Recommended Prospects, Recommended Reading (Updated)
Funny that with all the big names moving before the deadline, the number of primo prospects was actually pretty low. I was particularly unimpressed with what the Indians got for Cliff Lee (and Ben Francisco) although I am only about ten percent insufficiently skeptical to address the Lee deal as I did the McLouth one – that the trading team was selling a guy, if not at peak value, then at the last moment he would be seriously overvalued, and were doing well to get anything hopeful back.
Having said that, if you still consider Justin Masterson a prospect and not a full-fledged major leaguer, he was clearly the most gifted of all the players given up for “the names.” A year from now, when Brad Penny and John Smoltz and who knows who else are Red Sox memories, Boston would not have parted with him, and not just because of his pitching gifts. The Sox are astounded by his quiet leadership, an almost unheard-of quality for a pitcher. He doesn’t rant, he doesn’t yell, he doesn’t slap his glove against his thigh, and nothing bleeds from his sock. He just inspires his teammates to feel more secure about their talents and accomplishments, and their prospects for winning the game. Terry Francona will miss him, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of his life.
And ironically, given how they are howling in Pittsburgh over the exiling of McLouth, then Jack Wilson, then Freddie Sanchez, the head-and-shoulders pick for the top pure-prospect traded against the deadline was the guy the Bucs got for Sanchez, pitcher Tim Alderson. Harkening back to the Johan Santana/Yankees post here, the rule of thumb is that half of all pitching prospects fail. That would ordinarily discourage the ever-discouraged Pirate faithful. However, Alderson and Charlie Morton are both front-of-rotation, ace-of-staff prospects. If one makes it and the other turns merely into a righty Jarrod Washburn, they’ve done awfully well – and this assumes that very little else from the McLouth or Wilson trades bears great fruit, which is not necessarily a correct assumption.
One more deadline note. The amazement at the Adam LaRoche/Casey Kotchman trade itself amazes me. The Red Sox made a similar acquisition in 2004, a glove-first, low-power starting first baseman, about whom everyone said “where they gonna play him?” His name was Doug Mientkiewicz and the point was, his window as a starting player was pretty much over, as is Kotchman’s. He will never hit enough. So you keep the defensive whiz as your back-up and pay for it by spending the middling slugger with the middling glove. The only complication this time is that the Boston backup on those days when Victor Martinez is playing first, is a fellow named Youkilis, and he’s no slouch.
BRIEF UPDATE NOT WORTHY OF ITS OWN POST
The Rangers sent Frank Francisco out on rehab to AAA. To Frisco of the Texas League. Making him Frank Francisco of Frisco.
Nearly as good as Johnny Podres of the Padres, Jim York of New York, or Ted Cox of the Red Sox.
READ – IN FACT, YOU’RE DOING IT NOW!
Three books to endorse with high praise and the caveat that I’m mentioned in one, and two of them are written by friends. I write as a guy who was once the country’s only nationally-published reviewer of baseball books (who once gave the second edition of The Baseball Encyclopedia a panning for some awful typos) so finding three I like at one time is quite a feat.
First there’s Marty Appel’s Munson: The Life And Death Of A Yankee Captain. When a book reveals details of a man’s life to his own family, it’s a pretty good book. I am duly impressed both with the research effort and the clarity of Marty’s work, and the attempt to recreate that sad day 30 years ago tomorrow when Munson’s death shocked baseball. It is not happy reading, but it is worthwhile reading.
I think Ron Darling may have written (let’s broaden it out to all of them who didn’t go to Yale; even co-written) the best book by a pitcher since Kirby Higbe’s HIgh And Inside. Ron’s is called The Complete Game and it takes a novel approach: a pitch-by-pitch, thought-by-thought recitation of key innings of key games, nearly all of them his own, throughout his long span in college and major league ball. Apart from taking you inside an entire team’s thinking as the pitches succeed each other, Ronnie also underscores what is to me the most underrated skill among elite athletes: Memory. Nearly all of the microscopic detail (what he was thinking between the third and fourth pitches, to the third hitter, in the fifth inning, of his thirteenth start, etc) was pulled from his recall and simply verified in the record books. He rolls the details out the way Gordie Howe once rolled out each shot he took in a Detroit Red Wings-New York Rangers game, 27 years after he played it. A great read, and very well written.
Almost not at all written is the third suggestion: Chris Epting’s The Early Polo Grounds. This is 181 pre-1925 photos taken at the legendary home of The New York Giants and it borders on time travel, even if the captions aren’t always complete (a date of an October, 1910, photo is disputed by the author because the Giants didn’t play in that year’s World Series; he seems not to have known that in those days the Giants and Yankees regularly played post-season series for the “Championship of New York”). Having just spent hours in the photo vaults of Cooperstown looking at all the photos of the fabled ballpark, I can say that this collection rivals that part of the Hall’s from the 20th Century – plus, they won’t arrest you if you try to take it home.
Avast Ye, Matey
Did you see Matt Capps of the Pirates, after Friday Night’s meltdown, warming up before last night’s tilt with the Rockies?
He was wearing a blindfold over his left eye.
Admittedly it was a white sleeve or sock, and it was over the wrong eye, but otherwise it was a mirror image of the Pirates’ old logo (not the ’90s one that appeared to show The Soup Nazi from ’Seinfeld.’). And as pitching coach Joe Kerrigan stood next to him, it looked like the Pittsburgh closer had lost a bet, or was trying to do his impression of the late Eddie Feigner from the softball team “The King And His Court,” and couldn’t quite do the whole handkerchief-over-both-eyes-while-pitching trick.
“Capps was turning his head, over-rotating towards 3rd Base, causing his front shoulder to point behind the righthanders’ batter’s box,” Kerrigan tells me by e-mail from Pittsburgh. “You put a patch over his left eye, so his right eye can see the target, hence he can’t overturn. Simple playground stuff.”
Capps and Kerrigan, according to the Pirates’ game broadcast Saturday night, were also looking at tape of the reliever’s salad days of 2007 and the comparisons to this season are not happy ones. His arm has been well behind his body – he’s expending his energy long before his arm is fully extended and he’s ready to release the ball. Kerrigan apparently diagnosed the problem as he described in the e-mail — over-rotation — and came up with the simple solution for a bullpen session (the out-of-synch release might also explain Capps’ elbow bruising and discomfort).
Unfortunately I don’t think Capps can use it in a game.
HOW ABOUT USING GAMEL IN A GAME?
Did the Brewers really call up one of the game’s top two or three power prospects so he could sit behind the bench for a week, get some DH work during inter-league, and then send him back down?
Third Baseman Mat Gamel was summoned Wednesday from Nashville and entering play today had gotten exactly one at bat. Even when Rickie Weeks took himself out of this afternoon’s game with soreness in his wrist, the Brewers simply moved Craig Counsell from third to second, and inserted Bill Hall at third.
Milwaukee started the day with the second best record in the NL, Counsell has been hot lately, and Ken Macha and Doug Melvin have done a lot more managing and general managing than I have, but the week’s inactivity makes no sense, not in a division as competitive and seemingly as balanced as the Central. The Brewers say they want to treat him more like Prince Fielder in 2005 than Ryan Braun in 2007 but that may not be a luxury they can afford. Gamel is either a vital component (if he can improve to bare-minimum status defensively at third), or a wonderful trading chip (if he can’t, and he has to become a corner outfielder, first baseman, or DH, none of which Milwaukee needs).
Why just have him sit around?
In short, play him (at Milwaukee or Nashville), or trade him!