The old-school/new-school debate is raging again after the old-school Giants beat the equally old-school Tigers in the World Series to win their second championship in three years and then sabermetric favorite Mike Trout lost to Miguel Cabrera in the American League MVP balloting.
Some of the rhetoric got downright nasty.
This is getting like Republicans vs. Democrats, Fox News vs. MSNBC.
Can’t we all get along?
For a while, it looked as if the sides were at least meeting in the middle, but this Cabrera-Trout debate — in which Baseball Writers Association of America voters wound up giving Cabrera 22 out of 28 first-place votes — has stoked the fires once again.
I generally lean old-school, but as I wrote last week, I love the numbers, too — I’m just not married to them. The data guys make a convincing case for their side. They really do. But the intangible things that old-schoolers look at are also compelling, because they have a street-smart common sense attached to them. Old-schoolers know what their eyes tell them, even if the data point the other way.
From Aug. 1 to Oct. 3, Trout hit .287 for the Angels with 12 homers, 28 RBIs, 49 runs, 18 stolen bases, and 67 strikeouts, while Cabrera hit .344 for the Tigers with 19 homers, 54 RBIs, 42 runs, no steals, and just 39 strikeouts.
Do these numbers mean anything to those who are so adamant that Trout should have won the MVP race? This was framed as a close race before the voting, but in fact, it was not a close vote. It was like Obama-Romney. If you listened to Fox News, Mitt Romney was going to win in a landslide, but the election turned out overwhelmingly in Barack Obama’s favor.
Nate Silver, who has correctly predicted the results of the last two presidential races, presented a strong case for Trout in his FiveThirtyEight blog last Sunday, pointing out that Trout added 12 runs with his baserunning while Cabrera cost his team three runs, and Trout saved 11 runs defensively while Cabrera cost his team 10. And when Silver speaks, we listen, because he’s usually right.
It’s very interesting, and you can make a strong case with the numbers he presented. But you can’t ignore the fact that Cabrera’s team made the playoffs and Trout’s team didn’t. And forget this stuff about the Angels winning one more game than the Tigers. They still finished third in the AL West, and the Tigers played well when it counted to hang on and win the Central.
While Trout’s numbers were strong the last two months, Cabrera’s performance was dominant when it counted the most. He also had immense pressure on him to win the Triple Crown, which he did.
“Cabrera was the right choice for the MVP,” said Orioles general manager Dan Duquette. “The Triple Crown is a rare accomplishment, and Trout was in the minors for the first month of the season.”
But another prominent AL general manager who did not want to be named said, “Trout. The data overwhelmingly indicates that Trout was the MVP of our league.”
Wayne Krivsky, a special assistant to Twins general manager Terry Ryan, said Cabrera was his choice, for reasons similar to Duquette’s.
“You can’t overlook the Triple Crown, an extraordinary accomplishment that hadn’t been done in 45 years,” Krivsky said. “From an overall skills point of view, you can make the case for Trout, but this is the MVP, and that to me was Cabrera.”
“I lean traditional,” said Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers. “I use the data — you’d be crazy not to, because there’s a lot of good stuff out there. I wish there were better defensive metrics out there because that’s the one area I feel hasn’t quite been perfected yet.”
So Cabrera or Trout?
“Cabrera,” Towers said. “What he did for that Tiger team this year was extraordinary. And the kid is going to win some of those in the future. He’s a great player.”
“They are both great players, and I get the objective arguments,” reasoned Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, “but I have no issue with Cabrera winning. The guy moved positions and is the best righthanded hitter in the league who carried them down the stretch. Trout will end up with plenty of hardware before it’s over.”
Cabrera won. He won by a wide margin.
Now, let’s get over it and act like adults.
Apropos of something
If the Red Sox-Dodgers deal was approved by commissioner Bud Selig, why wouldn’t the Blue Jays-Marlins deal be approved?
Both were legitimate trades in which one team shed an enormous amount of payroll but received legitimate, above-board talent in return. This isn’t like the Joe Rudi-Rollie Fingers deal Oakland made with Boston in 1976, which was an obvious maneuver by Athletics owner Charles O. Finley to make money despite weakening his team. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn nixed that deal in “the best interests of baseball.”
Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is taking considerable heat for dismantling his team.
On one hand, the criticism is legitimate since public money went into financing the new stadium in Miami, and there is a feeling that he owes those fans a competitive team.
On the other hand, he spent a lot of money last season on major free agents such as Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell, plus manager Ozzie Guillen, and it backfired. The Marlins were a major disappointment.
The Miami market is a major challenge. All of the owners there have a history of building up, dismantling, then building up again. The Marlins won two championships that way. Obviously, this is a bigger shedding of salary in one fell swoop, though it started at the trading deadline when they moved Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers and Anibal Sanchez to the Tigers.
In Toronto, there is a completely different feeling. The Jays haven’t been to the playoffs since 1993. They seem to be the team perennially on the verge of something big, and the fan base is getting tired of waiting. With this deal, the Jays could go from 73 wins into the 90s — if everything goes well and they avoid injuries.
Rogers Communications, which owns the Blue Jays and has a lot of money to spend, felt the time was right to open up the pocketbook, sensing perhaps that Boston and New York may be down, and Toronto can take advantage.
“I think people are very excited in Toronto,” said Jays coach Luis Rivera. “It’s great for the country. They want a contender and they seem to have an excellent team now. It’s too bad we had the injuries we had when we had them or I think we would have been in the race.”
Rivera is a big fan of infielder Adeiny Hechavarria, one of the players going to Florida in the big deal.
“He’s going to be really good,” Rivera said. “I would say he has the best range of any shortstop in baseball. He’s so flexible. He can go down for a ball and get up without losing rhythm. He has so much elasticity. He’ll be a good hitter, too. It’s hard to put a number on it, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he hit .270-.280.”
The Jays also signed free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera, who served a 50-game suspension last season for a positive test for testosterone, to a two-year, $16 million deal. Cabrera, who was leading the National League in hitting at the time of his suspension, is likely to hit behind Reyes and ahead of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Brett Lawrie in what is shaping up as a potent lineup. The Jays are throwing caution to the wind in signing Cabrera, hoping he won’t be dumb enough to commit a second offense. If he can perform without the juice, he can be outstanding offensively and defensively.
Apropos of nothing
1. Should the Red Sox have tried harder to land Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson? Despite some injury concerns with both guys, the answer is yes. If you tried to get commensurate talent on the free agent market, you’d pay a steep price. Reyes didn’t have quite the sensational season he had in New York that landed him a big contract with the Marlins, but he played in 160 games and was not the problem in Miami. Johnson had his worst season (8-14), but he is 28 and everyone expects him to rebound.
2. Yep, Manny Ramirez can roll out of bed and hit. First time up in the Dominican winter league: home run off Daniel Cabrera.
3. The Red Sox are distributing 1,200 turkeys to 12 food pantries and food banks throughout New England Monday as part of the club’s “100 Acts of Kindness” initiative. With the assistance of food distributor SYSCO, Red Sox staff will visit a pair of organizations in all six New England states and deliver 100 frozen turkeys to each location. Red Sox staff also will assist at the Boston Living Center’s “Celebration of Life Thanksgiving Dinner” Tuesday.
4. Former Red Sox international scouting director Craig Shipley joined the Diamondbacks as a special assistant to Kevin Towers. He will have a number of duties, including evaluating the farm system and special assignment scouting.
5. As much as he needed a shortstop, Towers was never in the Reyes hunt. And as far as Justin Upton goes? Nobody has knocked his socks off with an offer.
6. Speaking of Upton, I know his brother, B.J. Upton, is very talented and entering his prime, but will he always be unfulfilled potential?
7. The Red Sox can afford to let Jacoby Ellsbury have a great year and then go into free agency. Jackie Bradley should be the real deal.
8. Every GM I called last week: “On the phone with agents trying to get pitching . . .”
Updates on nine
1. David Ross, C, Red Sox —
2. Jarrod Saltalamacchia , C, Red Sox — Speaking of Salty, there may be a decent market for him. The White Sox, who don’t seem to plan on bringing back A.J. Pierzynski, could be players for Saltalamacchia. They could move someone like Gavin Floyd, who also could be a fit for the Blue Jays should they be interested in moving J.P. Arencibia.
3. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Indians — The Red Sox and Diamondbacks are two of the teams interested in Cabrera, who will earn $6.5 million in 2013 and $10 million in 2014. That’s fairly cheap for a starting shortstop, but with Mike Aviles now in tow, the Indians may listen to serious offers for both Cabrera and outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.
4. Stephen Drew, SS, free agent — He played well for the A’s after being dealt by the Diamondbacks, who lost patience with his recovery time (11 months for a broken ankle). The Red Sox have some interest in Drew, who had some productive years before being injured. Like his brother, J.D. Drew, he is not a natural-born leader but has a good skill set.
5. Carl Pavano, RHP, free agent — After an injury-filled season in Minnesota (a bone bruise in his right shoulder limited him to 11 starts) Pavano was given a clean bill of health in September and has prepared for his new adventure this offseason. Agent Dave Pepe said he has received a few preliminary calls on Pavano, who turns 37 in January. Pavano could come in with a minor league deal or a one-year major league deal. He had pitched more than 220 innings the previous two seasons for the Twins and could be an interesting back-end-of-the-rotation starter.
6. A.J. Pierzynski , C, free agent — There are two obvious places that fit Pierzynski like a glove: Tampa Bay and Texas. The Rays would have to open the wallet a little more, but Pierzynski’s bat and leadership seem perfectly suited for the Rays, who never seem to have a decent catcher. Pierzynski hails from Orlando, so the geography makes sense. He also makes sense for the Rangers, who may lose Mike Napoli in free agency. Pierzynski could also fit the Red Sox if they deal both Saltalamacchia and Lavarnway. You always like to have a left-right combo as your backstops.
7. Dan Haren, RHP, free agent — Most executives we speak to love Haren but because of his back issues would not be comfortable offering any more than two years — most prefer one year and an option. “I would guess the free agent player who is having his medical records gone through with a fine-tooth comb more than anyone out there is Haren,” said an American League executive. “You love his past durability, but now you have to be careful that he actually missed a few starts last season. He’s one of those guys you’d love to add to your rotation.” Haren missed three weeks, but still made 30 starts.
8. Jason Grilli, RHP, free agent — From journeyman to highly sought reliever. That’s what Grilli has become. “We’ve got eight teams” — including the Red Sox — “interested right now,” said Grilli’s agent, former major leaguer Gary Sheffield. “We have three offers right now.” Sheffield, who runs Gary Sheffield Management in Tampa, which advises players on personal finances, said, “We’re not in a hurry. There are some things we want to look at a little further. We’re not sure the market has fully developed for Jason.” Grilli, 36, was 1-6 with a 2.91 ERA and a 1.142 WHIP out of the Pirates bullpen.
9. Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B, free agent — Good-sized market so far for Youkilis, at both third and first base, according to his agent, Joe Bick. The Indians are looking at him as a first baseman, while the Phillies and Dodgers are considering him at third (a back-burner option for the Dodgers). The Diamondbacks made a call, but Towers indicated they will likely not be involved.
From the Bill Chuck files: “The OPS decline for Mark Teixeira continues. In his four years with the Yankees, starting in 2009, his OPS has gone from .948 to .846 to .835 to .807 last season.” Also, “Both Jay Bruce and Michael Bourn played 155 games and struck out 155 times. The only other player to have a 155/155 season was Mark McGwire in 1998.” . . . Happy birthday to David Ortiz (37), Tom Gordon (45), Dante Bichette (49), and Jamie Moyer (50).