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Random Baseball and Former Astros Thoughts

First, I forgot to post this with my article on the 2010 roster, but here's a fun way to look back on the 2009 season. Try to name all the players to appear for the Astros in 2009. Second, this is the second post where I try to straddle the line between a link-fest and actual commentary. Hopefully, these are more effective while still letting me discuss all the baseball-related minutia I see all-day, every day. Let me know how it's working out so far, after the jump...

Of Carlos' Knee

Carlos Beltran had surgery to clean out his knee recently, without the blessing of the Mets organization, causing all sorts of an uproar. Details were still sketchy as of this morning, but the original estimated time he will be out was 8 weeks; that has now bumped up to 12 weeks. Will Carroll tweeted today that the doctor who scoped Beltran's knee also pioneered microfracture surgery, so some are speculating that Beltran actually had that surgery instead of a more traditional 'scope.

As Craig Calcaterra points out, it's not the first time Beltran has ran afoul of his team regarding injuries, but this is pretty serious. Not only will he miss most of the first month of the season, he leaves the Mets without a good option in center field. Add to that an apparently arthritic knee and diminished range in the outfield and I can understand why the Mets are considering putting him at first base. At least that's an interesting option to prolong his career and get the most out of that 119 million dollar contract. Beltran is owed 18.5 million over the next two seasons.

Obviously, the Astros could have been on the hook for that money. Beltran has done pretty well performing out his contract, totaling 23.4 WAR and averaging 4.68 WAR per season since signing with the Mets in the winter of 2004. That includes two (relatively) bad seasons in 2005 and 2009, but also includes quite a bit of time at a premium defensive position, which he appears to have played well.

When Beltran was contemplating the Astros offer back in December 2004, I kept telling my dad that a contract of that length is dangerous, especially because you might be paying a left fielder all that money towards the end. The irony of the Carlos Lee deal did not escape me a couple of years later. Still, the Mets got pretty good value out of Beltran, even if the team hasn't come close to winning since his signing.

The Marlins and Revenue Sharing

I am fascinated by the business aspects of professional sports, and nothing is more interesting to me than stuff like this. The Marlins, who were once part of a three-team transaction where former Montreal Expos owner basically gave up his team to MLB in exchange for buying the Florida franchise, have consistently been one of the lowest-payrolled teams this decade.

But, thanks to some great reporting over at the Biz of Baseball, Maury Brown points out all the parts of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that the Marlins may be infringing upon. By not using the revenue money to actually, you know, pay players, they are essentially breaking the rules. Which the Players Association called them on. Calcaterra made a great point about new MLBPA director Michael Weiner, in that he essentially did all this wrangling behind the scenes and got results without causing a big public outcry.

By essentially working things out before going to the press, Weiner avoided the situation Donald Fehr often found himself in. Instead of working things out quietly, Fehr's press conferences only made the owners dig in their heels and made negotiations that much harder. With a new CBA up for graps in 2011, this is a good sign that we may not worry about a lockout/strike any time soon.

As for the on-field implications, it obviously means the Marlins will start spending money sooner rather than after their new ballpark opens. That also means Dan Uggla and Josh Johnson are probably staying put for the time being. It also means Hanley Ramirez has a chance to be a Marlin for longer than Miguel Cabrera. Teams like Kansas City are surely taking note, as should any future owners of the Astros (if a sale ever happens).

It makes sense that revenue sharing money should be poured into payroll. Essentially, this creates a salary floor, much like what the NFL has. This is probably more crucial than a salary cap for baseball, since it means that all the teams should be able to spend enough money to be competitive. If this keeps being enforced, maybe A-Rod won't make as much as the entire Marlins roster any more.

How the Reds Got Chapman

The baseball Twitter world was shocked this week when Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman signed with Cincinnati for a six year, 25 million dollar deal*, which has an option year for 5 million. The deal also becomes a three year, 15 million dollar deal if Chapman makes the Reds roster at any time in April.

*I'd like to take a quick moment for some back-patting, as I almost nailed the amount he signed for a month ago. "Hey, there's a nut," said the blind squirrel.

Besides being a good get, the interesting thing is how the Reds were able to do this mainly under the radar. They brought in Chapman for a private workout, had all these negotiations and were never mentioned as a serious suitor for his services. According to this article, that's exactly how Reds GM Walt Jocketty wanted it. My question is how was there not more speculation on this?

I realize reporters this time of year must deal with front offices who probably don't want to share their plans. It's a little like all the misinformation that goes out before the NFL draft. I wonder, though, how productive the Hot Stove League really is when it can miss on Cincinnati and a guy like Ramon Castro signing with the Blue Jays in the same offseason. It's the nature of the beast, I'm afraid, that's the modern media cycle. Especially with the inclusion of Twitter into the mix of reporting tools, there is a rush to report news that's then forgotten in a couple of days.

Consider the Brett Myers signing. It broke on a Friday afternoon. We here at TCB got two posts up that evening, two more on Saturday but Myers wasn't officially signed and added to the roster until Tuesday, when DQ had another article up analyzing his contract. That five-day gap in when the signing was reported and when it became official is pretty standard, but it feels like light-years between the two events.

I don't know whether that is a good or bad thing, but I do know that I'm glad the guys here take the time to revisit topics and do some more in-depth analysis. Even if it's a week late, that's the kind of work you can be proud of doing and one of the reasons why we have such loyal readers, I'm sure.

The Briefest Thoughts on McGwire and LaRussa

Mark McGwire's admission was about the least surprising thing to be considered 'news' in quite a while. Yes, it was nice he finally fessed up. Yes, it is creepy that someone as seemingly-inane and Jose Canseco can be so right about the whole steroid era. Yes, McGwire did try to admit before Congress that he used, but didn't because he could have been prosecuted. The facts of those stories have been well-played in the past few days.

It's disappointing to think that many of the players I grew up with were using an illegal substance. I'm not sure that's any worse than the greenies players were using before or the spitballs and scuffballs that some pitchers still try to get away with. The thing I can't understand is LaRussa The Genius trying to claim he's completely innocent in this whole mess.

His teams in Oakland and in St. Louis had admitted steroid users on them. Especially in Oakland, there were a bevy of guys using a drug that's pretty hard to hide. What, did he think these guys just magically started hitting more home runs or growing muscles? Did he turn a blind eye to the stuff in their lockers or how much weightlifting his team started doing? I just can't buy it. His tacit denials of any culpability ring even more hollow than some are claiming McGwire's apology was. Why LaRussa gets a pass is beyond me.

Reason No. 1,245 Why I Love BBRef

Here are two excellent entries to the Baseball-Reference blog about relievers and save situations. In the first, the author charts one-inning non-save-situation relief appearances over the past decades. In the second, he charts all one-inning relief appearances by league.

Just some really interesting information, confirming what you'd expect about reliver usages pre- and post-DH. The NL consistently uses more one-inning guys than the AL but the patter of each has risen dramatically. If you ever wondered whether the game is still changing, or why people talk about the 'modern bullpen' or 'modern closer', these two graphs really illustrate how the one-inning guy kind of exploded in the past 20 years.

It will definitely make it interesting for guys like Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera once they are eligible for the Hall of Fame.

A Final Note

Here are some incredible before and after pictures of Haiti, following the 7.0 earthquake that hit there. If you haven't already seen, the Department of State has set up an easy way to donate money to relief efforts. Simply text "HAITI" to 90999 and 10 dollars will be charged to your phone bill.