In case you did not know, the Zen Zone, and Bed Goes Up have been wrapped into this space which is now daily and mostly manned by my mate Jason Mastrodonato and me, so back we are looking at transactions, which are kind of like pro sports obituaries.
And that means I have to start this time with an acknowledgement of the passing of Sparky Anderson, manager of the Reds "Big Red Machine," and then those monster Tigers of the mid-1980's. Like so many great managers--and I am thinking Dick Williams, Whitey Herzog, Earl Weaver, and Tommy Lasorda with Anderson--none had much of a career as a player. But, there is clearly no relationship between success as a player and understanding the game and as a result knowing what strings to pull to drive a winner.
With those clear blue eyes, and a folksy homespun common sense approach to what seemed to be life, and the game, Sparky drove the dominant National League team of the 70's: one that featured several future Hall of Famers. Then with those Tigers, his team dominated in 1984 in a way that pretty much made the American League season a yawner, and the post-season a foregone conclusion.
So long Sparky. We will all miss and always remember you.
OK, shifting gears, yesterday my mate Monsieur Mastrodonato wrote in this space about David Ortiz and his future with the Red Sox. Which, was determined within a day as the Sox picked up the option on Ortiz giving one more year at Fenway, after which Ortiz will likely become a free agent and then have some tough decisions to make as it is hard to imagine Boston extending much beyond 2011 under the current terms of the contract based upon Ortiz age and the likelihood that for better or worse Ortiz is past his prime.
So, whatever gems did we see in the transactions over the past couple of days that caused an eyebrow to raise?
- I have to start with Mark Hendrickson, being released by the Orioles. Kind of like another guy who always makes me scratch my head when I wonder how he got, let alone kept a job in the majors. Jamey Wright (who is also a free agent and should you look at his numbers you will know he should stay one), Hendrickson had a career 54-74, 5.04 mark with a 1.45 WHIP over nine years and 302 games. A big guy at 6'9", 240, Hendrickson was still not dominant with just 661 whiffs over 1158 innings with 1346 hits allowed. Yuk.
- A handful of talented but injury-prone players became free agents, so it will be interesting to see what happens with the likes of Erik Bedard, Chris Young (the San Diego pitcher), Eric Chavez (end of the line?), Kelvim Escobar, Ben Sheets, Nick Johnson, and Jeff Francis.
- Then a bunch of curious "underachievers," that is players who had some good base stats, but never moved beyond have to find a new home. Jose Lopez, Jhonny Peralta, Russell Branyan, Rick Ankiel, are all looking for a team, and I think most will have a tough time in today's market getting anything close to what they want. Peralta and Lopez surely are the most marketable, but these days that is not saying much.
- Then there are the good players who have lots to offer and will make the hot stove signings interesting, while likely the first signees will set the tone for salaries this season. That means Adrian Beltre, Adam Dunn, Victor Martinez, Derek Lee, Adam LaRoche (under-rated in my view), Brandon Webb, Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, Cliff Lee, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter (does anyone think the Yankees will let these guys get away?).
- Then there is that odd collective of players who never delivered, don't have a team, and probably have outlived their usefulness bearing in mind today's market (meaning if it were fifty years ago they would all be looking at selling major home appliances at Sears. This list includes Casey Kotchman, Kris Benson, Mike Hampton, Chris Capuano, Jay Gibbons, and Bruce Chen are among the most disappointing names here.
- Finally, what will happen to Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Magglio Ordonez, and Andruw Jones, to name a few: all players who have had fine careers, but all players who are at a crossroads because of age, injuries, declining skills, and potential cost.
If you do look at the transactions, there are many, many more names out there and one of the fun things this season is the free agent declaration cycle has been accelerated meaning the speculation, and related fun and games will be a lot more fun this season.
Stay tuned, for the games have just begun!