MLB 2012: 20 Myths That Will Likely Be Debunked
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The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word debunked as to expose the falseness or hollowness of a myth, idea or belief.
So far during the MLB offseason, there have been countless theories and beliefs thrown out there by noted journalists, prognosticators and even websites that point to a series of events that could happen during the 2012 season.
Well, I am here to effectively debunk those beliefs.
As spring training gets underway, there are storylines for each team that are being followed, concerning a wide variety of topics such as how a player will perform this season, how team chemistry will play a role, possible contract negotiation distractions and many others.
While some of them may be very valid, I will attempt to offer a reason as to why those beliefs just shouldn't be...well, for lack of a better word, believed.
Yadier Molina Will Go the Way of Albert Pujols
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There has been much discussion the past several weeks over the plight of St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and his current contract negotiations with the Cards and GM John Mozeliak.
Much talk thus far has been concerning whether or not the Cards will make the same mistake with Molina that they did with Albert Pujols, that is in not sealing the deal before the start of spring training.
Pujols cut off negotiations with the Cards after not being to come to an agreement before the start of camp last year, the cutoff date that Pujols had set for himself, not wanting to be distracted with ongoing talks while he was in baseball mode, so to speak.
However, Molina has been willing to do so, and will continue talking with the Cardinals at least until Opening Day.
This will in fact get done. The Cards highly covet the 29-year-old Molina, and without a $240 million contract weighing them down, they will pen Molina to a long-term deal.
Johan Santana Will Be a Savior for the New York Mets
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For all those who think this is a bash on the New York Mets, don't start frothing at the mouth quite yet.
Former Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana will make his return this year for the Mets. However, for anyone that thinks he can return to the form that made him one of the elite left-handed pitchers in the majors during the mid-2000s, that might be a bit much to expect.
If Santana can register 20 to 23 starts, 130 to 150 innings and 10 to 12 wins, that will be a huge plus. However, he won't be the savior everyone is currently looking for with regard to returning the Mets to glory.
David Ortiz or Dustin Pedroia Will Become the Next Captain of the Boston Red Sox
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In a recent video, Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy and Boston Red Sox baseball writer Nick Cafardo discussed the merits of appointing a new captain for the Sox, since Jason Varitek has not yet accepted an invite to spring training on a minor-league contract.
My question is, why does there even have to be a captain?
It would appear that either David Ortiz or Dustin Pedroia would be the front-runners. However, when manager Bobby Valentine was with the New York Mets, there was no captain for his first five years at the helm.
The Red Sox have only had three captains since 1923—Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice and Varitek. The captain's position in baseball is not mandatory, and there is no reason to think that Valentine would even want a captain in his first year in Boston while he makes his mark and puts his own stamp on the team.
Derek Jeter Will Experience a Rapid Decline in 2012
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At 37 years of age, Derek Jeter is a member of the elusive 3,000-hit club and has one hand completely covered with five World Series rings. He has nothing left to prove, right?
That's apparently what people believe, anyway.
There just isn't anywhere near enough evidence in my mind to conclusively tell me that Jeter will experience a downturn in his 2012 season. His second half slash line last season of .327/.383/.428 closely resembles his lifetime numbers (.313/.383/.449) and once again seems energized for another possible run at a sixth world championship.
Jeter was in camp weeks before the scheduled time for position players to report, working out with other pitchers and prospects.
“Derek continues to be motivated,” said Mark Newman, the Yankees’ vice president for baseball operations. “We’ve got about 80 players here, mostly minor leaguers. And when these young players see a guy like Derek Jeter here early, working hard, it’s a great example. These kids are not dumb. They look, observe, connect the dots and say to themselves, ‘If that’s where I want to be, this is what I have to do.’"
Sorry, all you Jeter haters, but that's the mark of a great athlete.
David Ortiz Has Lost Bat Speed
For three years now, fans and experts alike have written off Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz. And for three years, he has proven them wrong.
Once again, however, naysayers believe the diminished bat speed will finally lead to Ortiz's downfall.
Not so fast.
Here are projections, as produced by Rotochamp in a compilation from other sources:
System AB R HR RBI AVG OBP SLG BB K
RotoChamp 515 91 28 95 .276 0.373 0.517 78 104
CAIRO 521 81 25 95 .273 0.369 0.490 77 105
FanGraphs Fans 498 88 26 93 .279 0.371 0.504 73 110
Composite 484 78 26 88 .275 0.372 0.506 73 102
Well now, doesn't seem to be that much of a downturn, does it?
Yu Darvish Will Turn out Just Like Every Other Japanese Pitcher in the Majors
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Can you imagine what it feels like to be Yu Darvish these days?
Forget the $60 million contract, Darvish is currently the biggest thing since Ichiro in Japan.
However, there are still naysayers out there who doubt that Darvish's skills can translate to American baseball, especially given the fact that the vast majority of his countrymen didn't fare well here.
Well, hold on a moment.
Have you seen Darvish? He's 6'5" and 220 pounds, which translates to a terrific pitcher's frame. He wasn't just good in Japan, he dominated in Japan.
On Tuesday, his bullpen catcher for the morning workout, Luis Martinez, was more than effusive in his praise of Darvish.
According to Richard Durrett of ESPN.com:
“I was excited and happy to catch him,” said Martinez, who admitted that it was “a bit overwhelming” too. “He had a bunch of pitches, great stuff and stayed down in the zone. He threw curve balls, sliders, changeup, splits. He did really well.”
Martinez, now a famous face in Japan after talking with about 30 members of the Japanese media, joked that Darvish threw “about 10 pitches.” But the catcher, who has caught Greg Maddux and Heath Bell throwing sessions before, said he was most impressed with Darvish’s cutter and two-seam fastball. Martinez said Darvish was throwing around 75 to 80 percent and figures may 88 to 90 mph, though he did throw some harder balls at the end of the session.
Ivan Rodriguez Has Something Left in the Tank
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Last season, catcher Ivan Rodriguez played in just 44 games for the Washington Nationals, hitting just .218 with two home runs.
I-Rod, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, is looking for a place to play that will offer substantial time behind the plate.
I don't doubt that Rodriguez can still catch, but he is way beyond being of valuable service other than as an occasional backup catcher at this point in his career.
Another case of an aging veteran who just can't get past the idea that their time has come.
Ryan Zimmerman Will Sign a Contract Extension Before Spring Training
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Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is currently entering the fourth season of his five-year, $45 million contract. However, the Internet has been abuzz already about a new long-term extension.
Zimmerman set a deadline of Saturday morning to hammer out a new agreement, going the way of Albert Pujols and refusing to negotiate during the season.
However, the Nationals will not be backed into a corner. Yes, there is a risk if Zimmerman doesn't sign by Saturday, but Zimmerman will not be a free agent at the end of this season. The Nats are being cautious, and wisely so. Zimmerman missed significant time last year due to a torn abdominal muscle. Coupled with a shoulder injury in 2008 that caused Zimmerman to miss 56 games, they want to make sure durability won't be an issue in the future.
Make no mistake about it, the Nats and Zimmerman want to get a deal done, but it will get done on the Nats' time, not Zimmerman's.
Roy Oswalt Will Be a Midseason Savior for a Contending Team
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With today's announcement by the agent for Roy Oswalt that the free-agent pitcher intends to wait until the right deal comes along, he is of the mindset that the right team will come calling for his services later this season.
At least that's what his agent's statement indicated.
I'm not doubting that Oswalt still has something left in the tank. And according to ESPN Stats and Information, Oswalt's second-half winning percentage (.739) is indeed special.
However, that winning percentage comes only after actively throwing in the first half, something Oswalt won't be called upon to do. Could he be a nice lift for a contending team in June or July? Possibly, but the team has to meet Oswalt's standards. Apparently, that doesn't include Boston or St. Louis, who wouldn't cave to Oswalt's lofty salary expectations.
Bobby Abreu Will Not Be a Distraction for the Los Angeles Angels
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Last season, Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Bobby Abreu hit 40 points below his career batting average (.253/.293) and over 40 points below his career on-base percentage (.353/.397), continuing a steady two-year decline in production.
On Tuesday, Abreu started a firestorm of sorts, telling Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes that he was not willing to be a bench player and requested that the Angels trade him if they don't plan to play him every day.
This went against what Angels manager Mike Scioscia told the LA Times regarding Abreu's situation with the Halos.
"We've had very candid discussions, and I expect him to get enough at-bats to contribute," Scioscia said. "He wants to play every day, but he's tempered that with an understanding of the potential of this team to win, and he understands the situation."
After Abreu made his comments to Rojas, Scioscia said on Wednesday, "I don't think Bobby's going to be anything but a player who wants to come out here and wants to help us win. Bobby and I have always spoken very candidly. He's a professional. I don't think there are many guys any more professional than Bobby."
Uh, sorry Mike, but making public comments about his playing time and having the team only hear about it after the fact is far from professional. It's already a distraction.
Texas Rangers Will Not Trade Koji Uehara
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After being unsuccessful in their attempts to unload right-handed reliever Koji Uehara, the Texas Rangers are now saying all the right things, stating that they're happy with the players currently on the roster.
In comments made to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, GM Jon Daniels said that the Rangers are totally satisfied with Uehara being in camp.
"The guy had a tremendous year last year," Daniels said. "One of the attractive things about trading for Koji last year was he was not just a rental. He was a two-year fit. That was an attractive element to the deal and still is."
Oh, please. And I'm happy with my high blood pressure.
Cole Hamels Doesn't Want to Be in the Shadow of Halladay and Lee
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Philadelphia Phillies starter Cole Hamels would probably be an ace on at least 10 to 12 other teams, yet in Philly, he is No. 3 behind Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. Considering that Hamels will be a free agent at the end of the season, it makes sense that he'd want to leave town and be the main starter in another city, right?
Hamels has pretty much made it perfectly clear that he wants to remain in the City of Brotherly Love, and that he hopes to have a deal in place by Opening Day.
"I was fortunate enough to be drafted into an organization that is trying to win and obviously has won," Hamels said. "Every day, every year, we seem to get some top players. So that kind of shows the value and the direction the team wants to go. I've just been very fortunate to be a part of it. It's a great organization to play for and I'd love to be part of it."
The Phillies are on the verge of signing a very lucrative new TV contract, one that will be more than enough to keep Hamels in town for a long time, including a few other players as well.
Don't expect Hamels to be hitting free agency next season.
Coco Crisp Will Start Season in Center Field for Oakland Athletics
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Center fielder Coco Crisp returned to the Oakland Athletics this offseason, signing a two-year, $14 million contract, with the expectation that he would be manning center field once again.
"I'm going to make all the plays," Crisp told the San Francisco Chronicle. "If someone feels there's someone better than me, it's hard for me to believe. Unless he's a demigod come down from the heavens, no one is going to outshine me in center field."
Not so fast, Coco.
With the signing of Cuban sensation Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $36 million contract, unless Cespedes completely tanks in spring training, Crisp will be in left field on Opening Day. Crisp has come to realize that, even if he's not happy about it.
Manager Bob Melvin tried to be diplomatic about the situation as well.
"It's a fine line," Melvin said. "Coco's a good center fielder. And I think (the O.co Coliseum) is one of the more difficult parks to play center field in during the day. If another player comes in that you expect to be a center fielder and that's what he's done his whole career, you take a look at that. You play some games and do some things and make decisions probably later."
That's double-speak for $36 million out-trumping $14 million.
Magglio Ordonez Can Be of Great Value to Any Team Who Signs Him
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Right fielder Magglio Ordonez has hit 294 home runs with a lifetime .309 average during his 15-year career, yet he is still looking for work, and is unwavering about his stance to not accept a minor-league deal.
According to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com, Ordonez recently told a Venezuelan radio station that he wants a guaranteed Opening Day roster spot with guaranteed big league money.
Good luck with that, Mags.
With an ankle held together with duct tape after two surgeries in two years, and production that has all but gone, Ordonez will find himself without a job as long as he maintains his current stance.
Small-Market Teams Can't Compete
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All the talk this past offseason has been about the highly-touted movie Moneyball, the screen adaptation of the book written by Michael Lewis about the 2002 A's and about how A's GM Billy Beane, Paul DePodesta and company "defied baseball logic."
While I'm not here to debate the merits of that topic or the movie itself, it seems to me that the job done by Andrew Friedman with the Tampa Bay Rays has gone unnoticed because of all the hype surrounding the movie.
Friedman has built a team in Tampa that has contended each year since 2008, a stunning turnaround for a club that suffered through 10 miserable seasons after its birth. And he's done it on the cheap.
A $41 million payroll last season—second lowest in baseball, knocked off the mighty Boston Red Sox and their $165 million payroll to get to the postseason. They have arguably one of the best farm systems in baseball and they're largely expected to contend in the AL East once again.
The Arizona Diamondbacks had the third-lowest payroll in the National League last season, yet it didn't seem to stop them from winning the NL West.
Can we now stop talking about how small-market teams are at a disadvantage?
The Miami Marlins Will Be Destroyed by Bad Clubhouse Chemistry
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The Miami Marlins made a few splashes this offseason. However, those splashes left everyone wondering if the pieces can actually fit together seamlessly without conflict.
Yes, Carlos Zambrano is bringing his fiery personality into town, and has the potential of kicking or punching something or someone the moment a blown save ruins his day.
Yes, Hanley Ramirez has a chip on his shoulder after a miserable season and a spate of injuries, not to mention a position change to accommodate another superstar.
And yes, Ozzie Guillen is in town, he of the bombastic demeanor who doesn't kowtow to anyone.
But let's not forget one simple fact. Guillen managed a team in Chicago for eight seasons that had its own brand of fiery personalities in its clubhouse at one time or another, and Guillen never had a problem keeping his troops in line and focused on the prize.
Don't sell Ozzie short, there is absolutely zero reason that suggests he can't do the same in Miami.
Washington Nationals Too Young and Inexperienced to Compete for NL East Title
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As one peruses through various predictions about the NL East by prognosticators, bloggers, analysts and whoever else that wants to chime in, the general consensus is that the Washington Nationals will be exciting to watch in 2012, but they're not quite there yet.
Much of the reasoning behind this is that the Nats are just too young. Huh?
Yes, the Philadelphia Phillies have won five straight division titles and return with a core largely intact, save for a new closer and a late-arriving, Achilles heel-healing first baseman. And yes, the Miami Marlins upgraded with three grizzled veterans and a fiery new manager.
However, the Nats have actually brought hope back to Washington for the first time since the start of the Roosevelt administration. An outstanding pitching staff dominated by 20-somethings, a mix of youngsters and veterans in the lineup, and you have a recipe for success.
Youth has been served.
MLB Has Players' Best Interests in Mind with Drug Policy
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On Thursday, when MLB issued a statement regarding the successful appeal of a 50-game suspension for violating MLB's drug policy by Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, they didn't just announce the decision—they decried it like a babbling baby.
Apparently, the appeals process put in place by MLB for anyone accused of violating MLB's drug policy is not for anyone's best interest but MLB itself. In his statement following the decision, MLB executive vice president for labor relations Rob Manfred babbled on about how MLB felt.
"As a part of our drug testing program, the Commissioner's Office and the Players Association agreed to a neutral third party review for instances that are under dispute. While we have always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das."
They vehemently disagree with a process that they signed off on? Wow. How's that for hypocrisy?
All along, MLB has said that the drug policy in place protects the integrity of the game. It's about cleaning up the game. MLB's statement had nothing to do with integrity. It had everything to do with punishing a player, despite facts to the contrary. And why? Because MLB is never wrong.
Jim Tracy's Job Is Safe with Contract Extension
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Earlier this week, it was announced that the Colorado Rockies and manager Jim Tracy had agreed on what was termed an "indefinite" contract extension.
In his statement announcing the extension, Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said, "Quite honestly it could be for whatever number of years Jim wants it to be for. We understand how difficult it is to build a culture in a world that's valued only on performance, but we believe we're going to build a culture of value and we believe that Jim's the right person to build that value. We believe in him completely with what this stands for."
Well, that all sounds well and good, but we'll see how well that "culture of value" is served if the Rockies are 15 to 20 games under .500 well into the season.
O'Dowd had no problem firing manager Clint Hurdle after getting off to an 18-28 start in 2009, and he'll likely have no problem doing it again, especially after being "embarrassed" by the team's performance last year.
Justin Morneau Won't Be Distracted by Ongoing Concussion Issues
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On Friday morning, Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau addressed his current feelings about the concussion symptoms that have plagued him since midway through the 2010 season.
"Well, I don’t think there will be a career if it’s something I’m dealing with,’’ he said. "That’s the reality of the whole thing. I’m obviously not going to continue to mess around with this if it continues to be a problem. There comes a point where you can only torture yourself for so long.
"It’s something I love to do but you keep preparing and you keep being left out, that’s something that nobody wants to go through . Obviously it’s been a tough winter that way. I try not to think about that kind of stuff. Obviously it’s crossed my mind and it’s something I’ve had to think about but when that stuff comes into my mind I continue to look for something positive, and look how far I’ve come in the last week or in the last month and just hope it continues to go well.''
Before his injury in 2010, Morneau was without a doubt one of the premier first basemen in the majors, winning the AL MVP Award in 2006, and was off to a great start in 2010 (.345, 18 HR, 56 RBI) when he went down.
However, it seemed pretty clear in his remarks that the issue weighs heavily on his mind. And he's certainly not without precedent. One only has to look at the careers of Eric Lindros and Sidney Crosby in the NHL to know how much a head trauma literally gets into one's head.
While Morneau will do all he can to return to form, that lingering doubt will almost assuredly be there, especially when the moment comes when he has to dive for a ball, or slide into second to break up a double play.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle. Follow Doug on Twitter, @Sports_A_Holic.