15. MIN (8) $66.0M
16. COL (8) $65.5M
17. CHW (9) $62.5M
18. KCR (9) $62.1M
19. CLE (10) $55.6M
20. CHC (8) $48.4M
21. NYM (4) $48.2M
22. PIT (9) $47.5M
23. BAL (9) $46.0M
24. ATL (6) $45.5M
25. SDP (9) $43.1M
26. SEA (4) $36.1M
27. TBR (9) $33.8M
28. OAK (5) $33.5M
29. MIA (6) $20.4M
30. HOU (3) $16.8M
It should be understood that recently agreed to contracts for the Mets Bartolo Colon ($10 mil), Dodgers Juan Uribe (7.5), Twins Mike Pelfrey ($5.5) and the Braves expected signing of Gavin Floyd are not counted against the listed payrolls. The Mets would be at $58.2 mil (19th), Dodgers at $195.8 (still at 1st) and the Twins at 71.5 (14th).
Assuming the Floyd deal in Atlanta is $8 million, which is the median of the starting pitchers salaries this offseason, I have included the four mentioned deals in what can be projected as the payrolls for the 2014 season. One thing needs to be understood, however. All the free agents on the board will eventually come off the board and there is still a possibility that more trades will be made. Plus, salary arbitration cases are very unpredictable. So, as we head into the season, here is where payrolls could be, with the remaining 25 man spots estimated with salary arbitration estimates and the balance of players paid the league minimum.
1. LAD $224.8M
2. BOS $165.5M
3. DET $157.3M
4. PHI $155.3M
5. NYY $154.9M
6. SFG $148.2M
7. LAA $144.4M
8. WSN $133.1M
9. TOR $132.7M
10. TEX $115.4M
11. STL $103.5M
12. CIN $102.6M
13. ARI $96.3M
14. ATL $91.5M
15. KCR $88.1M
16. NYM $86.2M
17. MIL $83.7M
18. MIN $83.5M
19. BAL $81.5M
20. CLE $81.1M
21. CHW $80.0M
22. COL $78.0M
23. CHC $74.8M
24. SDP $73.6M
25. OAK $71.0M
26. PIT $69.0M
27. TBR $62.2M
28. SEA $52.1M
29. MIA $37.5M
30. HOU $29.3M
As will be expected, teams like Seattle, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Baltimore and even the Cubs, Rockies and Brewers could spend considerably more. Especially with either the Orioles or Mariners likely to sign Nelson Cruz. The payroll totals at the moment as well as the projected ones from here are in no way a guarantee of what will be in a month or two. But it does set a good barometer of where teams may be by spring training. Stay tuned.

The Fielder plus cash for Kinsler trade will be the first of many similar

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It has been a couple of weeks since the Detroit Tigers traded 1B Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers for 2B Ian Kinsler. Of course, Fielder just finished the 2nd year of his 9 year, $214 million contract he signed with the Tigers before the 2012 season. Numbers wise, Fielder was far from a disappointment, inspite of his dreadful postseason which was most noticeable during the Tigers loss in the ALCS to Boston in 6 games. But lets get one thing straight, it was not like Fielder proved himself to not be the players the Tigers signed him to be. His 2013 was respectable, not solid, as he hit .279, 25, 106 with a career low OPS of .819 while playing all 162 games for the 3rd straight season and 4th time in the last 5 seasons.
The decision to move Fielder had more to do with GM Dave Dombrowski wanting to free up salary to extend 2013 AL Cy Young Award Winner Max Scherzer. Additionally, he will be able to shake up a good team that just has not been able to complete the task of winning the World Series. The issue that the Tigers were dealing with was the fact that other teams were not going to simply take on Fielder’s contract AND give the return warranted under my fair MLB trade proposition. That is why the Tigers received Kinsler, a good player, but one that is not considered in the same league as Fielder. The Rangers were interested in signing Fielder a couple off seasons ago, but simply did not want to invest the amount of money Detroit was willing to. The $30 million that the Tigers kicked in to help pay his contract allowed the Rangers to feel more comfortable about taking it on. If the Tigers had been willing to take on a significant amount of the deal, of course the Rangers would have had to give up some more significant players than just Kinsler. It should turn out to be a deal that will help both teams.
The Fielder/ Kinsler trade in its own way was kind of revolutionary. The Boston Red Sox had made a similar trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 where they traded Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to LA and received a much less impactful package in return. Comparing both deals, it is understood the Dodgers received the better players in the mega-trade while the Rangers received the better player in the deal with Detroit. Other teams have plenty of interest in the success or failure of these types of trades. While the Red Sox/ Dodgers deal looks like it helped both teams, taking LA to the NLCS and helping the Red Sox to a World Series Championship, you have to look no further than the Miami Marlins to see that sometimes unloading players to move their contracts is a complete sign of surrender for those who want to play competitive baseball.
I am sure the Milwaukee Brewers will be keeping an eye on how the Fielder trade works out. Fielder’s former team has OF Ryan Braun under contract until the year 2020. Perhaps the Brewers aren’t desperate to move Braun, but probably had to at least considered trying to cut their losses after his PED suspension in 2013. Right now, Milwaukee is in the phase of wanting to get competitive talent that matches that of Braun in a deal. Otherwise, it seems to be no inclination they will deal him. Oddly enough, if Braun returns to form next season, the Brewers may be more inclined to move him then if he falls far from his MVP season in 2011. If Braun struggles, it would mean either he is a Brewer for life or the team has to pay a large sum of the contract for him to get out of Milwaukee. If he hits MVP form, the Brewers would be able to move the deal and get a quality return for him. But what happens if Braun simply puts up above average numbers? For example, what if Braun plays in 155 games in 2014 and hits .280, 28, 90 with 35 2Bs? And a guy who has a .312 career batting average sees his OPS drop to .869 for the full season (his OPS in 2013 over 61 games) or lower. Braun’s career OPS is currently .938. It would be safe to say his future decline could have to do with being off the PEDs. The Brewers, of course, could choose to hold onto him or consider moving him in a trade.
The problem with this scenario is, the team potentially trading for Braun is looking for the 2011 MVP version. They would not be getting that. But Braun is getting paid like the 2011 MVP version. At this point, if the Brewers wanted to move Braun, they would have to either pay a significant portion of his remaining contract and receive quality players back or deal him and a portion of the contact to another team and receive maybe a good player, but not one that will produce even at my projected 2014 results.
Another example is LA Dodgers OF Matt Kemp, the 2011 runner up in the NL MVP voting to Braun. Kemp’s story is different, as of now, as Kemp has simply been hurt for the majority of the past two seasons. After his 2011 performance put Kemp in the category of the best player in the game discussion, Kemp was on his way to that status again in 2012, before an injury around the All Star break. He has not been the same player since. Kemp is signed through the year 2019, as his 8 year, $160 million extension started in 2012. Similar to Braun, Kemp will be watched closely as he looks to come back healthy in 2014.
The only difference is the fact that the Dodgers have a situation where they have 4 OFs for 3 spots, due to the emergence of Yasiel Puig. Though Andre Ethier is also on the block, it may be in the Dodgers best interest to move Kemp. Regardless, it is likely one or the other will be moved before the start of the 2014 season. Ethier, who started his 6 year, $95.5 million deal in the 2012 season as well, looked nothing like the player he was before he signed the extension. In fact, his .272, 12, 52 in 142 games make his extension look like more of a mistake than Kemp’s. Obviously, the jury is still out on Kemp as he looks to return from his injuries.
Right now, if a team was to trade for Kemp or Ethier, the Dodgers would have to either pay a large percentage of the rest of the contract and receive a comparable package (ie. top prospects, impact players) or pay a smaller portion of the contact and receive a player or two that would not make the trade seem fair on those players best days and the LA players worst.
Players that have signed free agent contacts this offseason could find themselves in the same situation down the road. Questions already exist over Albert Pujols first two seasons with the Angels. Could you see the Angels move him to a team just for the sake of the salary relief? Seems unlikely, but I am sure it has been discussed. Jacoby Ellsbury is now under contract for the Yankees for the next 7 seasons. Robinson Cano will now be getting paid from the Seattle Mariners for the next 10. Whatever happens, I am sure teams will be looking in to the success or failure of the Prince Fielder and $30 million to the Rangers for Ian Kinsler trade as a marking grounds over whether future trades like that can be made.

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