Mariners Analysis

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Larry Stone, Matsuzaka and the budget

The Times has an article today talking about the biggest name in free agency, Matsuzaka- link

It's a typical article for the local papers. In other words, it offers little information and almost no commentary of any value. In essence Stone is saying the M's might not want to pay top dollar to one player this season, but then mentions Zito and Schmidt as possibilities. This of course is idiotic. You don't steer away from Matsuzaka and then mention Zito as a money saving alternative. If Stone wants to argue the M's don't want Matsuzaka because he costs too much, too much of an unknown, injury risk etc... fine, present that as the company line. But instead Stone throws out a bunch of random quotes from unknown sources, and then leaves it to the reader to figure out what the hell the Mariners might do.

The only reason the M's might not bid for Matsuzaka seriously is one simple reason- money.

It is going to cost a ton of money to land him, and it is going to cost a lot right up front. You can't backload this contract. Whoever lands Matsuzaka is going to be writing a check for $20+ million just to talk with Boras, and this type of accounting goes against everything the Mariner bean counters stand for.

The M's front office budget tactics have become well known to anyone with half a brain. The basics tenets are:
1) Always make the player budget appear bigger than it really is. If other teams count 25 players as their player payroll, we'll count 40, and include every buyout, incentive or other expense we can think of.
2) Include player benefits to the union in your payroll numbers released to the public (see above).
3) Do not carry any unused money to the next year (aka- the Sasaki rule).
4) Do not publicly announce what the actual budget will be. Instead, leak artificial numbers to the beat writers, and tell them it will be more than last season.
5) Do not allow large increases in payroll in one year. This invites temptation to maintain the new spending level. Instead, make up a rule that allows this money to be accounted for in a different fund so it doesn't appear the payroll went up. (aka- the Ichiro rule)
6) Act publicly like there is a chance you will raise the player payroll mid-season if it would help the team, but actually pretend the budget is a hard cap and cannot be increased.
7) Above all, keep paying down any debt owed from previous non-Safeco years. This will maximize final payout when team is sold.

There you have it. The basic Mariner budget rules. Take in more than you payout, but try to keep the actual numbers secret. When Forbes or the Public Utility mentions how much money you are making, cry out about how inaccurate the accounting was, while remembering to be discreet while you make those large deposits.

There has been much talk about the special budget the Mariners have for non-US roster players. About a special "fund" that doesn't count against the player payroll. The simple truth is there is no such "fund." This was a one-time deal that was used to land Ichiro. It was an accounting trick the Mariners employed so the budget didn't rise one year and then drop the next. Of course in reality, this is exactly what happened, but the Mariner didn't want you to see that. They have lots of expenses they don't want you to see, and like any good management team, they know how to make the numbers work in their favor.

If the Mariners want to land Matsuzaka they certainly have the funds to do it. What they don't have is the backbone. Paying out a large fee in one year would blow the budget. The M's Front Office knows they can't pay $30+ million next year for Matsuzaka AND fill the rest of the pitching holes. If the team only needed one player, they might do it, but not when you have only 2 starters presently on your pitching roster.

The M's will only land Matsuzaka if Yamauchi demands it. Does anybody really know what Yamauchi is thinking? I’m pretty sure Larry Stone doesn’t, judging by the article.

I don't expect Daisuke Matsuzaka will be in a Mariner uniform next year, just like I don’t expect Barry Zito. The reason is simple.


You don't need unnamed baseball sources to figure out this mystery.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Jamie Moyer signing

A few thoughts on the Moyer signing.

1) Thank goodness he didn't sign in Seattle. This removes entirely the possibility M's management tinkers with the idea of filling holes next year with a 43 year old pitcher. It's not what Seattle needs to be doing, and this eliminates this scenario.
2) Rethink prices this winter. We as fans forget how much money is in this game. We will need to recalculate what pitchers like Meche are going to get, including pitchers we actually want.
3) The M's have tried to hold payroll fairly steadily over the past few years. They may find they need to raise it just to keep up.

Jamie is a .500 pitcher who will turn 45 when this deal ends. And yet he still found a team willing to pay him $5 million a year to play for them.

If only we were in an industry where the average player will be making $3 mil/yr very shortly.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

No chance A-Rod gets traded

While it would be good personally for A-Rod to get traded, there is no way he is anywhere other than in Yankee pinstripes next season. It is fun to speculate what it would take to get him, but it is just make-believe thinking. The only way Alex gets moved is if NY wants to move him, and Alex agrees to it. Plus, the list of teams he would agree to go would be small. A team like the Angels makes sense, but regardless it's not happening anyway, so why waste time on it?

For Alex to agree to a trade, he would have to admit that he cannot make it in the big city. Under the big lights. Remember when Alex took a swipe at Jeter when he said Derek never had to produce as "the man." According to A-Rod's theory, Jeter is protected in the lineup and doesn't have to worry about driving in runs and being the focal point of the offense. Do you really think Alex is now going to turn around and say "New York is just too much for me to handle. I'll go play for Kansas City instead..."

Of course not. Alex and NY are stuck with each other. The Yankees get an MVP player during the regular season, and something less in October. It won't be changing anytime soon.

As for Torre, it sounds like even the Yankees don't like he idea of giving away $7 million next year AND spending money for a new manager. It was obvious to me Torre did not do a good job getting his team ready to play against the Tigers. The players seemed to buy into the hype around the offense and were thoroughly outplayed in just about every facet of the game.

When the Yankees lost to Boston after taking the first three games, I never for a second blamed Torre. He put his players in position to win, and the players simply didn't get it done. When Rivera blew it against Arizona. Again, not Torre's fault. This year, I think Torre doesn't get a free pass. At what point does the manager matter if it's always up to the players? I think this year we really saw the case where a manager makes all the difference in the playoffs.

Regardless, tonights matchup should be fun. I think the Tigers take the series, in 7 games. I think the winner handles either team out of the NL. On one hand, I like to see Guillen do well for the Tigers. On the other, I like to see Beane stick it to his critics who never read Moneyball.

Either way, one of them will be wearing a world series ring next year. Looking forward to it.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Yankees next steps

While many fans hate all the attention the Yankees receive, the fact is they have a huge affect on teams free agent plans. They often set the price for top talent, and depending on what George wants, many teams find themselves altering their plans based on Yankee decisions.

If, for example, you had your heart set on a certain Japanese pitcher this offseason, the fact the Yankee pitching failed is probably the worst thing to happen. If you, for example, thought Barry Zito was going to look good in a Mariner uniform, you can forget it. Zito will wind up in NY, either for the Mets or Yankees, and there is little you can do about it.

So the fact the Yankees lost the way they did will indeed have an impact on the Mariners offseason. We of course don't know what the Yankee FO is going to do, but we can rest assured it will have an impact. With the M's having only 2 starters penciled in for next season, the Yankees collapse just made their job that much more difficult. Boston will be chasing pitching. The Mets will be chasing pitching. If only we had a left arm that could throw 90 mph this winter- the dollars are going to be insanse.

The other soap opera from the Yankees collapse involve Torre and A-Rod. It was quite clear in game four that Torre has no love for his MVP of last season. Consider:
* A-Rod finds out he's batting 8th (!) by looking at the lineup card. Torre feels batting clean up in game three, and then 8th in game four is not worthy of even a 1-minute conversation. While I don't like to coddle baseball players, given their egos and the money involved, this was a poor way to handle things by Torre.
* Torre sitting on his hands when Ivan Rodriguez slides in to third base. Normally a player is out on that play 95% of the time in baseball. The throw beats the runner, and a tag is made. Yet the play is called safe, while A-Rod jumps up and down clearly showing he felt he was out. Did Torre support his player? No. Did Captain Jeter rush over and plead his case? No. The entire team never said a word, while they proceeded to sleepwalk through a critical game.

Personally I think Torre should be fired and replaced by someone who can motive his players. I think Lou would be terrible as a manager in NY, so of course I secretly hope they do hire him, but I think someone like Girardi makes more sense. We'll see what happens, but I don't think Torre and A-Rod should be playing together next year.

Tigers-Mets world series. Should be fun.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

While watching the Tigers "play" the Yankees...

I am reminded yet again of one of the dumbest decisions Mariners management has ever made- running Carlos Guillen out of town. Man, as time goes on that "trade" is going down in M's history as one of the worst ever in our short history. No, not Varitek/Lowe bad, but pretty close.

I won't post the numbers here- they are too painful to even cut and paste. Needless to say, Guillen's numbers this year would have made him the top hitter on the M's club. Better than Ibanez, better than Beltre, better than Ichiro. The guy the "committee" couldn't get rid of fast enough could have really helped the M's the past few years, and I'm surprised we don't hear more complaining from M's fans about this decision.

For those that don't remember, the M's traded Guillen to Detroit for a bag of peanuts. After a poor attempt to sign Tejada, and a failed attempt to give Omar a decent physical, the SS position has been a black hole for years until Betancourt took over the position.

The first year after the trade, Guillen exploded into an All Star caliber hitting machine. Yet injuries reminded us one of the legitimate reasons the M's had an issue with Guillen. It was hard to rely on him as your every day shortstop; roughly 120 games a year was more like it. And with the M's philosophy of running the same veteran lineup out there, I guess figuring out how to go to Plan B for roughly 42 games a year was simply asking too much of the Front Office.

But Guillen hasn't been a one-season wonder, like say Scott Posednick (sic- close enough) and has continued to put up great numbers. While he won't win the MVP this year, he should get some votes. A top ten finish would be quite appropriate for the season he has put up. If you blanked out Jeter's numbers with Guillen's, you'd be surprised how close the two matchup.

So the Yanks continue to cruise, and will win the World Series this year, meaning we have to listen to "Jeter is God" for at least a year. (BTW- ask yourself this, Yankees fans- Why did Jeter make it rain yesterday? How did he know it would help the Yankees?)

But we shouldn't forget the M's might have won a few more games over the years if they hadn't run Derek-lite (we could call him Jesus?) out of town.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Season ends, playoffs begin

With the Mariner season over, Joe Buck and the Fox sports team gear up to bring us post season baseball. Regardless of who you want to win, recent history has shown there will some truly amazing moments/games to look forward to. Remembering Arizona down to their final 3 outs against the Yankees, the bloody sock, the Marlins coming from nowhere, the Angels and their crazy fans, leaving Pedro in the game... we can be assured something interesting will happen.

Now some could argue there are two dominant scenarios for the playoffs.

The first scenario sees the Yankees steamroll their way through the playoffs and again win a World Series. With one of the greatest lineups put together in years, perhaps everyone else is simply playing for second place. In this scenario, the Yankees roll as expected over the Tigers and Twins/A's, and are huge favorites against anything the NL can produce.

The second scenario looks at the success the Wild Card has had in recent years and argues we have no idea who will win. Just because you won the most games during the year doesn't translate to WS rings, goes the argument. (I think most Mariner fans remember this too well...)

So what will happen in the post season is anyones guess. The scrappy underdog isn't really represented this year. There is no Marlins, Brewers, Royals type of team that has no business being in the playoffs. The Mets and Yankees have the highest payrolls in each league, and also carry home-field advantage courtesy of the best records money can buy. I guess they are the Goliath's this year, and everyone else plays David.

Now let's get all the Manager firings out of the way today and let's see if the Yankees All-Star at every position is going to get it done!