Returned from Nashville to a teething son with a cold and some sleepless nights, so that’s my excuse. I blame the baby!
I don’t get what’s going on in Los Angeles. Yes, they have the best local television contract in baseball, and yes their new ownership is ready to spend, but I still don’t get it. They’re spending in all the places where it’s easy to be thrifty. Like they traded for Skip Schumaker, who’s just a fungible bad-defense sorta-hitter second baseman. A utility guy on the right team. He’ll fit in with Juan Uribe, Mark Ellis, Adam Kennedy, Justin Sellers, and Luis Cruz, who are all basically the same guy. And most of them are cheaper than Schumaker. I actually like that they bought Zack Greinke, the best pitcher on the market, because that’s the kind of big splash they should make. Now they’ll have a dominant one-two at the top of the rotation, and the Giants will have a hard time scoring runs against that team. But Ryu Hyun-Jin? He’s a portly lefty from Korea that will cost the Dodgers $60 million dollars over the next six years. He doesn’t have a ton of velocity, is mostly fastball, slider and a hope of a change, could end up a reliever — he’s a live arm from the international market. If he doesn’t end up a starter, the contract will be terrible. But hey, it’s only money or something.
Yeah, Kevin Youkilis is now a Yankee, but Johnny Damon already blew up that whole Red-Sock-with-facial-hair-selling-his-sole-for-Yankee-money thing, so whatever. I didn’t really even mention that whole part in assessing the move for the Yankees.
And yeah, R.A. Dickey is now a Blue Jay, and though that’s a nice team for him to end up on — they are going for it whole-sale, with trade after trade — I’m still sad. Since he’s not your normal interview, he’s not your normal 38-year-old (he throws at 75% effort, he told me), and he doesn’t cost as much as your typical ace (he signed a 2-yr, $25m extension after winning the Cy Young), I think the Mets should have extended him and kept him. Their rotation is getting better, and younger, and they’ve got a chance to be competitive in the next three years. On the other hand, their lineup needed an infusion of MLB-ready talent, and Travis D’Arnaud is just that. More on him tomorrow at FanGraphs. Anyway, hard not to let my heart get in the way of my head on this one.
Dickey was the subject of some negative reports on the way out, and I expressed my surprise along with most of the people who have interacted with the knuckleballer. Ken Davidoff was kind enough to respond to his critics, saying that the criticism wasn’t based on personal feeling, but on the actions of the pitcher. I still disagree. The sum of the evidence he provided does not stand up to the personality of the pitcher, which has to serve as a data point of it’s own. Here are some of the pieces of evidence:
1) In his book, Dickey wrote a story about a fellow player, Mike Pelfrey, that was not very flattering. That’s breaking the unwritten rule about the clubhouse, so I can see why someone might not like it. First, do we know that Dickey did not clear the story? And two, aren’t we making a big deal about a story about a pitcher kicking field goals? It’s not like it was a story about steroids or hiding an injury… it was a small vignette, and really not as negative as just goofy.
2) R.A. Dickey lobbied for a no-hitter, asking that a play by teammate David Wright be changed to an error. This one baffles me. If David Wright was mad that Dickey was trying to get a no-hitter at the cost of his error, wouldn’t you think Wright was the selfish one? We’re talking about an error — which happens pretty much every game — and a no-hitter — which happens a couple times a season. The relative weights of the stats make the argument that this is not a big deal. Also: I would want a no-hitter, and I would lobby for one if I was close.
3) R.A. Dickey answered questions about his contract negotiations at a Christmas Party. A member of the media is taking a player to task for answering questions from the media. Huh. Maybe, if it was such a respectful moment, the media shouldn’t have pestered the player about his contract? And I’ve been to some of these parties. There’s the stuff for the kids, and then the journalists gather with the players to the side and bug them. I wasn’t at THIS one, but I’m guessing he didn’t push a kid aside in order to talk about his contract.
4) R.A. Dickey showed up at the winter meetings to talk about his contract negotiations. For one, Dickey’s family lives near Nashville, so it wasn’t far for him to go. And another thing — Dickey probably didn’t make this decision alone. His agent, manager, whatever, probably helped him decide how best to negotiate with the team. If he got some bad advice about pushing too publicly, that’s one thing. If he was a megalomaniac in my personal dealings with him, all full of entitlement and bristle, then this might go another way, but really I’m not too concerned with the mechanics of a player’s negotiations.
So each of these things seems unimportant to me when seen in the light of his utter decency as a human being. In fact, even if I thought Dickey was an asshole, I’d hope that I could see these clearly and find them wanting. Maybe worth an eyebrow raise. Not worth a personal-seeming attack in the newspaper.
Ah, it’s a sad time. I’ll try to check in with the knuckleballer when he comes to Oakland next season.