Friday, July 23, 2021

Cleveland Guardians

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

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From my inbox, back in January:

A humble suggestion: Please stop using the nickname of Cleveland’s baseball team in the newsletter.

—Dave Z.

At the time, I replied, "A reasonable objection. It is something I think about, but so long as the teams go by the monikers, writing around that constantly is awkward. While you’re the first person to mention it, that doesn’t mean others don’t share the opinion.”

Well, that problem has been solved. MLB and the team announced this morning that starting this winter, the Cleveland baseball team will be known as the Guardians. The name, which has been met with some chuckles, is a deeply local reference to the “Guardians of Traffic” statues that sit on the Hope Memorial Bridge in Cleveland. 

As with hats and uniforms and ballpark food and anything involving team social-media accounts, I struggle to have a strong opinion here. The new name has a local connection and isn’t offensive to a segment of the citizenry, so it’s fine by me.

Sports nicknames are pretty much entirely nonsense; there are no trolley dodgers in Los Angeles, no giants in San Francisco, no pirates marauding on the banks of the Allegheny. We have two teams named for hosiery, two others steeped in religious concepts, one based on a system of government we rejected 250 years ago. Maybe, given all that, it’s OK for a team to have a nickname based on local architecture.

It’s more offensive to me that Francisco Lindor won’t ever wear a Guardians jersey than that the name exists at all. 

The official transition won’t come until after the season, but there’s nothing stopping me or anyone else from making the change today. While admitting I’ll probably slip and forget, the team of Bieber and Ramirez and Clase and Francona is now, for Newsletter purposes, the Cleveland Guardians.

 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, July 22, 2021 -- "The Yankees"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"There’s just no one reason for the missing 100 runs. Many core Yankee hitters have been injured. The ones who have replaced them have been, collectively, a disaster. The ones who have not been injured have seen their performance decline, on balance, as a result of the deadened baseball, arguably more than other teams' players."

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, July 21, 2021 -- "The Flaw"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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"We saw, across four innings last night, how it can go wrong. If the Giants don’t hold off the Dodgers, this July loss when they had a 6-1 lead early, a 6-2 lead with ten outs left, a 6-5 lead in the ninth, is the one we’ll remember."

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, July 20, 2021 -- "Grip Update"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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"I can agree that the increase in enforcement has had some effect, but the limit of that effect just makes clear that MLB needs to do more than aggressively enforce Rule 6.02(c)(4) to roll back strikeout rates, to bring action back, to make baseball look more like baseball."

Monday, July 12, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, July 12, 2021 -- "Thinking Inside the Box"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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"At a time when pitchers are finding success by pitching away from their fastballs, Ray is having a career year by pumping more gas than he has since his rookie season: 59% four-seamers. He’s throwing more strikes, 54%, than he ever has before as well."

 

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, July 11, 2021 -- "Ronald Acuña Jr."

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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"Whatever happens over these next few weeks, though, the Braves’ season won’t be what it could have been. The baseball season, our season, won’t be what it could have been. Ronald Acuña Jr.’s torn ACL casts a shadow over the 2021 campaign. Now, we sit back and hope the player who once talked about a 50/50 season can return from a devastating injury with his complete game intact."

Friday, July 9, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, July 9, 2021 -- "Churn"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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"For his efforts Wednesday, Crismatt was demoted to Triple-A Thursday. It was the second time this season Crismatt had eaten five innings for the Padres and then immediately been demoted."

Joe Sheehan Newsletter, December 30, 2020 -- "One Embarrassing Trade"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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The Joe Sheehan Newsletter
Vol. 12, No. 111
December 30, 2020

From April 4, 2017:

“The hardest thing to do in sports is not get excited about greatness, but you can’t look at these Cubs and not see a potential dynasty.” 

Well.

It’s not like the Cubs fell apart after their 2016 championship, of course. They won two division titles in the ensuing four seasons. In another, they had the best record in the NL after 162 games before losing a division tiebreaker. They won the NL Central just three months ago, as a matter of fact. When we all woke up Monday morning, the Cubs were almost certainly the favorite to win the division in 2021. Three of the teams behind them intentionally made themselves worse this winter, and the fourth hasn’t done anything at all.

This is how it endsThe Cubs performed a salary dump before getting back to the World Series.

The Ricketts family, led by chairman Tom, refused to invest in the team in the last two offseasons, with Tyler Chatwood the only investment of any consequence. Tom Ricketts was one of the most vocal owners on the impact of the pandemic on his business, claiming “biblical” losses without backing up his claims. His Hall of Fame executive, Theo Epstein, saw the writing on the wall and left. 

Now comes this trade, sending away one of the best starters in the game for four baseball zygotes. If you want to defend the return, fine; many prospect-heads have. I’m not going to tell you I know anything about four players with a combined age of 73, just one of whom has played even an inning professionally. On paper, it looks like a downgrade of four wins in 2021, from Darvish to Zack Davies, with a quality backup catcher in Victor Caratini also removed.

Were a rebuilding team making this deal, it might make sense. This is the package the Orioles never got for Manny Machado as they declined. The 2021 Cubs, though, aren’t the 2017 Orioles. Chicago won the division last year, and they were at worst the co-favorites to win it next year. A team in the Cubs’ position has no business making itself four wins worse in exchange for what amounts to four lottery tickets in 2025. A team in the Cubs’ position has no business trading its #1 starter for a fistful of dreams.

Yu Darvish, finally healthy again, was the best pitcher in the NL last season and has been pitching at an incredible level since midsummer 2019. He had established himself as a true #1 by ratcheting his walk rate down under 5%, by finally getting the widest repertoire in baseball under full command. Having a healthy and dominant Darvish was a big reason the Cubs won the division last year. He was a significant separator heading into 2021, when the Cubs were well-positioned to win again.

Ricketts, though, doesn’t need the Cubs to win anymore. Ricketts got his basemall, and he got his own regional sports network. He used the incredible amount of money generated by that first Cubs title in 108 years to fund ventures that have nothing to do with wins and losses, ventures that will produce millions upon millions that don’t have to be shared with the other owners, that don’t have to be spent on baseball players. By his actions, Ricketts has proven to be the worst type of sports owner: He wants the next dollar more than he wants the next win.

Baseball has more problems than can be covered in a single piece, but way up there on the list is that there simply aren’t enough owners who want to win. During his 30 years in power, Bud Selig cultivated a very specific type of owner, one that wouldn’t push too hard, one that would sign on to his small-market mindset. Selig had grown up in baseball fighting with George Steinbrenner and Ted Turner and Gene Autry, and there would be no more of those on his watch. The Ricketts family is a product of that approach. Bob Nutting is a product of that approach. Stu Sternberg is a product of that approach. Under Selig, you didn’t get into the club if you were a threat to try too hard, to care too much, to want the locals’ approval more than you wanted his. 

Ricketts also represents a more recent problem, where the baseball team generates cash that is siphoned off to other projects. Ricketts’s losses may be real, but they have little to do with Yu Darvish. They’re the product of investments that may fall under the Cubs’ umbrella for accounting purposes, to provide a veneer of credibility to complaints about red ink and deep debt. The Cubs took on debt last year, but the benefits of taking on that debt will accrue to the Ricketts, not Cubs fans. The Cubs aren’t the only guilty parties here, as team ownership groups have turned into real-estate and media companies, and getting at the truth of baseball financials becomes more and more difficult. 

We can talk about raising the minimum salary, tying the luxury-tax threshold to revenue growth, getting players to the open market at a younger age, but none of this will matter if there’s no relationship between how a team plays and how much money the owner makes. This trade underlines just how far removed -- just how opposed -- the interests of owners and the interests of fans have become. 

Baseball isn’t just another business. It’s not the local car dealership or grocery store. Success isn’t measured in black ink and quarterly reports, but in agate type and on dirt and grass. It’s measured in cheers in April, sunburns in July, dogpiles in October. It’s measured in flags. So long as the game’s 30 teams are mostly owned by men like Tom Ricketts, though, men who want the money more than they want the flag, the game will be driven down.

 

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, July 8, 2021 -- "Fun With Numbers: Bases Loaded"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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"There were five instances yesterday in which a team loaded the bases with nobody out. The rest of those five innings featured one hit against six strikeouts, and a total of five runs scored, just two (by the Mets in the first game of their doubleheader) on a hit. Watch enough baseball, and you see this happening all the time."

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, July 7, 2021 -- "Planned Obsolescence and the Cubs"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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"Before the season I had them as an 83-79 team, which over 86 games would be 44-42. They’re two games worse than that, which isn’t a meaningful difference."

Monday, July 5, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, July 5, 2021 -- "The Brewers"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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"In Burnes, Woodruff, and Peralta, the Brewers have a top three that is unusual in today’s game, with so many pitchers injured, with so many live arms shunted into bullpen roles. It was just three years ago, Peralta’s rookie season, that the Brewers got to within a game of the NL pennant with a rotation that was a bit of an afterthought, placeholders to get the game to a lockdown bullpen. Now, the team’s rotation is the biggest reason for its success."
 
 

Friday, July 2, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, July 2, 2021 -- "Trevor Bauer"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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"Bauer’s alleged actions clearly rise to the standard for an MLB investigation. There’s a TRO, there’s a hearing date, there’s a semi-public document with graphic details. Ken Rosenthal and many others are calling for MLB to step in to keep Bauer off the field for the moment, and I think they’re right. Use the seven-day leave built into the policy to investigate, and then move forward based on what you find. Whether it’s Bauer’s prominence, or just the speed at which this story has moved this week, MLB’s inaction is notable. Placing Bauer on administrative leave is the one thing it can do right now, and it should."