Archive: December 21st, 2006

Sammy Sosa Comeback

He couldn’t just go away quietly … no, it appears that Sammy Sosa is making a comeback.

A year after declining a $500,000, non-guaranteed contract from the Washington Nationals, Sosa claims that he will now accept such an offer in order to get back into the big leagues.

Maybe it’s seeing all the crazy money being thrown at career journeymen such as Gary Matthews, Jr. and Mark DeRosa, one-dimensional outfielders such as Juan Pierre, and glass Joes such as JD Drew. Maybe he’s looking to clear his steroid- and corked-bat-tarnished image. Maybe he’s bored. Or maybe he really misses the game.

Whatever the case, he’s attempting a comeback, and it will be interesting to see if anyone bites.

It’s not that he isn’t physically worth taking a chance on … after all, he’s the only guy to ever hit 60 homers in three different seasons. Even an aging Sammy Sosa is probably worth about 20-25 dingers as a DH somewhere.

The issue, of course, surrounds the steroids question. Did he or didn’t he? Does baseball want this can of worms reopened?

It’s apparent that Rafael Palmeiro will remain in hiding, and doubtful anyone would be willing to give him a job after making a joke of himself and probably committing perjury. Mark McGwire has remained silent since his retirement, through the infamous hearings, and continues to avoid the spotlight. Jose Canseco was blackballed a long time ago, and many believe Barry Bonds would have earned the same fate had the Giants not re-signed him a few weeks ago.

Now what about Sammy? If indeed he can get himself back into shape, have a good winter in the Dominican league, will someone take a chance? Not on his performance, but on his image?

Why this is of interest to Mets fans is obvious — Sammy holds a special place in Omar Minaya’s heart. Omar, after all, was the scout who discovered the skinny Sammy so many years ago on a Dominican sandlot. Also, Minaya holds no age discrimination, and he is always happy to give a flyer to an aging veteran — see Jose Lima, Bret Boone, and Jose Valentin, for example. In fact, there was a lot of talk of Sammy coming to Shea back in the offseason preceding 2005 — not so long ago. The Mets might be able use a power-hitting right-handed bat off the bench, backing up the lefty-hitting Shawn Green in right.

Frightening thought, isn’t it ?

Please Omar, keep your heart out of this decision. The Mets don’t need to add any headaches.

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Zito (Boras) Speaks

For the first time this offseason, Barry Zito has spoken at length regarding his present and future.

The article opens with mention of Zito’s hardworking offseason, and the fact that he’s already trimmed his body fat percentage “by 4.5 percent”. There are several direct quotes from Zito, specifically addressing his publicly perceived value — which he more than hints at being lower than it should be. The most telling quote:

“Everyone wants to talk about how I’m not a No. 1 starter or how I’m getting worse, just so they can save some money,” Zito said with a laugh, in response to reports out of New York the past several months. “I’d expect all that. I wouldn’t be surprised if teams are putting this out to their media to create a collective consciousness, saying why should he get this or that? Everyone wants to buy low and sell high. But all we want is market value, and that’s been set the past six-eight weeks.

“When you look at value, what’s more valuable — keeping another $20 million in the bank when you already have hundreds of millions of dollars, or getting a player of value? But let people panic, let them talk about me, say I suck. We’ll see where the chips land.”

OK Barry, let’s get something straight: $100M over 6 or 7 years is NOT the market, and NOT what you’re worth. Roy Oswalt is a better pitcher than you (or rather, he sucks less than you do), and he does not have that kind of contract. On the open market, he MIGHT. But you’re not as valuable as he is.

Zito does a very good job of sounding like the good guy, the guy whose reputation is getting bashed, when all he wants to do is get what’s coming to him. A real nice ploy, until you step back and take a look at who this person is, and what he is saying.

HIS JOB IS BASEBALL AND HE’S BEING OFFERED $75 MILLION TO PLAY IT.

Yet that’s not enough, if you listen to him.

I want just one bank clerk, account executive, plumber, computer professional, or other “regular guy” to think about the opportunity to make $15M a year to play baseball, then re-read Zito’s sob story.

There’s more in the article about how he’s working so darn hard to get into great shape, how he wants nothing more than to win a World Series championship, blah blah blah. This is all designed to make us feel like he is “the real deal”, or a “great competitor”, or “really dedicated”.

Let’s get serious, folks. If YOUR JOB is to play a professional sport, and you are being paid TENS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS to do so, you damn well better be working your ass off in the offseason, with the goal of winning a championship. From the article you would think that Barry Zito is the hardest working man in baseball, and the only pitcher with the desire and fire to win a World Series.

Yes, he works hard. Yes, he’s competitive. Yes, he wants to win a World Series. Those qualities are the reason he is one of only 750 people in the world who play Major League Baseball. To stay among that elite group, you must work hard, you must be competitive — because there are another 20 million people trying to take your job.

Look, I think Barry Zito is a fine pitcher. At one time he was an excellent pitcher. But I also think he’s on a downslide, and a contract in the 5-year, $75M range is more than fair for a guy who has probably seen his best years, and who probably will be a 15-17-win, #2-type starter. If he were coming off his three best years, and not his three worst years, it would be a different story. If he wanted to get a $100M contract, he should have thought about his body fat percentage this time LAST year.

Maybe I’m a pessimist, or a conspiracy theorist, but I’m convinced this SF Gate article is purely contrived by the Scott Boras camp. Every sentence carefully spun to project Zito as any team’s ultimate addition, and well worth the $100M asking price. The timing of the article was impeccable. Why today? Why not last week, before Zito met with five teams? Why not next week? And at least one of the quotes — the Sandy Koufax reference — was intended to hit the Mets and their fans directly.

Also note the Boras-sounding tidbits sprinkled throughout the story, such as ” … one of baseball’s most durable pitchers — Zito has never missed a start …”. That one comes straight out of the Boras player profile folder. This is less a news article and more a negotiation ploy.

Don’t believe my theory? Consider that his eventual signing means MILLIONS of dollars to both Zito and his agent. When there is this much money at stake, do you really believe that anything that might affect negotiations would be left to chance? If so, you’ll probably be waiting for an old fat guy in a red suit to come down your chimney in a few days.

Go ahead, read the article, enjoy it, but don’t get all fired up and excited and start demanding that Omar get this deal done and pay Zito and Mr. Boras whatever they demand. Zito is still the same pitcher he was before this article: a solid, dependable #2 starter who may or may not be on the downside of his career.

And if he truly means the words he says in the article, particularly “what I’m looking for is an owner who sees eye-to-eye with me in my goal to lead a team to multiple World Series championships,” then he’d be crazy to even consider signing with a team that has never made the World Series (Rangers and Mariners), or the Giants, who are obviously built for one more year of Barry Bonds and then shifting to a rebuilding / youth movement.

Don’t believe the hype. The Mets will make a very fair offer, and it doesn’t need to be anywhere near nine digits — not when the other teams in the bidding are right around the same numbers. Make the 5/75 offer, maybe go to $80M, then “see where the chips land.”

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Mets Do Not Take Riske

The Kansas City Royals are about to sign reliever David Riske to a one-year, $2M contract.

Granted, this is not the type of signing that is headline news. However, it’s alarming that they were able to wrap up a fairly decent, healthy middle reliever for so little money and only a one-year commitment in this insane market.

Now I understand that the Mets are focused on Barry Zito and/or other starting pitching options, but I’m a bit miffed that they didn’t consider making an offer to Riske — especially since he would be so cheap.

The 30-year-old Riske is no star, but a very reliable reliever who has worked in all bullpen roles at one point or another — long relief, situational, setup, and even as an emergency closer. He’s not a strikeout pitcher, but his career WHIP is excellent at 1.265 — and he did this in the American League. Had the Mets signed him, Riske would have stepped right into the departed Chad Bradford’s role, and would be a fine replacement if the Mets chose to trade Aaron Heilman or move Heilman to the rotation.

Personally, I’d like to hunt down Riske, get him out of that Royals contract before it’s too late, and become his agent. It’s unbelievable that a guy with his numbers, in this market, was unable to get a 2- or 3-year deal for somewhere in the $7-10M range.

More Boras Spin

The latest out of the Scott Boras propaganda mill is that FIVE teams have made contract offers to his client Barry Zito.

Ha!

C’mon, Scott, you’re really blowing your image now. Math may not be my best subject, but I can add things pretty well when the numbers are less than the fingers on my hands. And last I checked, the only teams interested in Zito were the Mets, Giants, Rangers, and Mariners. That’s four, and the Mets are adamant that no contract has been offered, so now we’re down to three.

Boras has already been caught in one lie … when it was “leaked” that the Rangers made a $100M offer. The Rangers not only refuted that offer, they called it “science fiction”. If Scott Boras keeps crying wolf, the GMs around the league will continue to gain leverage against him. Would be a nice thing to see.

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