Comment of the Week: Weekend at Mark’s

Merrill is worried about me.

Somebody go poke Mark and make sure he’s still alive. 😀

I understand. I haven’t written in a while. I started a few different posts but, the topics weren’t that interesting and the posts were poorly written. We’ve hit a weird lull in the proceedings here. The roster is (all but) set, the trucks are packed and en route to Port Charlotte, and it’s time to go. Soon, we’ll be able to digest all the “best shape of his career stories” but, for now, I’ve got nothing.

But, let’s do this, I’ll make you a promise. I promise not to write anything bad just for the sake of writing anything. But, I also will try to avoid leaving you all hanging like I did. So, when there is nothing that sparks my interest for a day or two, we’ll invoke the Coffee Talk rule. I’ll be your veclempt host, Linda Richman. Please, talk amongst yourselves, I’ll give you a topic:

Andrew Friedman called the off-season a “dream” scenario even though it ended without an obvious catching solution. Kind of a boring dreamer, right? Discuss.

Comment of the Week: Will Minor League Baseball seem to work in Tampa?

Bob & Jackie Washburn joined the conversation this week with a creative future use for Tropicana Field:

Just a thought, but considering that Tropicana was originally built without having a team, why not use it for a Rays farm team, maybe just single A to start with, after the Rays move to a new stadium. A case in point here would be the Atlanta Braves who have a farm team just outside Atlanta, only 30 or so miles to Fulton County Stadium. The Braves also ended their relationship with their farm team in Richmond (VA) just last year because Richmond wouldn’t enhance the facility.

This solves a couple of problems, one being the use of Tropicana, and another being to reduce the Rays costs in supporting their farm teams. I think everyone needs to make the necessary concessions here… I know we do, we being 2 super senior citizens who drive 3 hours each way from Melbourne Beach to see the games.

Keep up the good articles. Thanks, Bob & Jackie

First, complimenting my writing is always a good way to earn COW honors.

Second, while I responded that I don’t think a minor league team is the answer for a lot of different reasons, Bob’s idea had my wheels spinning. If memory serves (and we are going to have to rely on my memory alone because I can’t find any league-wide minor league attendance databases online), the Florida State League is either at the bottom, or near the bottom, in attendance among full-season minor leagues. I think that begs two questions:

1. Why doesn’t minor league baseball seem to work in Florida?;

2. Is that relevant to an evaluation of Major League Baseball in Florida?

As to the first, I have no idea. Part of the problem has to be the cities. Most of the FSL teams are in snow-bird cities like Port St. Lucie, Fort Myers, and Dunedin. The teams are in those cities because their big clubs train there. And their big clubs train there because they have fans there in the spring. But, when summer rolls around, those fans return to the big club’s home city leaving the FSL club bereft of support.

Also, the more permanent cities on the FSL circuit now have big clubs. I remember going to games at Al Lang (and Al Lopez) when I was kid. It was awesome. Pretty good crowds. Great parks. Good times. I especially loved (and I suppose still love – since it’s still standing) Al Lang. It is a real shame that we can’t find something to do with that park because it is a gem.

As to the second question, I think minor league baseball and Major League Baseball in Florida are unrelated. For one, they appeal to different crowds. Minor League baseball is a niche sport designed for purists that love baseball, prospect honks that have to the first to see a guy, and local families looking for a reasonable night out. Big League baseball has a broader audience.

In the final analysis, while the Rays might have killed my chance to take my son to a minor league game in town, I am ok with the tradeoff. If I really want him to have that experience, we’ll go spend a weekend in Charlotte County.

Thanks for the comment Bob and Jackie.

Comment of the Week

We’ve had some good discussion here this week without much serious participation from me. I try to respond to most comments but, there are some comments that deserve a little deeper reflection. So, I thought we’d try something new. I will pick one comment each week and respond to it at length in its own post. The comment of the week doesn’t have to be the most insightful or well-written comment. Just something that caught my attention.

The first honor goes to Travis who engaged Merrill in an interesting discussion about the Rays’ shortstop future:

[Hak-Ju]Lee is definitely closer to starting [at shortstop] then [Tim] Beckham, but I haven’t given up on him. Beckham started showing some promise leading up to the futures game, though it’s unlikely he’ll ever make Andy feel better about passing on Posey for him. Can you imagine this team with Posey?!

Despite the look of the roster, I think the Rays will be ok at shortstop in 2012 so, as long as Reid Brignac/Sean Rodriguez can combine to be good defensive players and replacement-level offensive players. Both are more than capable of achieving that. (This is based on the theory that most teams don’t get much offense from short but make up for it elsewhere).

That said, I am not totally convinced that Reid Brignac has been conclusively doomed to a lifetime as a replacement-level hitter and I am not ready to search for his replacement.

I try to throw out remarkably good rookie years and remarkably bad second seasons when looking at a ballplayer’s future. I can offer no scientific or SABRmetric justification for this practice but, am open to any mathematical refutation.

In my opinion, first and second seasons don’t count because Major League teams don’t generally spend a lot of scouting resources on rookies. So, rookies have the advantage of unknown flaws and second year players have the difficulty of overcoming the flaws discovered during their rookie campaign. Good players, it seems, are the ones that can remedy the flaws identified by scouts.

Scouts found the hole in Brignac’s swing (right under his hands) and teams capitalized on it in 2011. I think a swing-hole (is that a term? did I just make that up?) is easier to correct than, say, poor command of the strike zone or, an inability to hit a certain pitch-type. (A friend once told me that, if he ran into Jonny Gomes in a dark alley, he’d just pretend to be a breaking ball so that Gomes couldn’t hit him.)

If Brignac has plugged the hole this winter, he’ll be more than solid at shortstop for at least the remainder of his arbitration years.

Either way, I wouldn’t buy any Lee or Beckham jerseys anytime in the near future. The Rays like to bring along prospects, particularly young prospects, slowly. Lee just turned 21 on November 4. He is talented but, I don’t think we’ll see him anywhere near the big club soon. Beckham is older but, has several lost seasons playing shortstop. I think his future is in centerfield which means, he needs to learn to play centerfield.

Comment of the Week: Time to get Excited

Chris Glover swoops in and grabs a COW honor with his Jessie Spano impression. After Travis broke the news of Carlos Pena’s return, Chris wrote:

Travis, this comment just got me fired up for baseball again. With the mild distraction of football about to end I was wondering how I would pass the time here in Toronto as the snow gets deeper, but you saved me! Time to start getting pumped for next season!

Why Jessie Spano? Because, like Chris, I’m so excited, I’m so excited, I’m so…..scared. (Chris, do they have Saved by the Bell in England or Canada? Do you get the reference?)

I am ecstatic to have Pena back. My wife and kids think he’s great so, his return means we have 162 games locked into the family calendar. Also, he is just a fun guy to root for and he has the potential to dramatically improve our offense.

But, Pena’s return also freaks me out. We know he’s going to fan at an incredible rate. We know he probably won’t face lefties. And we know we don’t have an obvious platoon partner for him.

So, yeah. Pena’s return is a mixed blessing. But, in the final analysis, if this is going to be our year, I’d want Pena in the clubhouse when it happens.