Lowell Cohn? Give me Linda instead

You may recall back in April, Fire Joe Morgan poked fun at Lowell Cohn, who writes for the Press Democrat and blogs with his son. I have to point out that back in April, Cohn wrote, “In our latest offering, we argued who’s a better general manager, Brian Sabean or Billy Beane, and I chose Sabean, although Beane is very good.”

If there was a way to flush credibility down a toilet (I don’t recommend it; it’s a good way to get a clog), this would be it. While the quote seems complimentary of Beane, it’s a back-handed insult because Cohn has been waging an anti-Beane crusade. In that same article from April, Cohn wrote, “Sabean got the Giants to the World Series in 2002, and Beane never got the A’s to the World Series, and never will.”

There are a number of ways to respond to that, but I prefer the delightfully snarky, “Sabean gave Barry Zito a $126 million, seven-year contract, and Beane never did and never will.”

Instead of going through his recent article quote-by-quote, I’ll leave that to the professionals at Fire Joe Morgan because I’m sure they’ve had a thousand people send them this article. Instead, I want to expound on how irrational the criticism of Beane is.

Cohn starts his article off by making Beane-supporters out to be baseball’s version of scientologists, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. With any ideology, you’ll certainly get your fanatics and it’s simply unfair to label an entire group based on the extremists. Beane’s methodologies have been proven to work well and while he has not made the World Series (which is really hard, mind you), the Athletics made the playoffs five times in seven years between 2000-06. Beane has never had a payroll that came close to what the Yankees and Red Sox have and have had.

2000: $32,121,833 (25th in MLB); 91-70, won AL West

2001: $33,810,750 (29th); 102-60, won AL Wild Card

2002: $40,004,167 (28th); 103-59, won AL West

2003: $50,260,834 (23rd); 96-76, won AL West

2004: $59,425,667 (16th); 91-71, missed playoffs

2005: $55,425,762 (22nd); 88-74, missed playoffs

2006: $62,243,079 (21st); 93-69, won AL West

Cohn anticipates this response in his article and doesn’t actually refute it ironically enough, he just sarcastically says he’s going to cry for Beane. But if you understand the economics of baseball — Cohn clearly doesn’t, as he compared Beane’s general management to Communism, which makes 100% no sense — this is how mid- and small-market teams have to operate. They do not have the capabilities to keep all of their good players because of their small budgets. Look at the Marlins: every time they win a World Series, they pawn off their team immediately. They pawned off Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis in the off-season, and every time they have a fire sale, they find themselves in contention very soon, just like Beane’s A’s.

The Athletics scout well (presumably, as I don’t know who their scouts are or how they work; I’m just basing my conclusion on the results) and, expectedly, they draft well, and they get the right players back in trades. He turned Rich Harden into Sean Gallagher and Eric Patterson; Joe Blanton into Adrian Cardenas; Nick Swisher into Gio Gonzalez and Fautino De Los Santos; Dan Haren into Dana Eveland, Greg Smith, Chris Carter, and Carlos Gonzalez; Mark Mulder into Dan Haren; Billy Taylor into Jason Isringhausen; Randy Velarde into Aaron Harang; three prospects into Jermaine Dye; and Billy Koch into Keith Foulke.

There are very few GM’s out there with the track record of success that Beane has on all levels and considering his low payroll, it’s all the more impressive.

Cohn goes on to criticize Beane by saying,

Do you honestly believe Beane will hold onto outfielder Carlos Gonzalez when Gonzalez is 27 and at the top of his game and could demand a $100 million contract? Beane will cry poor and trade Gonzalez to the White Sox for six minor leaguers[…]

This is why Beane is such a good GM. As I understand it, a one win above replacement player costs $3.33 million per win (thanks to MattS from The Good Phight for this information), and for the sake of argument, let’s presume Gonzalez turns into a Nick Markakis clone offensively. Markakis was worth about 8 wins last season and is projected to be worth 9 this season, prorating his current production over a full season. That’s an average of 8.5 wins, which would theoretically cost $28 million per season.

Beane doesn’t have the ability to give a star player anything close to this kind of money, so he sells on his players near or at their peak values and replaces them with players who will come close to, match, or exceed the previous player’s production at the position for much less money (players not yet eligible for arbitration or just entering that phase). There is no valid criticism for this approach: it’s financially savvy and for anyone not in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Detroit or Philadelphia, it’s a near-requirement.

The rest of Cohn’s article is a giant ad hominem complete with hasty generalizations and irrational conclusions. Read at your own risk.

Anger Management, Phillies Style

After another loss to the Florida Marlins courtesy a Jorge Cantu walk-off bases loaded single, three Phillies expressed emotions, all of it anger.

Charlie Manuel:

Sitting behind a desk in the visiting manager’s office at Dolphin Stadium, Manuel flicked a few jabs at his team’s offense, then delivered a haymaker.

“Our situational hitting is absolutely terrible,” he said. “Absolutely off the chart, really.”

[…]

“It’s going to be hard for us to win” if situational hitting does not improve, Manuel said. “[On Saturday], we hit all those balls down to third base in one inning – absolutely bad hitting. I’m not trying to hurt anybody’s feelings, but if I do, if I’m talking about you, that’s good. I mean to be talking about you.

“We hit enough. We talk enough [about situational hitting]. We’ve got to get it done. A lot of it is me. It’s up to me to make us try to get it done.

“Accountability is fine, but if you don’t execute, something’s wrong.”

Manuel said a few things but I’d like to point this out in particular because I just read a bit of research here on that exact subject. The research showed that the Phillies have the best sOPS+ in the National League with runners in scoring position; the Phillies rank 7th out of 16 with RISP and two outs, first out of 16 with men on base, and third out of 16 “Late and Close” (7th or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck).

Overall, the Phillies are not poor with situational hitting.

His general point, though — that the Phillies’ offense isn’t living up to expectations despite ranking 2nd in the National League in runs per game — is cogent. As the above article explains:

The Phils have scored 20 runs in a game twice, most recently on June 13 at St. Louis. In the 30 games since then, however, they have scored four or fewer runs 20 times and two or fewer 11 times. They are 12-18 in those 30 games, but have managed to hang on to a share of first place.

Pat Burrell:

Pat Burrell was not happy with manager Charlie Manuel’s decision to remove him late in yesterday’s 11-inning loss to the Florida Marlins.

“I’m upset, absolutely,” Burrell said. “I’m upset, and I have been for a long time. It’s not personal. I don’t want to ever come out of close games.”

[…]

“In that situation, we’re trying to put more speed out there, so I can’t question what the manager is trying to do. He’s got confidence in all his guys,” Burrell said. “But I can’t lie and say I’m not frustrated by it, especially when it’s close like that in a low-scoring game. He knows that. We’ve discussed it.

“Do I wish it was different? Absolutely. I don’t know any other way to say that. A lot of games I’ve come out, it’s never an issue, but when it does come back to bite us, it becomes more of a focus.”

Burrell realizes he is not a fleet runner, and there are times when he has no qualms about coming out of a game.

“If it’s a tie game and I get on base and you run for me, I think that’s a good time,” he said.

This has been a pet peeve of mine, watching Manuel unnecessarily substitute Burrell late in the game. Manuel’s mind is in the right place but there’s really not a whole lot of difference between Burrell and Eric Bruntlett or So Taguchi defensively. Both are definitely faster, but it doesn’t make a difference considering how little ground Burrell is required to cover in left field.

While it’d be a time-consuming endeavor to pore through the game logs to find out exactly when Burrell was lifted, who replaced him, and if the move had any effect, this thread at Back She Goes should suffice, incomplete as it may be.

Last one.

Cole Hamels:

Hamels said precise location of his fastball was vital yesterday because the pitch lacked its usual zip. He blamed that on the extended rest he got over the all-star break.

“The time off hurt me,” he said. “My body felt tight and I couldn’t push it. If I had pushed it, I’d probably have ended up on the disabled list.”

Hamels is referencing the fact that they pushed his start back to Sunday even though he would have been on his normal five days’ rest on Friday. Had they chosen to start Hamels on Friday, he would have been scheduled to pitch the series finale in New York against the Mets as well, which probably would have been the most strategically sound maneuver.

While it’s a good sign to see the Phillies concerned with preserving the arm of their young superstar pitcher, there’s a balance for protecting such an arm. And if the Phillies were really concerned with the mileage on Hamels’ arm, he wouldn’t rank sixth in Pitcher Abuse Points. Hamels has made 21 starts this season, in 14 of them (67%) he has thrown 100 or more pitches, and in 18 of them (86%) he has pitched 7 innings or more.

What we can draw from these complaints is that A) Charlie Manuel is wrong with his analysis of his team’s offense and B) Manuel might not be as good with the players as we thought. We finally have some tangible criticism from his players. Everyone knew he wasn’t the game’s brightest tactician, considering he didn’t even know about the double switch until the second half of his first season with the Phillies. Now there’s a bit of proof that he may not be so great in the clubhouse, either.