Looking back and waiting for spring

Well, now that the smoke has mostly settled from the World Series, it’s time for a look back at it and a look forward.

First off, the World Series itself. It was, admittedly, not the best series to end the season on. Both clubs had some off-the-field baggage (Houston with the cheating scandal, Atlanta with the continued existence of the chop as well as how they had become a prop for some politicos), and the series highlighted some of modern baseball’s most frustrating features (such as early pitching changes and the degradation of base-running ability for all but a few).

Still, it had some great moments and some big personalities. Freddie Freeman, a Hall-of-Famer in the making (the player most similar to him statistically through the age 31 season is Eddie Murray), now has a ring to show for it. Max Fried had a coming-out party that helped solidify his place as one of the best pitchers in the NL (he had been great the previous two seasons as well, but sometimes the playoffs knocks people higher in the conscious). Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario, and Adam Duvall proved to be perhaps the best trio of mid-season replacements in years, if not ever, a masterstroke for the Atlanta front office. On the Astros side, the usual suspects were joined by unexpected people like Zack Greinke, who will now likely go down in history as the last pitcher (aside from two-ways like Ohtani) to get a hit. And the two dugouts were run by old-time baseball men in a new-age baseball world: Brian Snitker and Dusty Baker, who both fittingly have deep ties to the late Henry Aaron and his family.

Ultimately, I consider any series that goes at least six games “good.” Nobody likes a sweep or a near-sweep (save for the team that wins, of course). So while the games themselves were, with one or two exceptions, hardly the most entertaining that baseball could give, I am generally happy.

Now, of course, is the offseason. It could prove tumultuous. A lockout in December is considered so likely that The Onion has already made a joke about it. The fact that the work stoppage will come during December is, ironically, probably a good thing, as it makes it more likely that some sort of new Collective Bargaining Agreement will come about before games are lost. However, given the greedy stubbornness of the owners as well as the (largely justified!) grievances of the players (who, frankly, got pantsed in the last CBA), the ultimate outcome is unknown.

What is known as that when a new CBA does come into force it is likely that baseball will have shifted into yet another new era. It is considered all-but-certain that the DH will become universal, and other rules changes will likely also be either implemented or be put on the road to being implemented. The financial rules will also doubtless change, although given the very nature of the CBA those are likely the hardest to predict.

And so we wait…

Finally, a word on Buster Posey. In my opinion, the three most important on-field people in the long history of the New York/San Francisco Giants are (we can argue a bit on the order) John McGraw, Willie Mays, and Barry Bonds. The fourth most important? Buster Posey.

The Offseason at The Baseball Continuum: Bizarre Baseball Culture, Breaking OOTP, WBC, Features, Blogathon?

With the postseason over (ironically, the World Series MVP, Salvador Perez, didn’t actually win the Mr. October of any games in the World Series, he was just consistently good), it’s now time to go over what will be going on here at the Baseball Continuum during the offseason.  For the most part, it will be stuff I’ve been meaning to do, but which I have been unable to do so due to lack of time, other commitments, or simply because I forgot. In general, there might not be as many posts during the offseason, but the posts that will happen will on average be of a higher quality and longer length.

  • By the end of the week, you can expect a new Bizarre Baseball Culture, which will be a weird “Ultimate Sports Force” comic involving the early-aughts Cleveland Indians.
  • The new Breaking OOTP, long in development, will be Mario characters vs. Backyard Baseball characters. It should be out by the end of next week, unless I get so sucked into Fallout 4 that I just jump straight into doing a Bizarre Baseball Culture on it’s apparently surprisingly-high level of baseball elements.
  • Lookbacks at old Rochester Red Wings programs.
  • I’ll have my first World Baseball Classic roster projection for Team USA (and, later, Team Dominican). Of course, it’s a long while before the 2017 tournament so it likely will end up being vastly different, but that’s part of the fun, I guess. Expect these within the coming weeks, certainly before the end of November. You can also expect WBC News Updates when applicable.
  • There will be both Famous For Something Else installments (with one today!) and a new feature, Somebody Related To Somebody Famous For Something Else. Those features are basically what you’d think they are.
  • There will, of course, continue to be “Wisdom and Links” at Hall of Very Good.
  • You can expect some SABR-related stuff as well, such as “first references” in Sporting News and such.
  • During the Winter Meetings, if time allows, I’ll do the “Winter Meetings Tweets Of The Day” again.
  • And, of course, you never know what else might pop-up. I’m considering, for example, possibly doing a “Blogathon”, in the tradition of Michael Clair’s old “Old Time Family Baseball” blogathons that he did for charity. I’ll let you all know a bit about that later, maybe.

So stay tuned!

Tanaka signing sets up what could be an Apocalyptic year for the Yankees

The word “apocalypse” does not, technically, mean the end of the world. It instead means “uncovering” or the revelation of something. In that truest sense, the New York Yankees have set themselves up for an apocalyptic year in 2014. Because with the signing of Masahiro Tanaka, they have turned their back on any semblance of the financial restraint they showed last year in a quest to possibly get under the luxury tax and are going with the good old fashion weapon of the Yankees of old: money. Lots and lots of money.

Problem is, with the team that that money has bought, it has yet to be uncovered whether that’s going to do it anymore… at least the way the Yankees did it this offseason.

What do I mean by the way the “Yankees did it” this offseason? Well, what I mean is that the Yankees have, for a lack of a better word, assembled a team that recalls the “Jurassic Park at Camden Yards” Orioles of 1998. Having fallen in the ALCS the past two years, Orioles ownership threw a bunch of money at the problem, signing past All-Stars and award-winners… leading to a team that actually had a higher total salary figure than the Yankees. Problem was, these are the past All-Stars and award-winners who they got (not counting re-signings of players like Harold Baines and Brady Anderson):

The 1998 Orioles average age was 33.3 years old, their most common batting orders had no players that were younger than 30 at the end of the season, and of the eight pitchers that would start 10 or more games that year, only two of them were under 30. The “Jurassic Park at Camden Yards” Orioles underachieved greatly, finishing 79-83, 4th in the AL East, and beginning the long string of under-.500 years that would last until 2012. Carter, Charlton and Guillen were all gone from the team by the end of the year (although Guillen, admittedly, had mainly been gotten as a backup infielder), while Drabek retired at year’s end.

Now, look at what the Yankees did this off-season:

  • Signed Brian McCann, who will be 30 in 2014
  • Signed Jacoby Ellsbury, who will be 30 in 2014 and has a history of injuries
  • Signed Carlos Beltran, who will be 37 in 2014
  • Signed Matt Thornton, who will be 37 in 2014
  • Signed Brian Roberts, who will be 36 in 2014 and has a history of injuries
  • Signed Masahiro Tanaka, who will be 25 in the 2014 season.

Other than Tanaka, the list looks shockingly like what the Orioles did- getting old all-stars. And, like the Orioles of 1998, the Yankees will likely have their line-up made up entirely of players older than 30-years old. Although, to be fair, the Yankees rotation is younger and I’d definitely take a 30-year-old McCann over a 33-year-old Lenny Webster or Chris Hoiles and a 30-year-old Ellsbury over a 34-year-old Brady Anderson. But still, you can’t help get this sinking feeling that maybe, just maybe, the Yankees money-hammer isn’t going to work this time, that the players they have acquired are too old and too injury prone to bring them to the promised land.

Still, It’s not hard to see why the Yankees are doing this. After all, they missed the playoffs last year and were lucky to end up tied for third with the Orioles in the AL East. And, as that happened, their ratings and attendance plummeted, and probably would have been even lower if not for the attention the grand Mariano Rivera farewell tour got. So, what were they going to do? Just spend money on some younger and cheaper players? Let Tanaka go to the Cubs or Dodgers? Pfft. They wouldn’t let that happen, they are the Yankees. And, hey, the money approach has worked before, and it may well work again. And they better hope it does, because if it doesn’t, it could turn into a baseball apocalypse in the Bronx of a somewhat more dire kind.

Yesterday was nuts

Well, that escalated quickly.

You know how I made that post about how crazy it could get in the winter meetings? Y’know, with the name of the Mystery Team, the free agents and traded players all redacted? Well, as yesterday went on, it became a lot less likely and a lot less intentionally funny.

So, for those of you who missed it, this happened yesterday:

  • The Orioles traded the ever hot-and-cold Jim Johnson to the Athletics for Jemile Weeks, a prospect, and perhaps some magic beans. This was late Monday, but I really didn’t hear about it until I woke up on Tuesday.
  • The Red Sox signed AJ Pierzynski.
  • The Tigers signed Joe Nathan.
  • The Rays, Reds and Diamondbacks had a three-way trade that ended with Tampa getting Ryan Hanigan and Heath Bell.
  • It came out that that Mariners apparently are in on Robinson Cano.
  • The Padres traded Luke Gregerson to the A’s for Seth Smith.
  • The Astros got Dexter Fowler from the Rockies.
  • The Marlins signed Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a three-year deal.
  • The Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year deal, $153 million dollar deal that is absolutely absurd given his injury history and the fact that he’s 30 years old.
  • The Rockies signed Justin Morneau to a two-year deal.
  • Oh, and we found out this morning that Paul Konerko will return for the White Sox this year, after speculation he would retire, and that Brandon Phillips will likely be back with the Reds, after speculation he would be traded.

Got all of that?

What to expect during the off-season on the Baseball Continuum

Well, now that the World Series is done, you probably are wondering what I’ll be doing to waste away the winter, especially since I won’t have any World Baseball Classic news to fill time with?

Well, here’s a run-down of what’s going to be happening:

  • Whenever possible, I’m going to have listings of places to watch or listen to offseason baseball, whether it be domestic (Arizona Fall League) or foreign (Caribbean, Australia, Asia, etc.). As I’ve mentioned before, I’d like to keep it to either official and/or legal sources- this is not a bootlegging pirate blog. Also, as an aside, the phrase “bootlegging pirate blog” is awesome. If you know of such games or sites, let me know. Video can be in any language, but radio-only stuff needs to be in English.
  • Bizarre Baseball Culture will become more frequent, preferably with maybe one or two a month, sometimes three, if I come across something that is total gold and/or fits current events well (for example, I had a Cardinals-related comic ready to be covered if St. Louis had won the World Series).
  • You’ll see the return of the Baseball Card Haiku Project that you may remember from July and August.
  • Out of the Park Baseball posts! What if certain points of baseball history had gone differently (earlier integration, for example)? What if there was a “Real” World Series? Stuff like that.
  • And, of course, there are always things nobody is expecting, and much of that will probably follow from what happens this off-season.

The Yankees are just sleeping

When I was younger, I had a thing for Godzilla movies. But I sort of realized that, at the end of each movie, there probably should have been a scene where the Japanese government realized that Godzilla was going to come back, and that he wasn’t dead, he was just sleeping.

The same could be said of the Yankees this offseason. So tight have their pockets been that Brian Cashman apparently went to the Winter Meetings without authority to sign free agents. Names like Jeff Keppinger and Eric Chavez went elsewhere, and the big names like Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke have been almost entirely unconnected to them. They haven’t been in for any trades. The only player they seem to have officially been in pursuit of so far is Kevin Youkilis.

But, rest assured, they have a plan. A horrible plan. Much like Godzilla no doubt dreamed of stomping Tokyo or Osaka as he slept between B-movies, the Yankees have dreams as well, and it involves a loophole in the collective bargaining agreement.

You see, there is a threshold of about $189 million dollars. If a team is above it, they have to pay luxury taxes, and a lot of them, and the penalties accrue based on how much and how long the team is over it. The Yankees, as they have been going, would have been paying up to a 50% luxury tax.

But if a team goes under it, the formula for luxury tax resets. They could then proceed to go over the tax threshold and not have to pay close to the luxury tax amount they  would be paying if they didn’t reset the clock.

If what I’m reading is correct, this would mean that they’d be relatively unencumbered in the 2014-2015 off-season in their quest to stomp Tokyo, or at least the American League, free to spend, spend, spend without much worry about all the taxes they’d be inflicted upon.

And here comes the part that is terrifying for the people of Tokyo, or at least the American League: Justin Verlander could be a free agent after 2014. So could Clayton Kershaw. And Felix Hernandez. And Chase Headley, Johnny Cueto and Elvis Andrus.

In other words… they Yankees could spend and attempt to buy a pennant in a way even George would find crazy.

And that is why they are sleeping.