The Insufficient Team the Geniuses Built – Why Ned Colletti Gets an Unfair Bad Rap

Ever since Ned Colletti first took over as General Manager of the Dodgers, he’s been subjected to varying degrees of ridicule. Dodger fans have acquired a reputation as a Starbucks-sipping bunch that show up in the third inning, leave in the seventh, and are more consumed with taking selfies with the field in the background than what’s actually happening on said field. While there’s an element of truth to that, more than three million fans a year keep the turnstiles at Dodger Stadium turning, and after not seeing a World Series appearance, let alone a win since 1988, they’ve become a demanding bunch. Especially in the social media era where every misstep can be instantly reported to the masses, each successive season without hardware has added fuel to the fire. As the supposed architect of the roster, Colletti has been the target of much vitriol and blame. Others have shared it, (see: Mattingly, Don) but there’s no arguing who has gotten lion’s share.

Why He Deserves (Some of) It: Let’s be honest. He wasn't a very good GM. Yes, this article is intended to convey some sympathy for the man, but it’s also intended to be accurate. Jason Schmidt. Andruw Jones. Brandon League. Those are just a few of the players signed to laughably bad multi-year deals under Colletti’s stewardship. Moreover, conventional baseball wisdom is that it takes far more than just the 25 man roster to make it through a successful season – “It takes 40,” is a semi-popular refrain. Yet ever short-sighted, Colletti disproportionately focused on the front half of only the first 25. In a fantasy world where nobody ever gets hurt or worn down during the 162 game grind, that could potentially work. Reality, however, is a different story. People do get hurt, and when the next guy is a sub-replacement level player who is expected to step in for a serviceable major leaguer, the result is never going to be good. Then, there’s the man himself. He just comes off as a meat head. He may be smart, he may be dumb, but appearances are what matter where public opinion is concerned, and he does himself zero favors in this department.

The Book: It’s called The Best Team Money Can Buy, by Molly Knight. It’s a well-crafted book, and Knight is a fabulous story teller who knows her baseball, all the way from game play to the business side of it. But the picture it paints of Colletti is remarkably one-sided. And as people are prone to do when they read something from a source who has acquired some accolades along the way, they treat it as gospel. So thanks to the passage where Colletti allegedly cursed out a staff member for the perception that he was undercut in an attempt to acquire reliever Joaquin Benoit from the Padres, everyone who has read the book is quick to tell you what an a-hole Colletti is. They’ll also throw in that shortly after, Benoit reported shoulder pain and threw only a few innings the remainder of the way, conveniently leaving out that he recovered well and had an elite-by-any-standard 2015 season. I’m not going to accuse anyone of making anything up to sell a book. Colletti may very well have cursed at a staff member. But he also may not have. There are passages in the book that sound odd. For example, Andre Ethier was quoted as saying “That won’t help me in arbitration,” after unselfishly moving a runner from second to third with a grounder to the right side of the infield. Did he say that? Maybe. But hadn’t he already signed his six year, $85 million dollar contract at that point, rendering arbitration irrelevant? My point is, skepticism is healthy. While Knight could have had no way of knowing that Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi were going to take over when she started writing the book, the did join the Dodgers before the release date, so the opportunities to make last minute edits were still there. Again, it’s a good book and worth reading, but to just assume there isn’t a whiff of agenda anywhere in it is to be too trusting.

The Bloggers: Oh, the bloggers. Yes, there's an element of the pot calling the kettle black here. That said, we bloggers are bloggers because we have opinions, Internet access, Twitter accounts, and a lucky few of us even have some loyal readers and followers. What many of us don't have is an earthly clue of what we're talking about. You can't read one Fangraphs article and become an expert on sabermetrics any more than you can read one book on economics and rival Ben Bernanke. But that doesn't stop us. Dodger bloggers in particular, and I'm not going to call anyone out by name here, but you know who you are, are particularly bad about this. Current analytics has one of catcher Yasmani Grandal's strong suits being pitch framing. Suddenly, every pitch called a strike when Grandal is behind the plate is a result of genius framing. "Grandal is helping his pitcher out left and right!" one hopelessly overenthusiastic tweet from early in the season read. The pitcher? That was Clayton Kershaw, he of the three Cy Young awards in four years, the last two with AJ Ellis as his primary catcher, he of the hopelessly bad framing ability. Nobody is disputing that the ability to be a good pitch receiver has value, but it's apparently much easier to hop on the bandwagon of a trendy metric and throw a bunch of gasoline on the fire than it is to ask questions about it, like for example, "do umpires compensate when a reputationally good framer is catching?" or "is a framed strike one weighted differently than a framed strike three?" or "how can Yadier Molina suddenly be an awful framer after being excellent just one season ago?" Again, not saying it isn't valuable. Just saying it might be worth being a little more analytical when talking about analytics. 

Here's what else the (we?) bloggers are responsible for. I was talking about the Dodgers and their roster with an acquaintance from the billiards league I play in shortly after they were eliminated by the Mets. Neither of us had consumed a drop of alcohol at this point, so it wasn't your usual pool hall conversation. That said, the topic shifted to Colletti versus the "geniuses," and suddenly the floodgates opened. According to this fellow (whom I like personally, and consider to be generally intelligent and insightful - we'll call him Brandon because...well, that's his name.), all of the Dodgers failures this year were a direct result of Colletti's utter idiocy when compiling the Dodgers' roster for the last 8 years. He correctly identified about a dozen moves made by Colletti that ranged from calamitously bad to mildly unfortunate, which was fine by me. But any time I brought up a recent move that worked out well for the Dodgers (Hyun Jin Ryu, the Adrian Gonzalez blockbuster, Zack Greinke, etc.), he said, "Those are all Stan Kasten!!! Colletti had nothing to do with those." Whether that's accurate or not (I don't believe it is), you can't assign blame when things go wrong but divert credit when they go right. If Kasten truly gets the credit for every personnel move that went right since he became team president, then he deserves the blame for not stopping Colletti from making the moves that went wrong. Plain and simple. So when I asked him why he felt this way, he told me to read a particular article by a particular blogger who I regard to be...well, an @$$hole. He's not a complete moron, and does offer the occasional astute analysis, but he's prone to the uninformed rant, and if questioned, makes it personal. Yet, in the Twitter era, this is where people get their information. 

The Successors: Ah yes, the "geniuses." The twosome who were going to transform the Dodgers into a perennial powerhouse by forsaking traditional scouting methods in favor of spreadsheets and algorithms. That, believe it or not, is not me indicting them. If it works out, it looks great. If it doesn't, however, it begs questions. Here's the thing with Friedman and Zaidi, they're a bit tough to read. They can come off as personable and even a little self-deprecating at times, embracing their geek labels with a good natured and affable charm. And then, in the next breath, they can come off as utterly smug and condescending, like you're not worth an explanation because you wouldn't understand their genius anyway. Well, let's take a look at how the geniuses did. Here are the guys they got.

Howie Kendrick - Well, let's start off with a win for them. Nobody can argue against the qualities of the dependable keystone, who turned in a nice campaign for the Dodgers, both on offense and defense. It is worth noting, however, it cost them Dee Gordon, who is many years younger, many dollars cheaper, and had a spectacularly good season for a bad Miami Marlins team. 

Brandon McCarthy - Wow. As brainless of an signing as there has been since the invention of free agency, this one went predictably south and fast. McCarthy has never lacked for talent, but for the first time in a decade-long professional career, he managed to stay healthy for a full season and parlayed it into a four year deal with the Dodgers. After just four starts, he was done for 12-18 months with Tommy John surgery. It can be argued that elbow injuries can't be predicted, it can also be argued that the elbow injury merely preempted him from inevitably hurting something else as the season went on. This was a firable mistake. (no, they shouldn't really be fired. Yet. They deserve more than one year to prove their acumen.)

Brett Anderson - Basically a left-handed version of McCarthy, this one was a win. Why? They only gave him one year, and he managed to stay mostly healthy. They needed him to pitch at a mid-rotation level and he did that, and arguably more before crapping the sheets in his lone post season start.

Jimmy Rollins - Veteran leadership, veteran schmeedership. No position player on the Dodgers was worse, and it can be reasonably argued that no position player across the National League was more hurtful to his team. He was woeful on offense despite double digit home runs, and abysmal on defense. He didn't make a ton of errors, but anything hit farther than a foot to either side of him was practically a guaranteed hit. What makes this signing worse is that Rollins was already terrible last season for Philadelphia and 36 year olds in decline don't often rebound.

Yasmani Grandal - The true conundrum, Grandal is a sabermetric darling. He has some pop, draws walks, and is an excellent pitch framer. But to watch him play paints a different picture. He's lousy at containing the running game, can't block pitches in the dirt, allows way too many passed balls, and that's just defensively. Useful only as a platoon player (something Andre Ethier gets constantly lambasted for by detractors), Grandal is only useful offensively when hitting left-handed. And even then, he finished the season hitting a woeful .067 down the stretch. Yes, he's young, and can improve, but he better. Because to get him, the Dodgers paid the Padres (!!!) to take Matt Kemp and his contract. Kemp may be a nuclear reactor leak defensively, but in an era where right handed power is precious, he still hit more than 20 home runs while playing in the spacious expanses of PetCo Park. 

Mike Bolsinger - I don't care what anyone says, if signing McCarthy was a firable offense, this is the signing that gets them a reprieve. Without Bolsinger's mid-season performances, this team doesn't make the playoffs. He faded badly down the stretch, but he was nothing less than a season-savor for the Dodgers. And he cost them next to nothing. 

Mat Latos - The less said about this one, the better I think. I will admit that once all the top starters (Hamels, Cueto, Price, and company) had been moved, I thought Latos was a nice consolation prize. Wow, was I wrong. Even though his first appearance was statistically solid, it was clear he has little left in the tank. It speaks to the value of actually watching someone pitch before you trade for them. It's worth noting that he didn't cost them any prospects of note to acquire, but you can't tout the virtues of "organizational depth" when getting a guy like Joe Weiland (in the Grandal trade) and then trade three minor league pitchers for one washed up big leaguer. 

Alex Wood - Marginally more successful than Latos, Wood offers intrigue. He's young, left-handed, and a fierce competitor. He's also already had one TJ surgery, has a funky delivery, and an alarming downward trend in fastball velocity the last two years. He had a couple of nice starts and also a couple of worrisome implosions, including in relief in game 3 of the NLDS. The jury is still out on this one, but it's worth mentioning he cost Cuban third base prospect Hector Olivera.

Luis Avilan - Acquired in the same trade as Wood, he's a solid left-handed middle relief / LOOGY. He doesn't inspire confidence when subjected to the eye test, but it would be unfair not to note he was among the league leaders in scoreless appearances, and retired Curtis Granderson with runners on and the season on the line in the NLDS. 

Kike Hernandez - Hernandez justified his acquisition by inventing the rally banana alone. Even if he never got a hit. Which he did quite a bit of. He appeared overmatched in the playoffs, but Jacob DeGrom and company can do that to hitters. He has a bright future. 

Joel Peralta - An interesting acquisition, for sure. His bad appearances outweighed his good ones, and he cost the Dodgers Jose Dominguez, a young righty with a 100 mph fastball to get. Dominguez has been DFA'd by Tampa Bay, so it can be argued Peralta didn't cost anything, but guys who throw 100 don't grow on trees (unless the orchard belongs to the Mets) so it's a curious move if nothing else. 

Chris Hatcher - From bullpen dumpster fire to late inning relief ace down the stretch, nobody improved as the season went on more than Hatcher. I'll admit, I openly sobbed most times he entered a game for the first three months of the season, and then openly bitched whenever Mattingly went to Pedro Baez instead of Hatcher in a clutch situation down the stretch. I know I'm a hypocrite. I don't even care, bro. Do you even lift?

The verdict? Well, the geniuses did enough to make their mark on the big league roster, didn't they? But what kind of a mark was it? A gold seal, or a giant sh*t stain? Or somewhere in between. 

Well, you'd be hard pressed to find someone in that group who had the impact of a Justin Turner, Adrian Gonzalez, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, or Kenley Jansen this year. Even erstwhile contributors like Andre Ethier, JP Howell and Scott Van Slyke had more of an impact than some of those guys. What do they all have in common? They joined the squad on Colletti's watch. 

It's human nature to want to point fingers when something goes wrong. Just remember, one finger is often not enough to do the pointing. 


10 Crazy Fantasy Football Predictions

We may be one game into the NFL season, and most fantasy drafts have already taken place, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still have some crazy predictions. For people who read Matthew Berry of ESPN, this will be somewhat similar to his “You Heard Me” column in these are predictions unlikely to come true, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it did. I am also not going to put together a prediction for each team, but have 10 crazy predictions that I could see happening, and if you end up with these guys on your team (either via trade or free agency) you can get real value.

1) The best Allen in Jacksonville will be Hurns: Allen Robinson has been pegged as a sleeper in Jacksonville this year, but I am left underwhelmed and think Allen Hurns could be the one that breaks out instead. In 2014, Hurns caught a higher percentage of his targets for more yards per catch. Robinson may have been a second round draft pick while Hurns went undrafted in 2014, and Cecil Shorts may be gone, but Hurns has been the better receiver in games that count. Robinson also missed the second half of the year, meaning he was on pace for a bigger year than Hurns, but it also means quarterback Blake Bortles has significantly more reps with Hurns. Robinson is owned in 90+ percent of leagues, while Hurns is owned in just about 4% (my ownership stats will all be based on ESPN), so even if Hurns keeps it close to Robinson, he will provide a massive value this season.

2) The number two wide receiver in Atlanta will be Leonard Hankerson: Roddy White will turn 34 this year and has become less and less reliable in fantasy. We have seen guys like Harry Douglas and Devin Hester have success with Matt Ryan at QB, and Hankerson is a better receiver than either of those guys. Hankerson is just 26, but has battled injuries for much of his career since being selected in the third round in 2011. His entire career thus far has been in Washington, who has not had an elite passing quarterback since the 90’s. At some point this year the Falcons will want Hankerson to take the torch as the number two target behind Julio Jones, and don’t be surprised if it is sooner than later.

3) The top fantasy QB in the AFC East will be Ryan Tannehill: Tom Brady is back and looks to be in the clear in terms of suspension for the season, and while many people expect Brady to give a finger to the NFL and have a massive season, I think expectations should be tempered. Meanwhile, the fish down in South Beach have are much improved and have a ton of targets for Tannehill. Jarvis Landry showed signs of being a potentially excellent receiver, and rookie DeVante Parker could be a future #1 pass catcher. They also have a guy who can really stretch the field in Kenny Stills, while Greg Jennings might be the best #4 receiver in the league. Add a solid running game with Lamar Miller and Jay Ajayi coming in fresh after he returns following week 8 and new TE Jordan Cameron is one of the most physically gifted tight ends in football when healthy. Tannehill is also much more athletic than he is given credit for, so he will get a few rushing touchdowns this year to go with a breakout season in the air.

4) Tyrod Taylor is a top 12 QB: Ever since his days at Virginia Tech, I have loved Taylor. He has been hidden behind Joe Flacco in Baltimore, but he regularly shined in the pre-season. Now he gets the nod as the starting QB with a Buffalo Bills offense loaded with playmakers. His rushing ability will really help his fantasy stats, but his arm is underrated. With Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin, Robert Woods, and Charles Clay as options down the field, if the defense focuses in on newly acquired LeSean McCoy, there will be plenty of big plays available down the field. McCoy is also excellent in the screen game, which will help inflate Taylor’s value. Get him now in your fantasy league because he will be one of the most popular pickups following his week one matchup against the Colts.

5) John Brown will be a top 10 wide receiver: Maybe I just watched too much of the Cardinals last season given I live in Arizona, but John Brown is really good. He can play in the slot, he can stretch the defense, and the top two receivers are either old or injury prone. Larry Fitzgerald is no longer the number one receiver in Arizona and Michael Floyd can’t handle a Carson Palmer fastball (sent a bone through the skin in training camp), so that makes Brown the number one to open the year. When Carson Palmer was healthy, nobody had more targets than John Brown, and he had a solid year with terrible QB play when Palmer was hurt.

6) Doug Martin will be a top 15 running back: Top 15 might not be crazy bold prediction, but I couldn’t quite go top 10 with him, although it is possible. The Muscle Hamster had a rough year last year, but he has been an elite running back in the league, and it wasn’t all that long ago. The Bucs have a rookie QB who will take advantage of very large receivers, but there is nothing that can help a young QB than a quality run game. Look for the Bucs to run often to help take some of the load off Jameis Winston, and the Bucs schedule isn’t exactly filled with dominant defenses (especially given four games are against the Falcons and Saints). Martin was regularly going in the 5th or 6th rounds of drafts, but could easily provide the return of a second or third rounder.

7) Danny Woodhead will be the best Charger RB in PPR scoring: Melvin Gordon may have been a first round running back in the 2015 draft, but he didn’t exactly look great in the preseason. Woodhead is as reliable as they come, and is sneaky good down at the goal line for such a small back. He will likely be the third down back all season for the Chargers, and will get at least a couple series all to himself each game. The AFC West has some explosive offenses, meaning the Chargers will be in shootouts, which will keep Woodhead on the field more than many are projecting. I am not saying Gordon won’t be good, but with the help of PPR scoring, Woodhead will be the better running back.

8) 2015 will be Michael Crabtree’s best season: The Oakland Raiders have not had a 1,000 yard receiver since Randy Moss, but this year they just might have two. Rookie Amari Cooper is the best pass catcher the Raiders have had since Moss, and Michael Crabtree just might be the second best since then. Derek Carr looks to be the real deal at QB and could flirt with 4,000 yards passing. All those yards have to go to someone in addition to Cooper, and it won’t be Rod Streater or Mychal Rivera. Crabtree’s best season was in 2012 when he caught 85 balls for 1,105 yards and 9 touchdowns. I don’t see the 85 grabs being eclipsed, but 1,100 yards is definitely possible, and 12 touchdowns is within reach. The Raiders don’t totally such this year, and there will be fantasy value coming out of the bay, don’t be surprised if Crabtree is a big part of that.

9) The Cleveland Browns will be a top 5 D/ST: Ok, this might be a little tough, but top 10 just doesn’t seem like enough of a limb to be out on. The Browns spent a pick in each of the first four rounds this past year on defensive help, along with a first in each of the previous two years. They struggled against the run last year, but Danny Shelton should really help with that. Joe Haden might be the best corner in football, and Justin Gilbert is immensely talented, he just really struggled last year. If he takes a step forward this year, the secondary could be excellent and the front seven is getting better. This also takes into account special teams, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Travis Benjamin returns a few kicks to the house this year. (Side note: The Oakland Raiders could be sneaky good too.)

10) Maxx Williams will be a top 15 TE: Steve Smith Sr. is 36 years old, rookie Breshad Perriman is banged up, Torrie Smith is now in San Francisco, Kamar Aiken is listed as a starting wide receiver. All those factors means somebody else needs to step up in the passing game, so why not the Minnesota tight end selected in the second round? Williams was widely ranked as the 25th-30th best tight end heading into drafts, and he may look like those rankings were accurate at the start of the season, but he will have some huge games. He will become a favorite check down option for Joe Flacco before too long, and in the Red Zone, his 6’4” 250 lbs. frame will be a favorite target over the 5’9” Steve Smith or field stretching Perriman. The touchdowns and check downs will allow Williams to dink and dunk his way into a top 15 tight end, and an every week fantasy starter in the second half of the year.


Waxing Poetic on Kershaw's ASG Snub, Hamels, and the Nature of Blogging

Here at The Stain, we're bloggers. And like most bloggers, we're fans too. I realize now, after many years of relying on the words of columnists/bloggers/"experts" etc. for news on my beloved teams, all these folks are are fans with a computer and an opinion. I still read all the blogs, for entertainment, appreciation of different writing styles, and even breaking news about my teams. But recently, the reality than many grains of salt must be taken with this information has set in. And by no means am I saying copious grains of salt should not be taken with what we write. But for the following, I'm going to do my best to be as objective as possible. 

We are not a "Dodger" blog, but as fan, I'm aware that a disproportionate amount of my commentary does revolve around them. Recently, there's been no shortage of up-in-arms-ness about Clayton Kershaw being snubbed from the National League all-star team. 

Sure, the notion that the best pitcher in baseball for the last half decade not making the squad seems preposterous on the surface. He wouldn't be the starter, and as a Dodger fan, do you really want your all-Universe pitcher risking injury pitching an inning of relief (a role he's not accustomed to) in what amounts to a borderline meaningless exhibition game? 

But just for argument's sake, let's say that bit of rationale is not sobering enough for you, and you DO want to see your favorite pitcher in the Mid-Summer Classic. Which of the starters selected do you snub in his place? Nobody with a shred of common sense could say that Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke don't belong. Gerrit Cole is probably the early front runner for the Cy Young Award. Teammate AJ Burnett has been arguably even better with his sub-2.00 ERA. The Cards' de facto ace Michael Wacha has more than earned his spot, stepping up after Wainwright's injury. Jacob DeGrom has been spectacular. So has Shelby Miller. Madison Bumgarner, well, apart from being excellent, is a Giant and Bruce Bochy is the manager. So, who do you cut? Sure, you could argue that a reliever like Francisco Rodriguez seems like a logical choice, but the pesky "each team must be represented" rule pops up, and the modern game values excellence in relief close to as highly as it does goodness in starting. 

Speaking of goodness in starting, that is what Kershaw has been. Good. His last eight starts have been outstanding, with a sub-2:00 ERA even if the wins haven't been coming. But his first 8 starts were entirely pedestrian. That averages out to, well, good. Now, you have bloggers coming in with their hair on fire, citing stats like FIP that purportedly show he's been every bit as good this year as he has the last five, even if the "old-fashioned" stats don't show it. Then you have people like me who have watched each of his starts this season telling you that while he has been good, he is leaving more pitches up in the zone this year, falling behind more hitters, and his walk rate is up. I can guarantee you all of that is going to be corrected, but at the moment, he's not been as good as the other guys correctly selected ahead of him.

The bottom line is, every year, somebody gets boned. And this year, it may be Kershaw if he doesn't get the final fan vote. So ask yourself, what is the worst thing that comes out of that? He comes through the break healthy and possibly with a chip on his shoulder? What do you think the rest of the league thinks about that possibility?

On to another pitcher - Cole Hamels has been the subject of more trade speculation than any other player this season, with the Dodgers being one of the most popular landing spots. I've seen dozens of blogs titled "A Trade Package for Hamels that Would Work," or some variation thereof. But really, they've all been hogwash. A perfect example of this would be a recent one I saw on Bleacher Report that suggested the Dodgers could prise away Hamels from Philly for the package of Grant Holmes, Darnell Sweeney, Austin Barnes and Juan Jaime. Really?

Ok, let's operate under the postulate that top prospects Corey Seager and Julio Urias are untouchable. Can a deal even be reached without including one or both of those two? Well, if the answer was no, we would have heard something by now out of Philly like, "if Urias and Seager are both out of the discussion, there is no discussion." We haven't, so you'd have to think, yeah. But let's take a look at the aforementioned package.

Holmes is a former first-round pick who has advanced pretty rapidly, and profiles as a potential future number 3 or even number 2 starter. That's pretty good. So he fits.

Darnell Sweeney is an athletic prospect who can play the infield and outfield, and has an attractive combination of pop and speed. But, there are concerns with his swing and ability to get on base. In a best case scenario, he could become a poor man's Ben Zobrist. There's value in that, so let's not dismiss his inclusion. 

Austin Barnes is a curious case. He can catch, or play second base. He reportedly defends both positions competently, but not excellently, and his hitting profiles as potentially adequate at the big league level. He'll most likely have a nice career as a back up. Moving on.

Juan Jaime. He throws 100, so there's that. He can't throw strikes, was given up on by the Braves, and if memory serves correct was thrown into the Callaspo for Uribe deal from earlier this season. Guys who throw 100 don't grow on trees, but the road to unemployment is paved with million dollar airports that have ten cent control towers. 

Who in their right mind thinks that Philadelphia would take a package of one good prospect, along with one okay prospect and two throw ins for their ace? Can we please knock it off with this preposterous suggestions?

Now, if you're curious for my take on what it would take to land Hamels, here it is. Behind Urias, Holmes and Jose De Leon are the two top pitching prospects in the organization currently. De Leon has only recently become a commodity, but his quality stuff and improved command project well as legitimate middle of the rotation starter some day. So he'd have to be included with Holmes. That's a start.

Then along with Sweeney, who could legitimately belong in the discussion, you'd probably have to include a guy like Alex Verdugo, a former second round pick and an infielder with a potentially excellent bat. 

THEN, you have to start rounding out the package with some "spare parts," so to speak. Chris Anderson and Chris Reed are both former first round picks who haven't quite panned out as hoped, but still could carve out quality big league careers as relievers some day. You could include one, but not both. 

AND THEN, you look at the big league roster and a guy like Alex Guerrero jumps out at you - a legitmate power hitter without a position to play in Los Angeles. 

Now you have real talking points. Philly will probably want to get rid of Jonathan Papelbon too, and maybe the Dodgers will throw in quality lefty reliever Paco Rodriguez, made expendable by the emergence of Adam Liberatore and surprising excellence of JP Howell. But all that stuff is sprinkles on the donut. 

Does that sound like a lot to give up for what amounts to one starting pitcher? Look at what Detroit gave up for David Price - that package was lambasted in many circles as not being enough even though it contained Drew Smyly, and what was suggested the Dodgers could fleece Hamels for comes nowhere close to what Price fetched. 

Anyway, so, have I ranted enough? I think so. 


The Designated Hitter Non-Debate

If you’re looking for objective, unbiased analysis of whether the designated hitter belongs in the National League, look elsewhere. No, seriously. I can picture myself as unborn twinkle in my dad’s eye in the early seventies, hollering at the American League, “Don’t do it!!!”

I may be in the majority, I may be in the minority, who the hell knows? But the notion that the best way of dealing with a professional athlete not being very good at a particular part of his sport is bringing in a ringer to take care of it for him is absurd. Let’s put this in context: The Los Angeles Clippers are having a wonderful playoff run. A bit part of it has been the play of DeAndre Jordan, but there has been some concern. Jordan is a career 42% foul shooter…and I’m rounding up. Are teams going to use the hack-a-Shaq strategy teams used to employ on Shaquille O’Neal when he couldn’t throw a pea in the ocean from the free throw line? Jordan is hardly alone. Dwight Howard makes slightly more than half of his attempts. Rajon Rondo is about 60% for his career, but shot an atrocious 40% in 2014-15. The Rockets have a rookie named Clint Capela who went 4-23 from the charity stripe this season. 4-23. Let that sink in for a moment. That’s 17%. Now, Capela may not be a guy who will ever be considered an offensive force, but the other guys are to varying degrees. They just have that one scoop of poop in their ice cream sundae. They can’t make their foul shots. Essentially, American League baseball absolves these fellas from having to attempt their foul shots. They can have JJ Reddick or James Harden come in and shoot the free throws for them. Ridiculous, right?

Ok, ok, let’s be at least a little bit fair. Advocates for the designated hitter cite several other reasons why pitchers should never hit.

They suck at it: Well, it’s not a lie. Pretty much the entirety of the pitching population hits far below league average. Ok, let’s take a look at this argument. Empirically, you can’t argue with the statistics. But it’s also not as if pitchers are alone in their hitting futility. The funny thing about the word “average” is that it implies roughly half of the sample group is above it, while the remaining half brings up the rear. It’s absolutely true the pitchers represent the extreme back end of the lower population in this argument, but at any given point in time, pretty much every major league line up has a hitter in it who is in the middle of a slump that makes him just as unlikely, if not more than whoever the pitcher is, to have a productive at bat. Take the Dodgers’ Jimmy Rollins. After a half-way decent start to the season, Jimmy hit about a buck over his last 100 at bats. That makes him only slightly more likely than my mother to get a hit. If history is any indicator, Rollins will eventually snap out of his funk to a certain degree, but odds are that if and when he does, another Dodger regular will be descending into one. You can pull up nearly any team’s starting line up from a game this week and find someone in it who is struggling horribly. The Astros’ Chris Carter and the Rockies’ Drew Stubbs are nearly automatic strikeouts at this point. Before his big three-run homer last weekend, the Red Sox Mike Napoli was completely lost at the plate. The Phillies’ Chase Utley is just barely hitting half the Mendoza line. I’m cherry picking names you’ll know or recognize to illustrate my point, but if I wanted to further strengthen my cause, the Mets started Kirk Nieuwenhuis, he of the .111 batting average and .172 OBP against the Phillies this past Sunday. That’s only marginally better than Bartolo Colon.

It’s a sub-par product with pitchers hitting: Max Scherzer said, paraphrased, who do you think fans would rather see hit, Big Papi or some pitcher swinging a wet newspaper? I don’t know, Max, but personally, I get real tired of watching Ortiz step out of the batter’s box for nine minutes between pitches and nobody doing anything about the pace of play rules. Additionally, the notion that a baseball game is only optimal if you have supreme hitters facing supreme pitchers all the time is preposterous. The people who would make that argument are the same ones who would say that a boxing match is only entertaining if both guys end up beaten to a pulp by the end of it. That’s fine if you’re looking to feed your primordial bloodlust, but means essentially nothing if you’re a fan of the “sweet science.” These are probably also the people who will tell you that soccer is boring because there aren’t enough goals scored. While it’s true that a soccer game that ends 4-3 can be quite spectator-friendly, true fans of the game will enjoy watching the world’s finest players compete even in a 0-0 tie. If anything, you can argue that having the pitcher bat actually adds intrigue to the game as managers will have to make more decisions – do I pinch hit, do I walk the 8th place guy to force the other manager’s hand, double switches, etc.

It’s a huge injury risk: Oh, for f***’s sake… Adam Wainwright ruptured his Achilles tendon leaving the batter’s box this season. A few year’s back, Chien Mien Wang suffered a significant foot injury running the bases. Brett Anderson last season broke a finger on a particularly inept bunt attempt. But apart from those guys, you have Scherzer with his thumb owie, and not a whole lot else in terms of pitchers suffering notable injuries while hitting. If you’re looking at risk of injury, how about a line drive to the dome? Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Carrasco, and Archie Bradley this season alone could tell you a little bit about those. In seasons past, Alex Cobb, Hiroki Kuroda, Bryce Florie, Juan Nicasio, and a host of others have been brained. Of the less bloody variety, it seems every other day we hear about another pitcher needing the Tommy John ligament replacement surgery. And this is purely conjecture, but having to spring off of a downward slope to field your position after throwing a ball as hard as you can sounds like there’s more injury risk involved than swinging a 32oz piece of wood at a ball.

You’re just holding on to tradition!: No. I’m not. Change for the sake of change is stupid. We have 40 something years of evidence that the designated hitter adds nothing to the game from a fan friendliness or competitive perspective. When MLB introduced interleague play a couple of decades ago, the reasoning was obvious. Generations of fans had never gotten to see games like the Cubs against the White Sox in any game that mattered. Dodgers and Angels. Yankees and Mets. The opportunity to attract new fans as well as win back old ones was ripe. There was ABSOLUTELY a reason to give that a shot. The DH, not so much.

The players want it: Maybe a couple of them do. But the prevailing majority don’t. Even Scherzer, who sort of kind of spoke up for having a DH in the National League quickly said his comments were taken out of context once Madison Bumgarner basically said he was a nincompoop. And when Madison Bumgarner, who is enormous and can pull tractors with his teeth, says you’re a schmuck, well, who am I to argue.

 Sorry, folks. “Why not?” is simply not a good enough reason.


2015 NFL Mock Draft

Every time I put together a mock draft, something new came out that made me go back in and adjust it all over again. Now, suddenly it is draft day, and I still need to get a mock draft out, so I have decided to put out my mock draft selections, but without descriptions for each to ensure I am able to get it up ahead of the start of the draft. For takes on players/picks, tune into The Stain Sports Podcast this weekend when Torsten and I will discuss the draft.

1)      Tampa Bay Bucs – Jameis Winston – QB – Florida State

2)      Tennessee Titans – Marcus Mariota – QB – Oregon

3)      Jacksonville Jaguars – Dante Fowler Jr. – DE – Florida

4)      Oakland Raiders – Amari Cooper – WR – Alabama

5)      Washington Redskins – Brandon Scherff – OT – Iowa

6)      New York Jets – Leonard Williams – DT – USC

7)      Chicago Bears – Kevin White – WR – West Virginia

8)      Atlanta Falcons – Vic Beasley – DE/OLB – Clemson

9)      New York Giants - Arik Armstead – DE – Oregon

10)   St. Louis Rams – DeVante Parker – WR – Louisville

11)   Minnesota Vikings – Trae Waynes – CB – Michigan State

12)   Cleveland  Browns – Alvin “Bud” Dupree – DE/OLB – Kentucky

13)   New Orleans Saints – Randy Gregory – DE – Nebraska

14)   Miami Dolphins – Breshad Perriman – WR – UCF

15)   San Francisco 49ers – Shane Ray – DE/OLB – Missouri

16)   Houston Texans – Dorial Green-Beckham – WR – Oklahoma/Missouri/Whatever school will claim him

17)   San Diego Chargers – Todd Gurley – RB – Georgia

18)   Kansas City Chiefs – Jalen Strong – WR – Arizona State University

19)   Cleveland Browns – Danny Shelton – DT – Washington

20)   Philadelphia Eagles – Landon Collins – S – Alabama

21)   Cincinnati Bengals – Ereck Flowers – OT – Miami

22)   Pittsburgh Steelers – Kevin Johnson – CB – Wake Forest

23)   Detroit Lions – Malcom Brown – DT – Texas

24)   Arizona Cardinals – Andrus Peat – OT – Stanford

25)   Carolina Panthers – D.J. Humphries – OT – Florida

26)   Baltimore Ravens – Melvin Gordon – RB – Wisconsin

27)   Dallas Cowboys – Eddie Goldman – DT – Florida State

28)   Denver Broncos – Cameron Erving – C – Florida State

29)   Indianapolis Colts – T.J. Clemmings – OT – Pitt

30)   Green Bay Packers – Marcus Peters – CB – Washington

31)   New Orleans Saints – Devin Funchess – WR/TE – Michigan

32)   New England Patriots – Byron Jones – CB – UConn

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