Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Frank Robinson Day

It's Frank Robinson's birthday, so let's take a look at his record. I think that Frank's the most underrated great player in baseball history, though I realize that statement is so full of subjectives as to be almost meaningless (who counts as a "great player"? How do you measure underratedness?). Anyway, I see three reasons for this: 1) the press didn't like him 2) he spent the bulk of his career in Cincinnati and Baltimore, which ain't exactly New York 3) generally played in a pitcher-friendly era. Go look at those OPS+ numbers, which adjust for ballpark and league. Very impressive. The dude has more homers than Mark McGwire, but your average fan sure doesn't know it.

What the average fan might know is that the great Robinson is currently the manager of the Li'l Orphan Expos, which provides a nifty segue into this two-day-old Post article from Dave Sheinin.
If and when the Montreal Expos are moved, somebody somewhere is going to be getting a pretty good franchise -- one that is chock full of solid, young players under club control for several more years (Jose Vidro, Nick Johnson, et al.), a farm system full of highly touted prospects and a refreshing lack of debt obligations in the form of long-term contracts.
If he hadn't named names, I'd think Sheinin was talking about the Indians. It's interesting that both the guys he names as "solid" are currently on the DL and out for the rest of the season. Young? Vidro is currently 30 years old; young for a pope, but not for a ballplayer. When he was traded from the Yankees in the offseason, I commented that, given his grisly injury history, Nick Johnson was in danger of suffering through an Erubiel Durazo-esque career. Now that sounds like irrational optimism. Furthermore, everyone who knows anything about prospects (all of whom are not me) makes the Expos' farm system sound like something out of Steinbeck, if not Lovecraft. He's right about the contracts. Livan Hernandez and Jose Vidro are the only Expos signed to significant, long-term deals, and those guys are both worth having.

The main focus of the piece is on general manager Omar Minaya, whom Sheinin believes is worthy of being kept in his position by whoever the new owners might be (let's call them "Not Bill Collins"). I still haven't decided where I stand on this. In my ideal scenario, Not Bill Collins manages to pry one of those clever young men out of Cleveland to rebuild the farm system and whatnot. That aside, and given that Paul DePodesta is not likely to leave LA, Minaya might be a good choice.

The biggest mark against Omar is the Colon trade. In June of 2002, Minaya sent Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore, and Lee Stevens to Cleveland for 17 games of Rubenesque right-hander Bartolo Colon. Colon was effective for Montreal, putting up a 3.31 ERA in 117 innings, but the Expos didn't get into the playoffs or anything. Omar wound up hefting Colon over to the White Sox in a three-way deal, getting Rocky Biddle and Jeff Liefer in return. Lee, Phillips, and Sizemore aren't All-Stars at this point, but all three are or have been in the majors, and they're 26, 23, and 22 respectively. Those three would go a long way to making Sheinin's rosy picture of the Expos' farm system look a little less delusional. Also, Rocky Biddle sucks.

So what does Minaya have in his favor? Well, two consecutive 83-79 seasons under bizarre and difficult condiditons, for one thing. I don't know much about the prospects, but Chris Kahrl of Baseball Prospectus does, and she's given rave reviews to Minaya's recent moves. Given that the alternatives would include Dan Duquette and Syd Thrift, I have no problem with Omar Minaya as the first GM of the new Senators.

9 comments:

Olivier said...

Omar is a nice GM, but for once I'll agree with Gammons: he needs to be well surrounded by organization-type.. He's, first and foremost, a scout, and a very good one it seems.

The first Colon trade was, I think, a decent one because Omar willingly overpaid to get a legit front-end starter. The will to overpay was largely based on the assumption that the Expos fate was either to get contracted or get sold and moved. Either way, the situation was to be resolved by next season. At worst, Omar would end up with Colon's 2003 season for 8 millions after having 10-4 half he got from him for free (the Indians swallowed the Lee Stevens contract in that deal, remember?), wich wasn't that bad.

The truly, truly brutal trade Omar made was the second one. Once again, he got screwed by intangibles (El Duque didn't pitch a single inning... With the standings that year, if he gets 15-20 starts, the Expos are probably in the playoffs...), but he got screwed by Cashman and that guy from Chicago too. Since, I think he mostly tried to shore up farm system whilst waiting for Godot.

I'd certainly give him a shot. He still knows how to take a flyer (Livan Hernandez anyone?).

I'd fire Robinson in a heartbeat tough...

Yuda said...

I'd like to see what Minaya can do under more normal circumstances for a GM.

I mean, at the moment he's in a situation where he's expected to be the Cleveland Spiders for the other 29 clubs. On the flip side, back in '02 it wasn't clear that the team would continue to exist in any state after the season, so I can kind of understand doing everything in their power to try and win that season.

Ultimately, though, I'd only give him a year -- maybe two -- to prove his mettle.

Ryan said...

Livan Hernandez is one of the best, most unexpected things to happen to any team in the last few years (since Pujols, perhaps), but it happened in Montreal, so no one knows about it. I wonder if Minaya should get credit for that. BP gives Carlos Tosca credit for changing his arm angle, but who knows?

Bijan C. Bayne said...

You're right, MVP's in both leagues, 1800 RBI, and the second-to-last Triple Crown say a lot. Two things hurt Robby, his coming just short of 600 jacks, which would have made him "household", and his being traded a lot after 1970. Clemente was identified w/ only one club. Both suffered because they came along when Mays and Aaron were already established, not enough OF pub to go around in the 1960's.

There's another blog post about the underappreciation of DC's future manager here: http://baseballaddict.blogspot.com/2004/09/forgotten-player.html#comments

Add to that the fact that Robinson shares his birth day, 8-31-1935, with Eldridge Cleaver. Bet you won't find that fact on "Sports Center"!

BCB www.bbayne.com

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