The God Particle to Miami Marlins fans

Up with Carl Loria

Up with Carl Loria

Gary Nelson’s question to Jeffrey Loria properly identified what truly binds [aka ¹God Particle] Miami Marlins fans, he asked:

Your organization and you are, quite frankly, much despised among many in this community…. Can a deal like this wash that much bad blood away?

Nelson’s point was deliciously undeniable. Jeffrey Loria is [sports] despised by an overwhelming majority of Miami Marlins fans. It is an enmity earned by repeated lies and obfuscation. It will not go away until he goes away. It binds us.

Two great things have happened for us Miami Marlins fans as a result of the Stanton signing. First, given the way the contract is structured, heavily back-loaded after the first 3 years, we can now see the light at the end of the Loria ownership tunnel. Second, we get to have Giancarlo Stanton on our team for the next 6 years. In that order.

So for us Marlins fans, Nelson’s question during the televised press conference carried the emotional equivalent of D’Angelo Barksdale asking Stringer Bell, “where Wallace at?”

Like Stringer, who must have assumed he could con D’Angelo one more time, so too Loria must have thought that the Stanton signing would at least provide a temporary respite from the enmity. While listening to the question, and no doubt noting the mortified straight-ahead gazes of his employees, the unlikelihood of any PR rehabilitation must have registered deep in an area other humans refer to as a soul.

Yo Jeffrey, where Miggy at?



Ozzie Guillen: Marlins Manager admires our enemy

Update on April 10: Rick Telander with the Chicago Sun-Times reveals that Guillen made very similar comments about Fidel Castro back in 2008. So anyone arguing that his comments don’t reflect his beliefs, would be relying on something other than logic.

But I regret writing that Guillen was now “my enemy” in the original blog post. Too strong a word for the likes of a baseball manager, or an accountant for that matter.

I don’t believe the apology. I don’t believe the PR cleanup efforts. I do believe that Guillen’s comments had an intention. I do believe that he was putting Cuban-Americans on notice. I do believe that the same sort of brain which embraces Santería is more than capable of admiring Fidel Castro. Ozzie Guillen is a friend of my enemy, so he is now my enemy.

I see it as a duty never to lose sight of the fact that the colorful Venezuelan is also a Castro “admiring” Santero. I doubt this sentiment towards Guillen, especially in Little Havana, the new home of the Miami Marlins in case you haven’t heard, would make me unique. But I do think I’m in a unique position [no readers or advertisers to worry about offending] to dispel some of the rationalizations which will attempt to suggest that Guillen misspoke when he volunteered his admiration for Fidel Castro:

  1. He can’t really admire Castro since “he has lived in Miami for 12 years.” — Miami has a very diverse Spanish speaking population. As in any other diverse community, there are rivalries and resentments among the different nationalities. As the first group to immigrate, the largest and most established, Cuban-Americans are a natural target for resentment. What is the best way to thumb your nose at Cuban-Americans? You speak well of a dictator and regime that has caused them [us] great pain. It’s a no-brainer. Which makes it an even more likely a tactic by a Santero.
  2. There is another word for “statements without intention.” — Beliefs. Besides I believe that Guillen did have an intention with his comments. He was putting Cuban-Americans in their [our] place and marking his territory. Saying that about Castro sends the message, ‘I don’t care if it is Miami, I’m Ozzie and I don’t hold back, even [or especially] for you guys.’
  3. Read Guillen’s ‘denial’ carefully. “I’m against the way he [Castro] treats people and the way [he has treated] his country for a long time. I’m against that 100 percent,” he said. I can interpret that to mean that Castro had the right idea, but stumbled in the implementation. That sentiment can co-exist with his admiration for his staying power. Given Guillen’s background, beliefs and education, it’s a mistake to look for an intellectual rationale in anything he says. But sending messages? He’s all about that.
  4. Recall that Guillen was critical of the anti-communist community in Miami which voiced its displeasure with Magglio Ordonez during the World Baseball Classic in 2009.
  5. Temperamentally, admiring Castro would be consistent with someone who liked Hugo Chavez, as Guillen did in 2005. He has since come around on Chavez, in part I assume because of the damage done to his country, Venezuela. But since Guillen has no skin in the Cuban game [until now], the Castro admiration likely didn’t merit a similar reconsideration. Again, no one ascribes actual thinking to any Guillen thoughts. He’s merely thumbing his nose at a rival Latin community in the most flippant manner possible.
  6. Still in the background, I expect this rationalization to gain steam during the week. Guillen was drunk. In an unrelated [to date] story, it was reported that Guillen is so frequently drunk on the road that it actually is seen as a positive in terms of his social skills. Hey isn’t Miguel Cabrera a babalao too? If Santería ever needs a sponsor, can I suggest Budweiser?

The Sun-Sentinel’s Dave Hyde posed the key question, “Can Ozzie get away with saying even this?” I hope not. But if he stays, I hope fellow Marlins fans, especially those of us who have views about Cuba which are more heartfelt than those of the drunken Santero, will communicate our enmity towards Guillen whenever possible. And let’s keep in mind that in order to truly earn Guillen’s admiration, it should be an enmity without an expiration date.

Here’s another thought. Having caught up to Frank Haith, did Karma catch up with Loria and Samson during the eternal cart ride with Ali on opening day?

Halloween and the Miguel Cabrera Trade

Like a character in the Halloween franchise, the horror of the December 2007 Miguel Cabrera trade never seems able to go away completely. The Padres just ripped open the MRSA-type wound by signing Cameron Maybin to a $25 million contract extension. This after updated defensive metrics indicate that Maybin may have been the 3rd best center fielder in MLB last year. This after he was named the Padres MVP for 2011. This after Chris Coughlan’s disastrous 2011 season put his MLB career in jeopardy. This after the 23 year-old Maybin was traded by the Marlins for 2 middle relievers after the 2010 season.

In a post at the end of last year, I looked at Marlins trades and draft choices since 2005 and quantified a rather mediocre performance in evaluating talent by the Larry Beinfest and the Marlins. The Sun Sentinel’s Juan C. Rodriguez points out how Sean West is the Marlins equivalent of the Last of the Mohicans, 2005 draft edition. Trading Maybin is now one of their more obvious mistakes.

They haven’t asked, but I’ll hand them one possible explanation. They may have been suffering from Roger Abercrombie fatigue syndrome. Could the failure of an earlier similar prospect been projected onto Maybin? Heck, I don’t even believe that. But I also can’t believe the Marlins gave up on a 23 year-old center fielder when they had no answer to replace him other than converting a left fielder who was still adjusting to his conversion from second base.

Is Double-A the New Triple-A?

If you were once a position player with a MLB team and find yourself in Triple-A, unless it’s a rehab assignment, be afraid, be very afraid. The odds are high that you are not in your team’s future plans. In theory, you are still competing at the highest level of Minor League baseball. But the fact that you didn’t stick in your initial opportunity, means that you just went from hotshot to long shot.

When I read in the Sun-Sentinel blog last week that the Marlins had released Dallas McPherson, I was surprised. Despite his poor Grapefruit League play, the man hit 42 home runs at Triple-A Albuquerque last season. Let me repeat that, Dallas McPherson led the minor leagues in home runs last season and was looking for a job a week before the next season opened. This was not a Crash Davis-type accomplishment either, the guy is only 28 years old.

So it made me wonder what it means to excel at the Triple-A level? To the casual fan [me], MLB’s minor league system represents a steadily increasing level of play, culminating at the Triple-A level. Back in 2003, the Marlins had two examples that indicated that something was amiss with the average fan’s perception that the Triple-A level would house your best prospects, when Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis both made their jumps to the big leagues from Double-A.

This is a subject worthy of in-depth analysis, but anecdotal thoughts are the best I can do during tax season. To do so, I need to invoke a name which, in a perfect world, mere mortals such as myself should really not be allowed to bandy about in a public forum. But this is not a perfect world and so his name is Bill James.

If you followed baseball and weren’t afraid of numbers in the early 80’s, Bill James was a revelation. He ripped the job title of ‘baseball analyst’ away from ex-players with network and local broadcasting jobs. He did so by delving into statistics with imagination and wit. It was eye-opening and intoxicating to realize that many of the ‘experts’ weren’t so much experts as they were cliche-machines. It was hard to seriously discuss baseball with anyone who hadn’t read James. Here’s what one well known economist and MLB fan, James Surowiecki, wrote in 2003:

Over the past 25 years, [Bill] James’ work on player evaluation, player development, and baseball strategy–which inaugurated the body of baseball research known as sabermetrics, has revolutionized baseball analysis and overturned decades’ worth of conventional wisdom.

I remembered that James had written that minor league statistics do mean something, that they had a correlation to a player’s eventual major league performance. I could not find that article to link. However, I did find an article by David Luciani in 1998 which discussed James initial article:

It has been more than fifteen years now since Bill James first wrote that minor league data meant something and it could be understood. James told us all that inevitably, major league baseball teams will eventually have to accept that. Surprisingly, major league GMs have paid too little attention to James’ philosophy and are suffering as a result of it.

In Luciani’s own analysis, he actually ascribed a percentage to predict various offensive categories going from minor to major leagues, i.e. 68% for home runs. Luciani summarized:

Quite simply, minor league statistics do mean something and perhaps the difficulty in accepting them has been because no one really knows how to read them. Even the so-called equivalencies that have become popular are useful but tend to over-reduce some columns and under-reduce others.

But enough of the serious math, back to my anecdotal analysis.

So is Double-A the new Triple-A? It reminds me of a kind of reverse Spinal Tap logic. [If you don’t think the volume knob reaching 11 is funny, please leave the blog now – see video here]. So let’s see how the current Marlins players [many who came up in other organizations] path to the big leagues have gone in terms of the number of games played at the various levels of Minor League baseball. While I do confine myself to players who were with the Marlins this Spring, only 4 of the 17 position players minor league careers were spent entirely with the Marlins, as such it is indicative of the mindset of various [18] organizations. The link to all the Marlins Minor League affiliates is here.

This is what I get from the numbers in my spreadsheet.

  • An organization’s best position player prospects are found in Double-A. That’s where an organization houses what they believe to be their gems. Rehab aside, Triple-A is more of a spare parts factory.
  • Where Chris Coghlan is reassigned to will reveal what they think of his prospects of being a MLB player. If it’s Double-A he’s still a hotshot, Triple-A he’s now a long shot.
  • A bigger appreciation of the kind of odds John Baker has overcome to earn a starting catcher’s position in MLB after over 348 games in Triple-A without having reached a MLB roster.
  • Even young stars pay their dues in the minor leagues. Hanley Ramirez spent four seasons in five cities affiliated with the Red Sox organization; Ft Myers [for loyal blog readers, this can not be used as one of our miracles] Lowell MA, Augusta GA and Portland ME. But not [of course] Pawtucket, RI–their Triple-A affiliate.
  • Players–like Dan Uggla–who never return to the minor leagues after getting their initial opportunity, are rare.
  • Partial guess, but the players with the most games at the Triple-A level probably constitute the next generation of coaches in professional baseball. These people have learned their craft, talent being a factor outside their control.
  • Players learn that baseball is a business long before they appear on the radar of us fans. A player is much more likely to have been traded and/or promoted based upon factors other than talent, i.e. arbitration timetables, another prospect at same position and teams using up their allotted player movements [i.e. Andino].

You have to feel for Triple-A players. They might appear to be closer than ever to their ultimate goal, but in effect they were told to get on a ship headed the wrong way based on someone’s evaluation. Those evaluations are an art, not a science. The contrast in expectations reminds me of a scene in the movie Rudy, where the reserves are told not to even look at the starters.

I picture a Triple-A player reading his morning paper during the season and learning that a player from Double-A was just called up. A player with less experience and who is competing against inferior competition than he is, is getting his shot. At that moment, Triple-A guy knows something intuitively that Double-A guy can not possibly imagine. While there are exceptions, as a matter of pure odds, another player’s dream just began to die.

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