I am giving J.P. a .500 average on these transactions. Thumbs up on acquiring Eckstein and a thumbs down on toppling Towers; to begin with, between Eckstein and J-Mac the Jays have the shortstop position well looked after. We cannot automatically assume that Eckstein has the job won outright. Last season folks thought the same thing about Royce Clayton--he would be the starter and McDonald the caddy.
Of course, it didn’t work out that way.
McDonald said he would spend the off-season working on forearm strength to aid in his hitting. His winter regimen last year where he strengthened his legs to be more durable worked wonders. Jays fans were treated to the best defense seen at the position since Tony Fernandez. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see his hitting better than it was last year. Further, with the signing of Eckstein, you can bet a competitor like McDonald is going to ramp up his off-season efforts to another level.
He’ll do the work and give it everything he has, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make the decision of who will start opening day a bit more difficult.
Eckstein is the anti-McDonald; he’s not as slick a defender as the Prime Minister of Defense but he possesses legitimate on base skills (.360 since 2005), solid contact (only 107 whiffs since ‘05), and a touch of larceny on the base paths but is nowhere near McDonald’s league with the leather. If Eckstein can’t handle AL pitching and his OBP suffers, then Johnny Mac will do to the former Cardinal shortstop that he did to yet another former Cardinal shortstop and play pretty much everyday.
I’m not terribly concerned about McDonald’s playing time because he will get plenty of work since Eckstein will see time at third when Glaus’s inevitable injury woes resurface. If Eckstein plays up to career norms (.351 OBP) then McDonald will likely see plenty of late inning duty when the Jays are nursing a lead.
As to Josh Towers, I can’t see how offering arbitration would kill the Jays financially. Over the last two seasons, he is 7-20, 6.50 ERA so I really cannot see him getting a huge raise from his 2007 salary of $2.9 million; in fact, the Jays may well been able to win an arbitration case with the maximum pay cut allowable (20%). Is $2.32 million too onerous a price to see if the guy can be useful? I guess some of it is simply about freeing up a roster spot. Towers has impeccable control and is improving in throwing ground balls but as I’ve discussed numerous times, gets totally annihilated pitching from the stretch.
This is a guy Brian Sabean should be all over. In that ballpark, Towers could possibly give the Giants 200 innings of league average work for peanuts. He could also do well in the NL Central. Regardless, I wish Josh well and will follow his fortunes in 2008.
No, I’m not done with the Mitchell Report yet …
Folks are now pointing to Roger Clemens' late career totals as proof that it was obvious to even the most oblivious lobotomized supermodel smoking a joint that he was a juicer. Well, check this out …
From ages 40-44 seasons:
Pitcher GS IP ERA K K/9
Roger Clemens 134 849.2 2.99 863 9.14
Nolan Ryan 156 1053.0 3.16 1234 10.55
Clemens has the better ERA+ but Ryan blows him away in durability, strikeouts and SO/9 IP. It kind of gives you new respect for the Ryan Express’s post-40 career doesn’t it? Yes, not many pitchers have thrown as well as Clemens after passing 40 but ‘The Rocket’s’ totals don’t exactly scream “juicer!” Ryan was still a strikeout machine despite having already logged 4114.1 career innings with 2268 BB and 4277 K. That’s a staggering number of pitches thrown before passing the big 4-0 and he still increased his K/9 from 9.36 to 10.55 from his pre-40 year old phase of his career.
Had Ryan done that in this environment, we might well be casting a suspicious eye in his direction.
I think something we learned from all of this is that player entourages are a really, really bad idea. While it might be nice to be surrounded by your posse as well as assorted sycophants and ‘yes-men,’ it does not benefit MLB, the players themselves or the people in their entourages. It’s time to confine the clubhouse to players and coaches/manager and licensed, legitimate team personnel and let the various hangers-on get lives of their own. Players would do these people a favour by encouraging them to make something more of themselves than pathetic life forms who live to indulge the whims of a star athlete.
Further, it is time for these young men to stand on their own two feet and not rely on defacto nursemaids. Surely, players can learn to get their own coffee or pick up their dry cleaning (or arrange to have it delivered). It wouldn’t hurt them not to have automatic affirmation on whatever thoughts/ideas spring into their mind regarding a course of action. For a change, think things through on their own or seek objective advice from people with actual experience in life or the game of baseball.
This is one way where old-time baseball was superior. The clubhouse was a sanctum sanctorum for those who played the game--it’s time to return to these actual good ol’ days. There’s plenty of time to hang with their ‘peeps’ outside the stadium. A player’s entourage should never see any part of the park that fans cannot access. If they want to enter the facility, they need to have a ticket.