New Opportunity!

January 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Hey all.  To those of you who have come to this blog for information and good times regarding the Phillies and other sports, my profound thanks for spending a little of your precious time reading my thoughts.  It is always so very humbling when people you don’t know actually take the time to read your work.

I write to let everyone know that The Felske Files will be going on haitus for a little while and to announce a new venture.  If you have enjoyed reading my thoughts on the Phillies, you can continue to do so at my new website, http://thatballsouttahere.com.    I’ve been asked to join this all-Phillies site as a Staff Writer, where you will be able to read my stuff on a more regular basis.

That Ball’s Outta Here is a member of the FanSided blog network, which makes this a great opportunity for me.  I started this blog just hoping to share my thoughts with a few random people, and now I’ll get to share my work with a much larger audience.  I hope you will be a part of that audience.

So, please continue to follow me on Twitter @FelskeFiles or bookmark http://thatballsouttahere.com for the best Phillies coverage around.

Thanks again for your generosity and kindness!

John

Categories: Uncategorized

Hamels Avoids Arbitration

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

We always knew Cole Hamels would be a Phillie in 2012.

After that, your guess is as good as mine.

Today, the Phils agreed on a one-year contract with the youngest of their Three Aces worth $15 million.  That’s a nice pay raise for Hamels, who made $9.5 million last year.

The fact that Hamels and the Phillies agreed to a deal before arbitration figures were announced is a positive sign.  It means the two sides are negotiating in good faith.  In fact, Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Twitter today that Hamels’ agent, John Boggs, told him negotiations on a long-term deal will take place during Spring Training.

And Ruben Amaro seemed pleased as well, saying today (courtesy of David Hale at Delaware Online), “It’s a starting point to first get this deal done and then deal with any longterm discussions, [and] we’ll deal with them at the appropriate time. It won’t stop us from having continued discussions about it. We think this is a good place to be right now for him, and at some point we’ll work on something longer.”

Nice words by all.  Gather around and sing kumba ya.

Unfortunately, none of that means a long-term deal will be easily achieved.  A couple months ago, I wrote this about Hamels, and it remains true now…

If Hamels wants to stay in Philadelphia, something along the lines of a Jered Weaver contract would make sense for the Phillies in an ideal world.  Weaver signed with the Angels last year for 5 years and $85 million ($17 million/year)  at 29 years old.  For his career, Weaver is 82-47 with a 3.31 ERA, and an ERA+ of 128.  Last year, he went 18-8 with a 2.41 ERA, had an ERA+ of 158, averaged 3.54Ks/BB and 6.6Ks/9IP.

Hamels’ numbers are almost identical to Weaver’s in every way except one… he’s two years younger than Weaver.  In his career, Hamels is 74-54 with a 3.39 ERA and an ERA+ of 126.  Last year, he went 14-9 with a career-best 2.79 ERA, had an ERA+ of 138, averaged 4.41 Ks/BB and 8.1 Ks/9IP.

At the time, Weaver’s contract looked like a good comp for what Hamels might want.  However, it’s entirely possible Hamels may be aiming higher than that.

And he may be correct to reach for stratospheric cash.

Could he be looking for Cliff Lee money?  Lee was 32 when he signed his six-year, $120 million ($20 million/year) deal with the Phillies.  His career numbers are not as good as Hamels’, however, he pitched in the American League up to that point and has a Cy Young to his credit.  Both pitchers have sterling postseason reputations as well, and Hamels is six years younger than Lee.

Could he be looking for C.C. Sabbathia money?  Sabbathia was 28 when he signed his seven-year, $161 million ($23 million/year) pact with the Yankees before the 2009 season.  Up to that point, Sabbathia had also won a Cy Young Award, and his numbers were slightly worse than Hamels’ although, again, he pitched most of his career in the American League up to that point.

The point is, Hamels’ camp can argue, with good reason, that he should be paid the same as Lee and Sabbathia.  He’s younger, coming off his best season, was NLCS and World Series MVP in 2008, and with the exception of 2009, has had a superlative regular season and postseason career.

He’s entering the prime of his career and knows he could be in line for a huge payday.  It would be smart for Hamels to look for a deal closer to Sabbathia’s than to Weaver’s.

So let’s assume Hamels is looking for a contract of around seven years and $160 million.  That would average to about $23 million a year.  Can the Phillies realistically afford that?  The Phils already have three players making over $20 million per season (Lee, Halladay and Howard).  How many $20 million players can one team realistically employ?

And therein lies the rub.  Hamels could probably get Sabbathia money on the open market.  Are the Phillies willing and capable of doing that kind of deal, given what they’ve already shelled out to Lee and Halladay?  Is there a chance that Hamels likes Philadelphia enough to give the team that drafted him a hometown discount?

And perhaps most importantly, am I going to have to sell my Hamels jersey on Ebay?

By the end of the 2012 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers will likely have new owners.  With Ethier, Kershaw, and Kemp, they have a nice nucleus of elite, young players with which to move forward.  Hamels is from California.  Seems to me Hamels in Dodger blue is a match made in heaven for both sides.  Is Hamels willing to give up that possibility unless the Phils go all-in and give him Sabbathia cash?

Frankly, I’m pessimistic a deal will get done.  Then again, Cliff Lee signed for less than market value, and perhaps Cole wants to stay.  And perhaps the Phillies will shock us all and give Hamels a six or seven-year deal at over $20 million a season.  I can’t see it happening, but it’s possible.

And take heart, Phils fans.  Even if Hamels leaves, the Phillies have enough cash to go out and get a Zach Grienke or someone of that ilk, to take his place.

So today, the Phillies and Hamels bought themselves a little time.  They prevented each other from thowing tomatoes at one another in an ugly arbitration hearing.  They made sure to put themselves on the best footing possible for a long-term negotiation.

I just don’t think it’s going to ultimately bear much fruit.

Prince Fielder to Nats is Inevitable

January 12, 2012 Leave a comment

As soon as baseball executives and “anonymous team sources” start saying stuff like, “there’s a 99% chance we won’t do something…” you know for a fact that “something” is going to happen.

Baseball executives, owners and GMs lie.  It’s part of the game.  We watch Ruben Amaro do it every year. GMs tell the agents they’re negotiating with that they’re not going to bend over backwards to sign their client.

Yesterday, the Nationals announced to the world that there was a 99% chance that they won’t sign Prince Fielder.

Yeah, right.

Today comes a report from the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore that Scott Boras met with Nationals owners Ted and Mark Lerner last night.

My guess is they didn’t gather for a chin wag about Mitt Romney’s win in the New Hampshire primary.

It seems as if Boras is deciding that he’s done fooling around.  He’s realizing that teams aren’t going to raise their offers for his stable of free agents.   The first shoe dropped when Ryan Madson signed a one-year, $8.5 million deal on Wednesday with the Cincinnati Reds.  Time is running out and his clients are likely pressuring him to stop screwing around and get something done.

That’s why I think Prince Fielder will be a Washington National by the end of this Martin Luther King weekend.

Washington has been the perceived front-runner for a couple of weeks now.  The Nats, despite employing Adam LaRoche at first base, have an opening there, and need a big splash-signing to really excite the fan base.

Signing Prince Fielder would be their Jim Thome moment.

And, the Lerners have done business with Boras a lot in the past (Jayson Werth, Steven Strasburg and Bryce Harper to name a few) and have a good working relationship with him.

The marriage just makes too much sense for it not to happen.

The Nats also recognize that the sun is setting on the Phillies’ run of dominance in the NL East, and are ramping up to coincide with a Phils’ fall that many think is on the horizon.  The Nats traded for Gio Gonzalez earlier in the offseason and have been aggressive on a number of other free agents.

They mean business.

Pretty soon, the Phillies aren’t going to have the Nationals to kick around anymore.  That trend began last year when the Nats were one of the few teams in baseball who played the Phils tough.  From 2007-2010, the Phillies went 51-21 against the Nats, with a run differential of +118.  They never won fewer than 12 games against Washington in any of those years, and went 15-3 against them in 2009.

Quite simply, the Phils have owned the Nationals over the last few years.  Usually, they could bank on winning at least two out of three or sweeping a Nats series whenever times got tough.

Last year, however, things were different.  The Phillies struggled against the Nationals, going only 8-10 against them with a run differential of -1.  And when Washington does sign Fielder, you can bet there will be more seasons like 2011, than there were seasons from 2007-2010.

That said, even with Fielder, the Nationals have just as many, if not more “ifs,” than any team in the NL East, and in my opinion, are still probably be a year away from really contending for a Wild Card or division title.

Can Steven Strasburg make it through a whole season healthy?  Can he be the true ace of that staff?  How good is Jordan Zimmerman?  Is the Michael Morse we saw in 2011 for real?  Can Jayson Werth rebound and be a true middle of the order force?  Can Ryan Zimmerman stay healthy for a full season?  Is Danny Espinoza for real?  What are the Nats going to do about center field?  Can Werth really play center field full time?  What about the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation?  And can the Nats bullpen have another solid year like they did in ’11?

That’s a lot of question marks that still need to be answered before anyone can anoint them as playoff contenders, even if they do sign Prince Fielder.  That being said, signing Prince would make facing Washington a lot tougher, and would give the Nats a decent core of hitters with which to go to battle.

The Nats are more dangerous now than they have ever been in their brief history.  And when they sign Prince Fielder this weekend (and it IS going to happen within the next few days) those automatic wins the Phils have historically gotten against them will be a thing of the past.

Madson Says “Better Red Than Dead”

January 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Ruben Amaro Jr., would never publicly admit to making a mistake.  Amaro could accidentally set fire to the Citizens Bank Park press room and never admit it.  It’s not in his DNA.  Publicly, the Phillies will defend the contract of Jonathan Papelbon until the end of days.

But after seeing former Phils’ closer Ryan Madson sign a one-year, $8.5 million deal with the Cincinnati Reds last night, you wonder if the Phillies front office is second-guessing their over-aggressive signing of Papelbon this morning.

I’m not going to say a ton of stuff that has already been said over and over again.  Amaro simply misread the market on closers this offseason.  He attacked the market like John Bowker does an 0-2 curveball.  He acted as if there were only one or two decent options on the market with dozens of teams all clamoring for the same guys, when in fact, the number of closers seeking a destination far outweighed the number of destinations available.

By the way, in my post last week on Ryan Madson, I noted that Cincinnati would be the best fit for the former Phils’ closer…

Cincinnati still needs a closer, and they appear to be making a run at a division title this year.  They’ve made some bold moves (namely acquring Matt Latos from San Diego and Sean Marshall from Chicago) and see an opening in the NL Central, where Pujols is already out of the division and Prince Fielder could soon follow.  They have only $65 million guaranteed for 2012 at the moment and even though it’s not a big market, they could probably afford to pay Madson the roughly three-year, $33 million deal he’s likely looking for.  And while the Reds do play in a bandbox, they have some good young positional talent, a decent top-of-the-rotation, and were in the playoffs just two years ago, so Madson could convince himself he’s headed to a potential winner.  Cincinnati would make the most sense, and seems like a good fit for both.

Cincinnati is clearly trying to win it all in the next two years before Joey Votto prices himself right out of Charm City.  With Madson only signed to a one-year, $8.5 million deal (which is less than he would have gotten in arbitration from the Phillies, by the way), the Reds made out like bandits.  They got a cheap player that produces at a high level while maintaining flexibility for next year and beyond.  The move further solidifies the Reds as a contender in the National League in 2012.

The Phillies, meanwhile, will receive two draft picks as compensation for losing Ryan Madson.  Unfortunately, they will not receive the Reds’ first-round pick, #14 in the draft, because that pick is still protected under the “old rules.”  The Phils will get a pick in the compensatory round between the first and second rounds, as well as the Reds’ second round pick.  Those picks right now would be 39 and 72 (thanks to Baseball America’s Jim Callis for the info there).

The good news is, Jonathan Papelbon is the second best closer in baseball.  The Phillies got themselves a heck of a pitcher with their money, even if it is someone who will only appear in about 5% of the team’s innings this season.

Still, you have to wonder what Ruben Amaro Jr. is thinking this morning.  Is he kicking himself for jumping on the closer market too early, or is he satisfied with what he’s done?  I can’t imagine there’s not a twinge of buyer’s remorse.

Frankly, Ruben needs to do a better job at reading the market and being patient going forward, like he did with Rollins.  Perhaps this closer snafu will educate Ruben when it comes to future moves.

But I won’t be holding my breath.

Categories: Uncategorized

My Inconsequential Hall of Fame Picks

January 6, 2012 Leave a comment

OK, so I don’t have a dog in this particular fight, and I don’t have an actual real vote.  But as a baseball fan, I still care about who gets into the MLB Hall of Fame.  I don’t bother watching the speeches on induction day, (there’s frequently nothing worse than listening to a professional athlete make a formal public speech, unless it’s Chase Utley after he’s just paraded down Broad Street on a late October afternoon), but I do enjoy the debate.

First of all, I don’t believe the Hall of Fame should be the Hall of Very Good.  I think it should be really hard to get into the Hall of Fame.  But I’m also not in favor of virtually locking the doors shut, either.  I think only elite players deserve to get in.  I believe in looking at both sabermetric numbers and old school statistics.  I also believe in the eye test and asking myself, was this person one of the two or three best players at his position for an extended length of time?  If this player was a power hitter, was he one of the two or three most feared power hitters of his era?  If this player was a lead-off hitter, where did he rank among the lead-off hitters of his generation?  How many tools did this guy have and/or how dominant was this pitcher compared to his peers?

After doing this exercise, it’s not as easy as I thought.  The players below are all guys I think answer the above questions well enough to get into Cooperstown.

1.  Jeff Bagwell – 1B Houston Astros

Bagwell had a career WAR of 79.9, higher than any other potential inductee this year.  Last year, his first year on the ballot, he managed only 41.7% of the vote, and will likely fall short again this year.  Why?  Because he is suspected of using performance enhancing drugs.  Never mind that no proof of PED use by Bagwell has ever been brought forward, that he wasn’t even mentioned in the Mitchell Report, and that his career arc looks a lot like other players in the Hall of Fame.  Dave Schoenfield of ESPN.com said it best… people are wary of Bagwell because he has big muscles.

That’s muscular bigotry, my friends.

Instead, look at Bagwell’s numbers.  In 7797 career at-bats, he had a slash line of .297/.408/.540, with 449 HRs and 1529 RBIs.  He had a career OPS+ of 149, second-best among potential inductees, was an above-average defender, and while he wasn’t a speed demon, did average almost 13.5 steals a season.  He was Rookie of the Year in 1991, won the MVP in the strike-shortned 1994 season (where he had a ridiculous 1.201 OPS and OPS+ of 213), won three Silver Sluggers, and finished in the Top 10 of the MVP voting five times, including a 2nd place finish in 1999.

Yet he’ll probably miss out because he was too muscular.  Yay, writers!

2.  Barry Larkin – SS Cincinnati Reds

This is Larkin’s third year on the ballot, and he will probably be the only player to actually make it into the Hall of Fame this year.  He had a career WAR of 68.9, second-best among potential inductees this year, and was the very definition of a complete player.  Without a doubt, Larkin was one of the best two or three shortstops of his era, and the numbers back that up.  He played terrific defense and posted a career slash line of .295/.371/.444 for an OPS of .815.  He could hit for a little power (198 career HRs), steal some bases (389 for his career) and get on base, especially when compared to other shortstops already in the Hall.  Larkin’s best year was in 1995, taking the Reds to the playoffs and winning the MVP.  He was a 12-time All-Star and won 9 Silver Slugger Awards.  Last time around he got 62% of the vote, and seems likely to hit the 75% threshold this time around.

3.  Tim Raines – OF Expos/White Sox/Yankees/A’s

Raines is one of the most underrated players of the 1980s as one of the truly great lead-off hitters of that decade.  He was an on-base machine in his career (.385 OB%) stole a ton of bases (from 1981-86 he stole 71, 78, 90, 75, 70 & 70 bases and 808 for his career) and accumulated 2605 hits and 1571 runs.  From 1981-1992, Raines averaged 60 SBs a season while posting a slash line of .298/.397/.427 for an OPS of .814.  What hurt Raines was that he played most of his career for the Expos, tucked away in Montreal on some very bad teams, and that he played in the era of Rickey Henderson and, to a much, much lesser extent, Vince Coleman.  Raines made seven straight All-Star teams from 1981-87 and finished with a career OPS+ of 123.  He’s not a slam dunk, sure-fire Hall of Famer to be sure, but he was one of the top four or five outfielders/lead-off hitters for more than a decade, which is enough for me to vote for Rock.

4.  Rafael Palmeiro – 1B-OF Cubs/Rangers/Orioles/Rangers

As much as I hate to do it, I would vote to put Palmeiro into the Hall of Fame.  There are a couple reasons why I decided yes on Palmeiro.  The first reason is I do not believe that all steroid and performance enhancing drug users should automatically be disqualified.  They played during an era when an unknown number of players, pitchers too, were using PEDs.  No one really knows how rampant their use was.  And Palmeiro’s career numbers, even though he didn’t have what one would define as a true peak season or two, warrant his induction.

He finished his career with a 66 WAR and met some of the milestone numbers that many sabermatricians throw out, but I feel are still important for Hall induction.  He finished with more than 3000 career hits (3020), 500 HRs (569) and posted a career slash line of .288/.371/.515 for an OPS of .885.  He had a career OPS+ of 132 and from 1993-2003 Palmeiro posted some ridiculous numbers.  In that 11 season span, he averaged 39 HRs, 115 RBIs, 99 runs, and hit .288/.380/.555 for an OPS of .935.

How much PEDs and steroids influenced those numbers is unknowable, and that’s the point.  He was competing against other players who were doing the exact same thing.  Palmeiro never got a lot of recognition when it came to post-season hardware, but his career totals make him Hall eligible for me.  Even though he was a turd (his Congressional testimony is still a thing of cring-worthy beauty) his numbers warrant induction.  But it’s doubtful he’ll get in this time around.  Last year, Palmeiro received only 11% of the vote, and it’s highly unlikely writers will forgive him for his steroid use and lying about it.

5.  Alan Trammel – SS Detroit Tigers

Alan Trammel is an interesting case.  When you think of the great shortstops of the 1980s, you think of Cal Ripken, Robin Yount and Ozzie Smith right away.  The guy you don’t think a lot about is the third best American League shortstop of that era, Trammel.  He won three Silver Slugger Awards, four Gold Gloves, made six All-Star teams, and in his career year of 1987 (.343/.402/.551, .953 OPS, 28 HRs, 105 RBIs, OPS+ 155), finished second in the MVP voting.  He won a World Championship with the Tigers in 1984, and had a very nice peak from 1980-1990 where he hit .291/.359/.433 for an OPS of .792, and OPS+ of 119 while averaging 13 HRs and 66 RBIs a year.  Elite numbers for a shortstop in the ’80s.

It’s unlikely Trammel gets in too, though.  This will be his 11th year of eligibility, and last year he only received 24.3% of the vote.  I admit, he’s a fringe candidate and I can certainly understand the arguments for his omission.  But in my view, he’s worthy of the Hall.

6.  Mark McGwire – 1B A’s/Cardinals

I had to think long and hard about this one, and to be honest, I wanted no part of Mark McGwire in the Hall of Fame.  But, if I’m going to let Rafael Palmeiro in, then intellectual honesty dictates I let McGwire in as well.

Here’s why I’m holding my nose with McGwire.  While I would automatically vote for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and other players from the steroid era, I refused to consider McGwire for a long time because I wasn’t sure if he would have been a Hall of Famer without using performance enhancing drugs.  Guys like Bonds, A-Rod, and Clemens were all Hall of Fame players before their PED use was either exposed or admitted.  Plus, their all-around games (defense, speed, contact hitting) further buoyed their argument.

In his career, McGwire did only one thing well.  He hit homers.  He was a poor defensive player, had no speed, and hit for an anemic average during most of his career.  In fact, McGwire’s career appeared doomed a couple of times.  The first time was in 1991, when he hit 22 HRs and posted a slash line of .201/.330/.383 in 154 games.  That followed years where he hit .235 and .231.  Sure he was hitting for some power, but at the time, McGwire compared more to Dave Kingman than a Hall of Famer.  In 1993 and 1994, McGwire hit only nine home runs in each season (’94 being the strike shortened year of course).

Then all of a sudden, McGwire exploded in 1995 and never looked back.  In the next seven years, McGwire hit 345 HRs, averaging 49 a season, while hitting .278/.430/.683 for an OPS of 1.113.  Truly amazing power numbers.  But that’s all McGwire had, power.  And my suspicion is that McGwire turned his career around by turning to PEDs and steroids, allowing him to do the only thing he was good at, hit for power.

But, if I’m being intellectually honest, I can’t single out McGwire and assume I know when he started using PEDs, just like I couldn’t do it for Palmeiro, Bonds, Clemens and the rest of them.  At the end of the day, I don’t know who was using PEDs during the steroid era, and I assume many, if not most players, were.  If I believe that, then I have to look at the numbers, and according to the numbers, Mark McGwire was one of the greatest power hitters the game has ever seen.  Therefore, he’s in the Hall, albeit with a huge asterisk on his induction plaque.

7.  Larry Walker – OF Expos/Rockies/Cardinals

When first considering Walker, I dismissed him out of hand.  When I think of the elite outfielders of the 1990s and early 2000s, Walker didn’t leap to mind.  I also discounted most of his eye-popping statistics because he played in the hitter’s haven that is Colorado.

However, upon further reflection, his numbers were simply TOO good not to vote in.

He wasn’t a true HR hitter, amassing only 383 career homers.  But his other numbers were off the charts.  He won three batting titles, hitting .363 in 1998, .373 in 1999, and .350 in 2001.  He also hit .366 in 1997 when he led the league in HRs with 49, by far his career high.  He won the MVP award that year, when he also stole 33 bases, and led the league in OBP, SLG and OPS.  He won the Gold Glove that year as well and all told won seven Gold Gloves for his career (yes, I know, GGs are not the best measurement of defense prowress, but it’s what HOF voters look at, so just go with me here for a moment).

More importantly his OPS+, which is measured against the league average and adjusts for ballpark factors, was 150 or higher in five out of six seasons from 1997-2002.  That’s an incredibly high number, and seems to indicate that he was among the elite even though he played half his games in Colorado.  He finished with an OPS over 1.013 six times in his career, won three Silver Sluggers and made five All-Star Game appearances.  While numbers during that time were inflated because of the steroid era, Walker’s stats seem to indicate that he truly was great for an extended period of time.  He’s in.

***

And for me, that’s it.  There are guys I thought long and hard about and almost put on my list, but they just missed the cut.

Fred McGriff was a decent first baseman and finished with 493 HRs for his career with an OPS of .886, but in my mind was just a very good player, and not a great one.  Edgar Martinez, despite being one of the best contact hitters in the game, was a DH, and I’m just not voting anyone into the Hall of Fame that almost never played the field (Big Papi, you’re on notice).  Jack Morris, one of the more hotly debated potential inductees every year, fails to make my list for a couple reasons.  First, he never once had an ERA in any season under 3.  Second, he never won a Cy Young, his best finish was a tie for third a couple of times.  And finally, when you look at their career numbers, Brad Radke finished with more WAR than Morris did (40.9 to 39.3).  Perhaps that speaks more to WAR’s ineffectiveness for pitchers than anything else, but it’s there and I’m not ignoring it.

Other guys just missing out were Dale Murphy (didn’t sustain excellence long enough, despite an eight-year peak where he averaged 33 HRs a year and won two home run titles), Bernie Williams (post-season numbers help him, but he was not one of the elite outfielders of his generation), Don Mattingly (see Murphy, Dale), and, of course, Terry Mulholland (just seeing if you were still paying attention).

***

I came into this exercise thinking I knew who I was going to include and who I thought I’d leave out.  But that’s the trap the Baseball Writers of America (BBWA) fall into.  After looking at the numbers, and really asking myself if each player I considered was an elite player at their position during the era in which they played, I was surprised at who I would have voted in, and who I would have kept out.

Hopefully the BBWA is doing the same thing.  But, something tells me they’re looking for a free buffet lunch somewhere in America.

Angels Say They Won’t Add Madson

January 5, 2012 1 comment

As if Ryan Madson’s options weren’t thin enough already.

Angels GM Jerry Dipoto told Mike Giovanna of the LA Times today that they were focused more on adding depth to their bullpen, and weren’t in the market for an expensive closer like Madson.

In the article, Dipoto said “We’re trying to add depth, and in a perfect world, we’d like to find another guy to join Jordan Walden, Scott  Downs and LaTroy  Hawkins to help with those last nine outs. But closer has never been the real priority.”

Considering the Angels have spent roughly $325 million on two players this offseason (Pujols and C.J. Wilson) it’s not surprising that Anaheim might be looking at a cheaper option to close out games, especially considering the cost ineffectiveness of paying big money for a closer in the first place.  Jordan Walden did a pretty good job closing for them last year (32 saves, 2.93ERA, 10 blown saves) and figures to improve in his second full year in the Majors.

So, where does this leave the jilted bride?  Cincinnati still needs a closer, and they appear to be making a run at a division title this year.  They’ve made some bold moves (namely acquring Matt Latos from San Diego) and see an opening in the NL Central, where Pujols is already out of the division and Prince Fielder could soon follow.  They have only $65 million guaranteed for 2012 at the moment and even though it’s not a big market, they could probably afford to pay Madson the roughly three-year, $33 million deal he’s likely looking for.

And while the Reds do play in a bandbox, they have some good young positional talent, a decent top-of-the-rotation, and were in the playoffs just two years ago, so Madson could convince himself he’s headed to a potential winner.  It makes a lot of sense.

The other team in need of a closer is St. Louis.  Do they like the idea of Jason Motte or Mitchell Boggs as their closer?  Motte was the 9th inning man during their playoff run last year.  He throws hard, is cheap and is young.  They may think that Motte, or someone else in their bullpen, is their man heading forward to close out ballgames.

Cincinnati would make the most sense, and seems like a good fit for both.  And who knows?  The Angels might just be playing a coy game with Scott Boras in an attempt to get the price down.

For Phillies fans, the possibility of Madson returning to the in a set-up role cannot be ruled out yet.  The longer his contract limbo goes, it becomes more possible that Madson might take a one-year, $6-7 million deal with incentives to come back, set up Jonathan Papelbon and then re-enter the market next year when there are fewer relievers in free agency.

I’d say it’s still a longshot, but not out of the realm of possibility.

Andy Reid Has One More Chance

January 3, 2012 Leave a comment

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie laid it on the line today at the Nova Care Complex.

If Andy Reid doesn’t return the Philadelphia Eagles to the respectability with which Lurie is accustomed, Big Red is gone after 2012.

Yet for some reason, Eagles fans (and most of the beat writers as well) have been lampooning Lurie for appearing to contradict himself.

During his press conference on Tuesday, Lurie said, “This season was without question the most disappointing season since I owned the team.  It’s completely unacceptable to be 8-8.”

And yet, Lurie decided to keep Andy Reid and the front office exactly the same for 2012, saying “You’ve got to have the anger.  You’ve got to have the motivation, the dedication, and the focus and the talent.  My answer to those questions is yes.  That’s why I want to see our team coached by Andy Reid next year, and I can’t wait to see that team play.  There’s no doubt in my mind, if our focus is on trying to win a championship next year, the best coach for that is Andy.”

In one breath, Lurie called the disappointing 2011 season “unacceptable,” yet in the next breath, said Reid is the “best coach” for winning a championship next year.

Unfortunately, for those interested in bashing the Eagles’ owner and CEO, those two statements alone don’t tell the whole story.

It seems clear from Lurie’s comments throughout the press conference that Reid is a very big man skating on very thin ice.

Lurie called the beginning of the season “dismal” and specifically noted how badly the team performed in the fourth quarter.  While complimenting the much-maligned Juan Castillo as a good man and a good coach, he specifically noted how long it took for the defensive schemes to come together for most of the season.

He says he looked Andy Reid “in the eyes” and told him the results of this past season were unacceptable.

He also didn’t seem impressed by the season-ending four-game winning streak, saying, “We weren’t playing Green Bay, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and some of the best teams in the league.  We proved we could dominate the last four games of the year against teams that weren’t that competitive.”

That’s not exactly throwing a bouquet of roses at the feet of Reid and his coaching staff.

Jeffrey Lurie is a man with an inferiority complex when it comes to his good friend and fellow owner Robert Kraft.  Both are from New England, and you know it chafes Lurie to no end that Kraft has three Lombardi trophies in his case, while he’s still trying for his first.

Despite the idiotic “gold standard” comment of a few years ago, Lurie now seems fed up with just getting close.  It appeared that way before the season, when the Eagles signed every free agent that wasn’t nailed down, even ones they didn’t need, like Steve Smith.

The Eagles went all-in this year.  Which makes the disappointment Lurie talked about that much more acute.

And while Lurie did say that Reid will be the coach next year, he said nothing along the lines of “Andy is going to be the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles for a long time” or “Andy Reid can coach this team as long as he feels he wants to.”

The only commitment Lurie would give Andy is that he is the coach in 2012.  Nothing more than that was promised.

What Jeff Lurie said today was that Andy Reid has one more chance to turn the Eagles’ ship around.  What will satisfy Lurie in 2012?  Making the playoffs or another division title?  Or have the stakes been raised higher than that?  Does Andy have to go to the NFC Championship Game?  Does he have to win it?  Does he have to win the Super Bowl?

Only Lurie knows exactly what Big Red needs to do to keep his job after 2012.  But know this, Jeffrey Lurie did not contradict himself on Tuesday.  He walked right up to the ledge of firing his coach of 13 years, and backed away.  But in doing so, he made it clear that the status quo will no longer be acceptable moving forward.

Andy, time’s yours.  Just maybe not for much longer.

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