11.30.04

Marchman On Beane & The Kendall Trade

Posted in Baseball at 12:03 pm by

The New York Sun’s Tim Marchman reconsiders Billy Beane and the A’s trade for Jason Kendall :

It’s hard to change a reputation in baseball, for better or for worse. From Carl Everett, who spent years as a model citizen and is still thought of as a madman, to Jim Edmonds, who recently won a fifth straight Gold Glove out of sheer inertia, the ideas people have of public figures are rarely revisited. There are many reputations in need of scrutiny, but none more so than that of Oakland General Manager Billy Beane, who has been lauded by so many for so long that his deals are by now acclaimed out of mere habit.

This was the case with Beane’s acquisition last week of catcher Jason Kendall for starter Mark Redman and reliever Arthur Rhodes. The deal was a risk, albeit one that was arguably worth taking, and is likely to hurt the A’s more than it will help them in years to come.

Kendall’s value, coming off a superb year in which he caught 146 games and finished ninth in the National League in on-base average, is almost certainly about to collapse. He is a historically unique player, a catcher who provides solid offense based almost entirely on durability (he’s had at least 545 at-bats each of the last three years) and batting average (he’s hit .319 or better in five different seasons).

There are problems with this. First, even when he hits .320, Kendall is merely a decent hitter: His OPS, after adjusting for park effects, was just 10% better than league average this year. When he hits .280, as he did in 2002, that figure drops to 20% worse than average. Other than hitting singles and drawing walks, he has no offensive skills. This hasn’t been a problem yet, because when you combine that on base ability with great durability, you have a significant asset.

Unfortunately, Kendall is not going to endure. In the postwar history of baseball, there are all of 26 player seasons in which a catcher older than 30 has had at least 500 at-bats. Interestingly, the only good campaigns among these were had by power hitters.

Kendall will be 31 this coming year. His tenure in Oakland will see him lose batting average due to age, as knees that have taken years of pounding behind the plate will prevent him from running as fast as he has, and it will see him lose durability, also due to age. For him to keep the only two talents that make him a good player would be historically unprecedented – most likely, he’ll be a solid player along the lines of A.J. Pierzynski, but never again a star.

The left-handers Beane sent to Pittsburgh for Kendall aren’t particularly exciting at this point in their careers, but they’re the sort of average performers who become suddenly conspicuous when the lack of them costs a team a playoff spot. Had the 2004 Chicago White Sox roster included Redman and Rhodes, for instance, the AL Central race would have been much closer than it actually was.

This deal isn’t about Redman and Rhodes, though, nor even about Kendall. It’s about money, specifically the poor management of it by an Oakland team that’s never fulfilled its potential, and whose actions just don’t match up with its philosophies. “Moneyball” is a damn good book, and Beane ought to read it for some tips on baseball management.

Pittsburgh has been trying to unload Kendall’s contract for quite some time. His 6-year, $60 million deal, which lasts through the 2007 season, looks bad in retrospect, because of the changed labor climate that’s driven salaries down, and due to a freak injury that cost Kendall two productive years.

Kendall is owed $34 million over the next three years, of which Pittsburgh will apparently pay $3 million; Redman and Rhodes are due $14.75 million over the same span. In essence, then, the A’s are paying $16.25 million for the upgrade from Rhodes and Redman to Kendall over the next three years. This year, when Kendall played at the top of his range, Redman was mediocre, and Rhodes had an awful year, the difference was worth about three wins. With that figure likely to narrow greatly, this looks like a lot of money to pay for a moderately improved chance of winning a pennant, especially given that Oakland owner Steve Schott is apparently set to continue his stingy ways.

Whether trading for a pricey and apparently injured Octavio Dotel to fix the mess he made by signing Rhodes to be his closer, or acquiring outfielder Bobby Kielty on the strength of a three-month stretch in 2002 when he drew some walks, Beane has done very little that’s impressive, and an awful lot that doesn’t help his team. Trading for Kendall to replace Jermaine Dye as an overpaid albatross is just another in a growing list of baffling moves where Beane covers up a self-inflicted wound with a player in decline.

Oakland has done a lot in Beane’s tenure, and there’s little doubt that he still ranks as among the best executives in the game. But with moves like the Kendall trade, the “genius” tag that hangs on his neck is starting to look in need of a bit of polishing. He’s earned the benefit of the doubt, but for him to earn a return to the playoffs he’ll have to do a lot more than keep playing his shell game.

Beldar (From France) Interrupts Junket To Vent

Posted in The World Of Entertainment at 10:24 am by

From MSNBC, recent quotes from the still-working Dan Ackroyd.

œGreetings and death to our enemies, Aykroyd began the interview. When one reporter asked what enemy the star was referring to, Aykroyd replied: œWell, the common enemy in North America is the Western consumer. The consumer has driven oil up to $50 a barrel so we have to have these wars.

Regarding George Bush™s re-election, Aykroyd said, œWe™ve got to support [Bush] as the commander in chief and we™ve got to support those young men and women who are out there protecting our big, fat, bloated lifestyle.

Giants Sign Benitez

Posted in Baseball at 10:14 am by

The SF Chronicle’s Henry Schulman reports that the Giants have signed free agent reliever Armando Benitez, 32, to a 3 years contract worth $21 million.

Benitez, who resurrected his career with a stellar campaign for Florida last season (47 saves in 51 chances), saved 157 games for the Mets between 1999 and 2003 before a loss of confidence and control (and some pretty big games) greased the wheels for his trade to the Yankees.

Davis Gone In Cleveland

Posted in Gridiron at 10:00 am by

Whether Butch Davis has jumped or was pushed, we’ll not know for a while. What does seem curious is the Browns’ decision to let the players pick their interim coach. After having 58 points hung on them by the Bengals, perhaps they’ll not want to select defensive coordinator Dave Campo?

The Best Team In L.A. ..

Posted in Basketball at 12:33 am by

…is the one whose celeb fans include Billy Crystal and….uh, Arsenio Hall.

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I’m talking, of course, about the emerging Clippers, who at 9-6 are off to their best start in 20 years. Elton Brand (above) torched the Cavs for 30 points and Chris Wilcox and Bobby Simmons combined for 22 rebounds en route to Los Angeles’ 94-82 victory.

11.29.04

Unwatchable Mime-Fest Relegated

Posted in The World Of Entertainment at 11:45 pm by

From Tuesday’s Financial Times :

Top of the Pops, the pop music programme, has been axed from BBC1 after 41 years on the main television channel. The move follows the programme’s struggle with declining interest in the singles charts and comes a year after a high profile relaunch. From next spring, the show will be broadcast on BBC2 on Sunday evenings, forging closer links with BBC Radio 1’s Chart Show. It will have a new format, featuring music archives already exploited by TOTP2, the show’s spin-off on BBC2.


(sickening no-talents prepare to prance and pout for even fewer eyeballs)

Mets Outbidding Sox For Pedro?

Posted in Baseball at 11:31 pm by

The NY Times’ Lee Jenkins reports in tomorrow’s paper that the New York Mets have made a serious financial proposition to free agent P Pedro Martinez.

The Mets have submitted a contract proposal to Pedro Martínez that is more lucrative than the one offered by the Boston Red Sox, according to a major league executive with knowledge of the discussions.

In making a run at Martínez, the Mets are among the first teams to put their cash on the table for a premium player. The Red Sox have offered Martínez a two-year guaranteed contract worth $25.5 million with an easily attainable third-year option. The Mets countered late Sunday with a three-year guaranteed contract worth approximately $38 million with a vesting option for a fourth year. Neither the Mets nor Martínez’s agent Fernando Cuza would confirm or deny the offer.

With the offer, the Mets have conveyed that they are serious about signing Martínez and want to make an impact in the 2005 season. Although there is obvious skepticism as to why Martínez would leave a World Series champion to play for the Mets, who barely avoided finishing in last place for the third year in a row, there are also indications that he is considering the idea. Martínez has previously had success in the National League, coming up with the Los Angeles Dodgers and establishing himself in Montreal, where he won the first of his three Cy Young awards.

The Red Sox indicated that they would not change their initial offer to Martínez until they knew there was competition. Now, the 33-year-old Martínez has something to take back to Boston, whether the Mets are just a bargaining chip or a legitimate destination.