Contraction in Baseball: An Economic Gain (Part 1)

30 10 2010

Posted by cubs223425

To start, let it be known that I do not believe that the following is what will occur within the game of baseball. It is simply what I believe to be the best course of action for the financial status of the league, along with the best course of action to achieve a better league. I want this to happen, but I do not think it will.

So, over the last several days on

Evan Longoria made it well known throughout the 2010 Season that he was not pleased with the Attendance numbers at Tropicana Field

the MLB Trade Rumors forums, there have been some discussions on baseball’s league and division formatting. People have stated displeasure with the 16-14 setup that is currently in place between the two leagues (16 teams in the NL; 14 in the AL). For some, they propose the league simply move a team over. However, that isn’t exactly a feasible solution.

As of now, baseball is a daily sport. Mondays and Thursdays are the only time that teams are consistently off throughout the year. Because of that, there are 15 games scheduled 5 days of almost every week. If the leagues were 15 teams each, then who would play the fifteenth teams each day? An odd number of teams will not work in a game that requires two teams to play. It would require considerably more doubleheaders or expanded interleague play to the point of almost one game per day. Since that idea has been mostly established as not being feasible, there are two other options: expansion or contraction.

Being the cynic that I am, I elected to handle the contraction article, and WAMCO is working on his own piece in favor of league expansion. In either instance, the idea is to add or subtract two teams, in order to set the American and National leagues on an even playing field in terms of team count, either at 16-16 in a 32-team league or 14-14 in a 28-team one.

Now this is not going to be a simple matter. To determine which teams would best be contracted, we will have to look at a variety of factors. For starters, the team’s popularity has to be considered. Even though the Yankees are a huge payroll with pinstripes, removing them would not be an option because they are also an enormous source of income for the league, which also means more for the other teams in revenue sharing.

Of course, winning is a large factor as well. Though the Rays might not even be drawing 20,000 fans per game, they have done an excellent job of building a winner through the scouting and player development departments. To reward an ownership group with playing the game the right way and succeeding with a giant axe in the back would be crazy.

Team history is also a factor. When comparing a constant loser like the Pirates to the Padres, the team with the 18-year streak of losing seasons might be the easy pick. Still, Pittsburgh has a rather rich baseball history, so just pulling the rug out from under that team might not be the best idea.

When it came down to it, I saw a lot of potential teams. For the sake of time and sanity, though, I elected the commonplace method of examining five teams is the best way to go. I’ve considered several portions of a franchise when I determined if it should be in the final five to be considered for removal from the league. When it came down to it, my personal preferences went to these teams: The San Diego Padres, the Florida Marlins, the New York Mets, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Cleveland Indians.

Before we begin, though, let us cover all of our bases. I am sure there will be fans of some teams that think my choices are without merit, but those questions will be answered in the main portion of the article. Meanwhile, those same fans will start to throw other teams under the bus, suggesting that they are more deserving of a boot. I will quickly voer those teams, just to put those complaints to bed beforehand.

New York Yankees: As I said, it is irrational to think that probably the biggest economic draw in the league would be an option, but many fans have a dire hatred for the way the Yankees operate. That is not their fault, though, as they are well within the league rules, and they feed back into the revenue sharing pool with the huge attendance and merchandise sales.

Tampa Bay Rays: The lack of a crowd draw for a playoff team is almost inexcusable, but they are winning, and how can we really fault them for that? There are plans for a new stadium in the next 3-5 years or so, meaning that the attendance woes will likely lessen over time.

Baltimore Orioles: This team has been a cellar-dwelling team for a long time, so looking at it would be reasonable as well. However, they are building

Building around young talent, such as center fielder Adam Jones, has kept Baltimore off of the hypothetical chopping block.

a great core of players, including  Brian Matusz, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Matt Wieters. They have also been showing a willingness to spend on a big free agent that could change the franchise, such as their efforts with Mark Teixeira before ye got Yank(e)ed away.

Houston Astros: My plan was to only cover NL teams, but I thought that a bit harsh. They were the fifth NL club I considered, but they have done a good job in the fairly recent past, and IO would like to see how they do in a rebuilding effort.

Arizona Diamondbacks: There were thoughts with this team as well. I think that having a professional team near a spring training site is desirable as well, and the team has some young talent. Also, their last World Series was fairly recent.

Washington Nationals: Ultimately, I felt that this team is just in a good location. Having America’s pastime in its capitol is almost a requirement, I think. Like Baltimore, they have started to build  a young core of talent. They were also willing to spend on Adam Dunn, and still might.

Chicago Cubs: As a Cubs fan, this suggestion baffles me. I had someone on the forums mention that the Pirates were not a reasonable choice because of their losing, but that the Cubs are more logical because of their World Series drought. Granted, part of the omission is probably my bias towards my team, but that is a small factor. They have the oldest park in the game, so they clearly are not drawing money from taxpayers like teams that have recently erected new homes like the Yankees, Mets, Cardinals, and Twins. Even without being a title contender in a while (2007 and 2008 were major disappointments), the team draws one of the top-10 largest crowds each year, if not top-5. The farm has improved of late, and they have a new owner, so I see good going forward.

There are my defenses for those teams. In Part 2, I will cover the main idea of my post, so stay tuned.

EDIT: Part 2 is up.





The Rivalry: John Lackey and A.J. Burnett

15 10 2010

Posted by cubs223425


Lackey signed a 5 year $82.5 million deal with Boston this past off-season

It’s one of the oldest rivalries in sports–the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. There are many defining aspects of it. The sale of Babe Ruth, the 2004 ALCS, the championship counts, and the well-known disdain for each other are some common examples. But December 16, 2009 is a more subtle date.

On this date, the Red Sox signed former Angels pitcher John Lackey. What does this have to do with the Yankees? Well, one year and four days before that–December 12, 2008–the Yankees had signed former Marlin and Blue Jay A.J. Burnett. What makes them even more similar is the contracts; both were given a total of $82.5 million over five years, despite the fact that both were 31 at the time.

Of course, the pitchers are not exactly the same. A.J. Burnett is more of the prototypical power arm. He sports the higher K/9 rate (8.2 to Lackey’s 7.1), but also the higher BB/9 rate (3.8 to 2.7 for Lackey). But the career ERA and WHIP numbers are rather similar, with Lackey–the more consistent, durable horse–leading the ERA by just 0.10 (3.89 to 3.99) and the WHIP by 0.001 (1.320 to 1.321). So, with such similar circumstances, there are going to be those, such as myself, who will wonder who won this deal. Why? Because it’s Yanks-Sawx, guys, and every facet of this rivalry is examined with extreme detail. We can evaluate the two using four categories: contract breakdown, production before their new deal, production with their new contract, and future expectations.

Contract Breakdown: As we have said, both pitchers sport 5-year, $85 million deals. But there are some differences, Burnett has a contract with a flat, no bonus deal of $16.5 million per season. Lackey, on the other hand, was given both a $3.5 million signing bonus and a first-year salary of $18 million. This allows his other four years to be just $15.25 million annually, meaning his older seasons are less expensive than those of his Yankees counterpart.

ADVANTAGE: John Lackey/Boston

Pre-Contract Performance: This might be the toughest part to call. Before their respective new deals, both pitchers posted identical 3.81 ERAs. Burnett sported a lower 1.28 WHIP, to Lackey’s 1.31, along with an 8.4/9 that trumped the 7.2 of Lackey. Lackey’s strengths came in the terms of durability and free passes. He managed to top Burnett is both BB/9 (2.6 to 3.7), as well as K/BB ratio (2.72 to 2.25). From 1999-2008, Burnett managed to make 211 starts over 215 appearances, totaling 1,376 1/3 innings. Conversely, Lackey had his numbers from 2002-2009 total 233 starts over 234 appearances, with a 1,501 innings. That led to an average of 188 IP for Lackey and 138 IP for Burnett, though that was skewed by the fact that Burnett’s first season spanned only seven outings, while Lackey was given eighteen starts when he started out. Omitting that short 1999, Burnett still falls well short of Lackey’s 188 innings with just 148 of his own. While the ERAs are identical and Burnett managed a slightly lower WHIP, the durability of Lackey resulted in an ERA+ of 116 for the former Angel, while Burnett’s frailty led to a lower 111 ERA+.

ADVANTAGE: John Lackey/Boston


Burnett has underperformed in 2010

Post-Contract Performance: Burnett and Lackey both managed to have below-average 2010s, posting ERA+ numbers of 81 and 99, respectively. Normally, this would make Lackey the clear-cut winner, but Burnett also had 2009 with his new team, where he posted a 114 ERA+. When added in, that gives Burnett a 96 ERA+ over the two seasons. Still, that doesn’t quite reach Lackey. What Burnett did that Lackey has yet to do, is be an integral part of a title run. Burnett’s entire body of work was less than ideal in the 2009 postseason (5 starts, 1-1, 5.27 ERA), he did help shut down the Phillies and Pedro Martinez in Game 2 of the World Series. He allowed just one run over seven innings, striking out nine, which left Mariano Rivera to close out the last two innings of that matchup.  His Game 5 start was considerably worse (2 innings, 6 earned runs), but that was mostly and all-offense night (even then-Phillies ace Cliff Lee allowed 5 earned over four innings). So, while Lackey has the slight regular-season record over him, what Burnett did something much bigger when he helped win that Game 2 start over an all-time great pitcher.

ADVANTAGE: A.J. Burnett/New York

Future Expectations: No one is psychic (sorry, Ms. Cleo), but 2010 can give us a rather useful way to view the future from these aging pitchers, and it’s not all that pretty. Neither pitcher had a strong 2010, but the end of the year performances were very different. Lackey had his best statistical month, posting and ERA of 3.46 and a WHIP of just 1.03. At that point in time, Burnett was imploding. He managed to go from the Yankees #2 to off of the ALDS roster by putting up a horrific 5.60 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. Burnett has since been added to the ALCS roster for New York and slated to start Game 4 against Texas’ Tommy Hunter, but the damage has been done.

ADVANTAGE: John Lackey/Boston

As a whole, John Lackey has clearly shown that he is the better choice. His long-term outlook is better in almost every manner, when compared to A.J. Burnett. His durability, future price, and 2010 results suggest that he is a better investment going forward. Of course, if Burnett can turn his awful regular season into a successful, redemptive postseason and help the Yankees to a repeat, the discussion could be brought back up. For now, though, it seems Boston has made a much better decision with Lackey.





Joba Chamberlain: His Pros, Reasons to Trade Him, and Trade Value

14 10 2010

Posted by Teix4MVP

So this past week Newsday’s Ken Davidoff wrote that “Joba Chamberlain has slipped down the Yankees’ food chain, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens with him this winter.”

I took one look at this article and decided I would write a response to it.

“Phenomenal.”

“Best pitcher in the bullpen besides Mo.”

“He’s got real potential.”

Does it sound like any pitchers you know? Well, these were the phrases used to describe the Yankees’ then-phenom Joba Chamberlain, who came up to the Yankee bullpen towards the end of 2007.

Some background information about Joba before the majors: Chamberlain was drafted 41st overall by the New York Yankees in the 2006 Draft during the compensatory round because Tom Gordon signed with the Phillies.  He didn’t pitch in the minors that season, but he pitched in the Hawaii Winter league, posting a 2.63 ERA for the WestOahu Canefires. In 2007, he ascended the minor league ladder starting at High A, and moving up to Triple-A as a starter, until he made it to the major leagues as the Yankees attempted to make it into the playoffs and win a World Series for the first time in the 2000s.

All the Yankees fans reading this remember Joba as a little something short of a Gattling gun when he first came up to the majors in 2007. The 22-year-old Chamberlain blew his 100 mph fastballs by everyone in the American League, compiling a 12.75 K/9 during his time that year. He allowed just 12 hits in the 24 IP. He compiled a 5.67 K/BB that year, compared to a 2.00 league average, although Chamberlain appeared in just 19 games. He gave up 1 ER in those 24 IP, and that came on a solo shot over the Green Monster hit by Mike Lowell(I was at

Joba

Joba had a dominant 24 innings in the bullpen during the 2007 season.

that game, it was a shot). In those 19 games he still managed to put up a 0.9 WAR, which is pretty darn good, considering he pitched for such a short time. Joba was going to be the next huge fixture in the Yankees bullpen for years to come, with ESPN proclaiming him as NEXT. Joba was a phenom in those 19 appearances, and he never failed to disappoint the fans that watched him pitch.

“He’s going to be a star.” -Chamberlain before 2008

In 2008, Joba started the year in the set-up role leaving spring training with a roster spot on the major league roster. However, due to the zero wins between pitchers Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes and the resulting stress on the bullpen, on April 21st, 2008 Hank Steinbrenner told reporters that he wanted Joba to start. “Brian knows I was upset about the switch to the bullpen last year,” Steinbrenner said. “But like he says, we probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs without it, so there’s two sides to the story. We all had the same purpose starting in the offseason – we’d like to see Joba as a starter.” He also added that “we’re pleased with what some of the other guys in the pen have done…so I think it’s time to start thinking about getting him (Chamberlain) back in the rotation.” according to an article by the NY Daily News.

GM Brian Cashman said that Joba would remain in the bullpen, and would finish off the year starting, but not start off starting because of the innings limit(that would later be famously referred to the Joba Rules) that the Yankees had on the young pitcher’s arm in response to Steinbrenner. So the Yankees waited until June 3rd, 2008 for Joba to make his first start in the majors. It was one of the most highly-anticipated events of the week, a Strasburg Mania-lite. Except this was extremely anticlimactic.  Chamberlain allowed two runs (one unearned) on one hit, walking four and striking out three. He threw 62 pitches, 32 for strikes, and he struggled for most of the start during a 9-3 loss against the Blue Jays. He ended the year 4-3 starting 12 games and pitching a little bit over 100 innings as the Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time in the 2000s.

“He’ll bounce back.”-optimism before the 2009 season.

The Yankees returned in 2009 with the newly hired big guns CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and Mark Teixeira. This year the Yankees looked ready to cruise their way to the playoffs, and it was time for Joba to be a full-time starter, no restrictions this time. Joba did end up starting 31 games, however he only got 15 decisions, probably  due to the fact he averaged 4.9 innings per game that year. His ERA was 4.75, although FIP suggests he got help from the defense because he had a 4.82 FIP. But what is REALLY bad about Joba is that he allowed a line drive for about every 2 ground balls he got. But he also had a .320 BABIP, so that could suggest that he was somewhat unlucky. His year was up and down, so he was taken out of the playoff rotation and sent to the bullpen as the Yankees won the 27th World Series for the pinstriped franchise.

“Chamberlain’s one of the most overrated guys in the majors.”-2010

This year, Joba has been sent back to the bullpen after losing the 5th starter spot to All-Star Phil Hughes who, ironically, was replaced by Chamberlain in 2008 and 2009, when he was sent to the bullpen and was dominant in both the regular and postseason in the set-up role. Joba couldn’t recapture his success during his first bullpen stint. He went 3-4 in 73 appearances, and was just downright awful the first half. He managed a 4.40 ERA, although FIP suggests it should have been a 2.98. It is uncertain what role Joba is going to have during the ALCS and World Series, but it will certainly be in the bullpen.

So, now, what are the pros of keeping Chamberlain?

There’s always a chance that he recaptures that skill in the bullpen, ex. Colby Lewis of the Rangers. If he does, he’d slot nicely with setting up Rivera’s cutter with a 97 MPH fastball the inning before.

  • His fastball is capable of reaching 100 MPH, and has a nice slider and change up, so that seems like a good reason to keep him.
  • He could figure it out and pitch his way back into the starting rotation. Remember, he was a SP coming up, so he could still be a very good #2-3 starter in the rotation in the future.
  • Pitching depth is always good to have, especially with aging pitchers like AJ Burnett and Andy Pettitte.
  • He’s still just 25, so he still has time to develop as a MLB pitcher, so it would unwise to trade him because he has been durable, and he’s been a star before. And the Yankees have enough talent to keep him as a work in progress.

Joba was the #4 pitching prospect coming into the 2007 season according to BaseballProspectus.com, so that shows his potential, one that people thought he would fill when he captivated all minds with his pitching in 2007. He’s disappointed ever since then, and Davidoff, as stated before, said he fell down the Yankees’ ladder. So why would the Yankees want to trade him?

  • He’s been constantly named as one of the league’s most overrated players by both his peers and fans alike.
  • Joba hasn’t put up numbers since that first bullpen stint, and this year was no different, even though he was back in the bullpen.
  • Joba doesn’t really seem to have a defined role, although at this point, it will probably be middle relief, because he doesn’t seem good enough to pitch in the set up role.
  • Joba’s fastball doesn’t really reach 100 MPH anymore, ever since that move to the starting rotation.
  • His development has been stunted by the constant switch back and forth.

Is it time for Joba to leave the Evil Empire?

Let’s pretend that Joba does get traded to a team. What is he worth to a team? Well, to me, it’s hard to gauge. Joba was a top prospect, a future closer with fireball stuff, then a starter with a decent future, to an inconsistent guy and now a middle reliever. Good relievers are always kind of hard to come by, but Joba showed his potential to be a real closer, his potential to be an ace in the minors, a middle reliever now so its hard to see what he’ll be from this point on.

So what could the Yankees get for him? To me, they can’t get something more than a 2 low minors B prospects return on him, especially because his stock is so low based on his standing with the organization and his past 2 seasons. Teams will remember his fireballs, but unfortunately, they’ll also remember how he’s been inconsistent in both starting and now, pitching in relief. Teams that would take Joba on, in my opinion, would be both Chicago teams, Arizona(because of their absolute dearth of relievers), the Mets, or maybe even the Angels.

Joba Chamberlain was the fireballer youngster that the Yankees had struck gold on. He was ready to become the NEXT big thing, the next closer for the Yankees, the next to be among the elite. Baseball is a funny thing, star one minute, wash up the next. It is so easy to now fall into bad favor with fans, owners, and players. He was elite, for a while, and then Steinbrenner voiced his desire to move the phenom to the rotation. It was that decision that stunted Chamberlain’s growth, and now, the Yankees face a decision on what to do with the young pitcher that was supposed to be the next big thing.






Derek Jeter’s Next Contract

8 09 2010

Posted by Teix4MVP

Derek Jeter has been the face of the Yankees franchise for 15 years. One of three captains of the league (the others being Jason Varitek of the Red Sox and Paul Konerko of the White Sox), he has 5 World Series rings and is still looking for more at age 36. He has been a staple in the pinstriped uniform since his rookie year in 1996, but his contract is up after this season. People know that he’ll be back in the Bronx next year, but how much money is enough?

People say that his next contract could be for 3-4 years and 45-60 million dollars. Knowing the Yankees, of course they’ll pay that much to keep Jeter around. But is it really necessary? Let’s take a look at some of the numbers:

Derek’s slash line this year is .260/.330/.372, his worst career totals since he got called up in 1995, although that year he played in only 15 games. That makes this season his worst full season during his career. According to FanGraphs, his WAR this year is a measly 1.7, another career worst.

His fielding isn’t much better. His UZR is a -6.8 this season, compared to a positive 6.4 last year. His RngR, which determines how many runs a fielder is compared to the league average, is a -12. That is not good at all for the Yankees being that he plays shortstop, which means that he might need to find a new position soon.

Derek’s really not having a good year. In fact, it’s one of his worst. So why do the Yankees feel compelled to offer a declining, aging shortstop 15 MM a year?

DJ

Derek Jeter is having his worst season in a contract year.

They could be using that to help their farm system or sign players that deserve at least a piece of that pie, like Nick Swisher. They could lock up Phil Hughes later on or save that cash to help with the AJ Burnett mess if they decide to try a salary dump later on, or do something else, I don’t care. Just don’t waste all of it on Jeter. And this is coming from me, the Yankees fan, the one that grew up following his career, the one who has bought close to 15 of his player t-shirts, replacing them whenever the letter came off on his old one or he grew out of it. The one that had more or less of a shrine to him, complete with posters and signed ball and bats. The one that turned a blind eye or a deaf ear whenever he struck out or the critics told him that he was overrated.

Jeter was the ultimate Yankees hero, the biggest fan favorite since Ruth in the Bronx. But sometimes, you have to face it: Jeter is a 1.7 WAR player, and he wouldn’t get more than a 2-year deal from anywhere but New York. The Yankees are unnecessarily bidding against themselves for an aged hero who isn’t a sure thing.

There are other options on the market that aren’t all-stars, but they can help fill the position of shortstop, where there really isn’t much depth. Orlando Cabrera has batted about the same as Jeter, but he has a 5.6 UZR, meaning he is a little above average with the glove. Omar Infante or Alex Gonzalez could be on the open market, if the Braves decide not to exercise one of their options and decline the other, but you’ll probably see them both in Atlanta next year.  But honestly, the FA market doesn’t offer much more than a bat and a glove to slot in a lineup.

The trade market doesn’t offer much depth either. Stephen Drew was said to be available, but it’d probably take a lot to get him. Drew is a productive offensive shortstop, hitting .268/.342/.439 with 12 HRs, and a UZR of 5.4 this season making  him a 3.6 WAR player. Jason Bartlett is an option too, and there are other bodies you can put at shortstop like Ronny Cedeno, but there isn’t really a top trade target at shortstop other than Drew.

Let’s compare Jeter to Marco Scutaro. Scutaro got a two year, 11MM commitment from the Red Sox last off season. Jeter would make almost three times that if he signed a 45 million dollar deal for 3 years. Jeter’s performance would almost echo Scutaro’s, yet the deep pocket Yankees feel like signing him for more cash just because they can.

Not that I’m saying Jeter shouldn’t be re-signed. He obviously should and will be signed by the Yankees to continue on his legacy. I am saying that maybe this is a sign that he might finally be truly overrated this time. Of course there are fans that are STILL beyond crazed about him, one Blue Jays fan I know even went as far as saying that he’s better than Hanley Ramirez at age 36. But Jeter, the glory days could be over. And if or when they are, I hope you’ll be the guy I was a fan of and admit it to yourself, and the Yankees, because you owe us that much. You owe yourself that much.





Back to the Future: Mark Prior

6 09 2010

Posted by cubs223425

My procrastination occasionally causes me great stress. Then there are those occasional times that it benefits me. This time is the latter. I have been meaning to post another article on the 2011 1B option for the Cubs (and I will…eventually!), but I’ve been thinking about school and being lazy. Then, I saw that the Texas Rangers had signed Mark Prior. I knew immediately that the aforementioned Cubs article would have to wait (a bit more on that shortly).

So, I was set to start an article on the reappearance of Mark Prior. Of course, though, I was too lazy. I played Call of Duty. I managed my fantasy baseball teams. I banned TrueBlue (I’m sure there were cheers). Well, it all worked out in the end, because now that I shook off the apathy, I started this article on the perfect day.

If Prior can return to his dominant form and stay healthy out of the bullpen, he could possibly snag himself a deal with another big league club this offseason.

Why is today the perfect day? Because Mark Prior made his debut for the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the PCL (AAA) affiliate of the Texas Rangers last night. When I started following baseball, Prior was the guy I latched onto. He was my favorite player, and will always be, whether he comes back on a white stallion or flames out in the minors and gets hurt again. In his one inning of work, Prior threw 16 of his 28 pitches for strikes, allowing two hits, walking one, and striking out a pair of Omaha Royals (he lucked out of facing Mike Moustakas, thankfully). While the RedHawks ultimately lost 9-1, it was a rare occurrence where you could legitimately claim a moral victory.

Anybody who has followed baseball for more than a couple of years knows the story of Mark Prior. #2 pick (behind Joe Mauer). Can’t-miss prospect (leading to that record bonus; a record Stephen Strasburg broke last year). Savior of the Cubs. Well, it seemed to be that way back then.

Prior came onto the scene in Chicago in 2002, after making the AA and AAA hitters he faced to start the year look like children. He posted a  solid 3.32 ERA in 19 starts, good for a  122 ERA+. The following season, there was no minor league stop to make. It was his time, and everyone knew it.

Working off of his previous season’s success, Prior was a dominant ace for the Cubs, as they worked their way into the playoffs behind a deadly pitching staff (anchored by what was thought to be an unstoppable force of Carlos Zambrano, Prior, and Kerry Wood–plus Matt Clement and Shawn Estes). Even looking now, I wonder how he managed the numbers: 211 1/3 IP, 18-6, 2.43 ERA, 1.103 WHIP, 10.4 K/9, 4.9 K/BB, 179 ERA+*

*Looking into the 2003 Cy Young voting, I saw Prior finished 3rd. Who won that year? Eric Gagne, and his 337 ERA+, 337! Seriously, what happened to him? You don’t forget how to pitch like that.

Of course, if you know the success, you know the failure. No need to go through the stats, but here’s basically how it went:

Steve Bartman robbed Moises Alou of a catch (that he said he couldn’t get, then said he could). Prior and the Cubs imploded in Game 6 after that, then in Game 7. The Florida Marlins won the World Series, one that Chicago could have gotten if they went into a matchup with the New York Yankees with Prior, Wood, and Zambrano. Then the injuries came.

Honestly, I was too young to remember it all. It was just a constant, depressing blur. The shoulder went. Prior came back. It went again. There was the collision that started it all. There was a liner off of his elbow–the one thing I can still vividly remember; seeing it slam off his elbow. Watching Aramis Ramirez dive into foul territory to make the catch (yeah, he was hit so hard he produced a line out in foul territory to third). Knowing he was gone for a LONG time (even someone as young as I was knew elbows don’t survive that).

This was my guy. I followed him almost religiously. He was my first baseball jersey. Heck, he was baseball to me. I watched all of this, and I didn’t wonder if the baseball gods hated him. I wondered if they hated ME.

He made a few attempts to come back in Chicago, but he kept ending up under the knife. Over. And over. And over. Eventually, the magic was gone, and Prior was, too. He made a couple of attempts with the San Diego Padres, but to the same disastrous ends. But he got an indie league to sign him this season.

Prior made a few appearances, totaling 11 innings. He struck out 22 of the 44 batters he faced. His fastball sat in the 90-92 range, close to what he typically threw pre-injuries (according to him; I was too young to care for MPH when I watched him). Apparently, that domination was enough to convince Texas to take a chance. So far, so good.

Now, here we are, more than 9 years after Prior was Stephen Strasburg. He’s turning 30 tomorrow (September 7th), older than the 21 he was when he made his MLB debut, but nowhere near Jamie Moyer.

Sadly, though, he was signed a few days short of the postseason deadline, but that may be for the best. He can finish up the AAA season and throw some side sessions, all at his own pace. Then, next year, he can show up to Spring Training with the chance to earn a roster spot.

He said himself he doesn’t care about where he gets slotted. Of course, he’s not going to be made a starter (maybe in a year or so, he could, but unlikely). He talks of taking a middle reliever’s job, hoping to be given an occasional 8th inning job. Who know? Maybe he can follow in his former rotation-mate Kerry Wood’s footsteps and become a closer.

But no matter what happens, I’ll still be here–awaiting this rehab as eagerly as the first.