For a slow Braves week with nothing going on, there sure was a hell of a lot going on. Whatever happened to the days of sitting back and getting a little time off after the baseball season ended and before the free-agent and trade discussions began?
Oh, that’s right. Little thing called the Internet.
Anyway, it is what it is today, and what it is is a 12-month baseball season, for all intents and purposes. College football fans like to say there’s three sports seasons – football, spring football and recruiting. Baseball fans are intelligent enough to divide their attention between their favorite sport and the others, but most also realize baseball never stops anymore, from pre-spring training Fan Fests and pitching camps, to spring training, the regular season, various firings and hirings, the postseason, more firings and hirings, free-agent filing, trade rumors, GM meetings, trade rumors and free-agent rumors, Winter Meetings, trade rumors and free-agent signings, then Christmas (OK, baseball does stop for about one week, more or less, so I can snowboard), then the mad scramble to sign the remaining available high-profile free agents and other Scott Boras clients, while all simmers on a pot of more trade rumors, and of course steroid rumors, which have usually been sprinkled across the blogosphere for the entire previous – well, when did they begin, anyway?
So there you have it. And right now, we’re in the postseason portion of our program, which hasn’t stopped rumors and hirings and other matters that have, along with the rain, prevented me from riding my motorcycles nearly as much as I should have been able to since the season ended with the Bravos again on the outside looking in. Come to think of it, I wish they’d made it if for no other reason than, it would’ve been less work and a few days in L.A. And right now, the Braves would be preparing to face the Phillies in the NLCS, after winning a division series against the Dodgers.
But anyway, where were we? I mean, before my phone rang just now, and I had to ignore the call from some kid at my alma mater, calling for the fourth consecutive night, surely to get some cash out of me (I haven’t bothered answering, just saw the KS UNIV on the caller ID and let it go. I support my school and the mighty Jayhawks, and just sent them a check a few weeks ago, but it never stops, man. Just send me the envelope, people, and I’ll send you the check on my time. No phone call required.)
Where we were was dealing with the Roy Clark and Tim Hudson matters.
First, the Hudson thing, which actually occurred second, after the Clark thing.
Huddy told me Wednesday that that the FoxSports.com report Tuesday, the one that claimed he was preparing to veto the option the Braves were about to exercise on his contract, so he could test the free-agent waters, was misleading and/or innacurate because: a. He has made it clear – which he did again – that he wants to stay here and will accept a “hometown discount” to stay with the Braves (long as his idea of such a discount isn’t entirely different than what the Braves have in mind); b. He wasn’t under the impression the Braves were or are planning to exercise that $12 million option anyway, so why would he have told someone that they are and that he’s gonna veto it?, and c. Even if they do exercise the option, he’s not sure he’d veto it. At least that’s what he told me – that he hadn’t really thought about it or discussed it with his wife or agent, because he didn’t really think that was something the Braves would do, pay him $12 million in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, after seeing him make a total of seven late-season starts.
Anyway, Hudson said he hasn’t begun talks with the Braves yet, but that he didn’t expect to until after they had their organizational meetings this week in Orlando and perhaps after they do “some other things” they had to take care of (he didn’t say what, but we’ll assume he meant things such as figure out if they, the Braves, can trade one of the other pitchers they might be willing to trade or want to trade and get a power hitter in the deal, or at least drop a big salary and open a spot for Hudson while clearing up some cash to pursue a hitter one way or another).
But here’s where things get a little tricky. Because the Braves have only five days after the World Series to exercise or decline the Hudson option, which has a $1 million buyout if they decline. Since it’s presumably going to be impossible to make much if any progress in a trade discussion by then, the Braves will probably have to just go on gut feelings about whether they think they’ll be able to move one of the pitchers they’re willing to move (a list that doesn’t include Tommy Hanson and almost certainly doesn’t include Jair Jurrjens, but might include any of the other three – Derek Lowe and the three years and $45 million remaining on his contract, Kenshin Kawakami and the two years and $13.33 mill he has left on his, or Javy Vazquez and the one year and $11.5 million left on his deal).
As I’ve said, I think that trading Vazquez is something the Braves would only do reluctantly, if they felt it was the best way to both clear a rotation spot and add a big bat at the same time. Trading Lowe or Kawakami isn’t going to bring a legit power hitter back in a trade, and trading Lowe might be close to impossible unless the Braves are willing to eat part of his contract, something they’ve not been willing to do in the past. But then again, GM Frank Wren has shown a few times in the past couple of years that’s he’s not averse to doing things his own way, so we’ll see.
I’ve heard from someone else in the organization that, indeed, as one of our blog denizens has suggested, there would also be some reluctance from some in the front office to trade Kawakami because of reasons other than strictly baseball, such as the effect it might have on the relationship the Braves have built with some in the Japanese community, and perhaps with any future pursuit of Japanese players. But as to the latter part of that, I’m not as sure about.
Anyway, it’s going to be interesting to see how the Braves go about this vis-à-vis Hudson. I get the impression that a three-year, $30 million offer from the Braves would get him signed quickly, but I don’t know if they’d go that high. Would a three-year, $27 million offer get it done before he’d check around baseball to see what he might command on the open market? I don’t know. But given the lack of front-line starters expected to be available, Hudson would probably command more than $27-30 million on the open market if he has his agent shop him around.
But he insisted to me that he isn’t looking for top dollar, just something fair from the Braves, a fair “hometown discount.” Here’s some stuff he said Wednesday that I wasn’t able to get into my story:
“I understand there’s things they have to do first, and the option doesn’t have to be dealt with until after the World Series,” he said. “I think people are just wanting to know where we’re at or where I’m leaning. But I think everybody understands this is the place I would want to be.
“At the same time, if both sides are so far apart, to where a deal can’t ge worked out, then obviously free agency is next step.”
Then he pointed out what many seem to be forgetting — that if the Braves don’t pick up his option, he becomes a free agent. That’s how it works. But that wouldn’t prevent him from continuing to negotiate with the Braves. In fact, that seems like it might be the way they go, unless they work out an extension between now and five days after the World Series (or 10 days, really, since the Braves could tell him they’re picking up the option on the fifth day, but he’d have five more days to decide whether to accept it; they could agree to do that and keep talking in those five days, if you get what I’m saying).
But if five days or 10 days pass, so what? He can keep negotiating with them, particularly if the sides are making headway. In that case, Hudson and his agent might stall with other teams while they keep working with the Braves. I’m just thinking aloud here, just trying to illustrate how, if these guys want to get this done, it’ll get done.
“If I did go to free agency, there’d probably be more money out there on the free-agent market,” he said. “But that’s the whole thing of working with the Braves — my family’s comfortable here, I’m comfortable, and I would be willing to take less to stay here.”
But yes, he’d prefer the multi-year security, rather than just the one-year option. That also became clear. It’s important to him. Understandable, given his age (34) and what he just went through with surgery and a year-long rehab.
“I’d rather do the extension than the option,” he said. “If that is something that were to happen, where they just want to do the option — yeah, that’s another whole bag of worms that I haven’t tackled yet, haven’t talked to my agent or [wife] Kim about.”
But has he rejected the idea of accepting the option? “Absolutely not,” he said.
He added, “I’m not saying I want A.J. Burnett money from these guys. But I do understand that going to free agency is something I’ve never done, never had the chance to do. And if we’re talking and we’re far apart, it’s something I would have to do. But I’ve said that all along. Hopefully we can work something out.”
Dude’s a realist, too. Been around long enough to know it’s a business and sometimes things can take unwelcome turns.
“They don’t have to bring me back to have a good starting rotation, and I understand that,” he said. “And because I do understand that, I understand free agency is an option. They have some real good starting pitcers now. To bring me back, they have to make room for me. What happens if they can’t make room for me? I hope that doesn’t complicate things.”
He really does want to stay here, folks. That much is clear to me. He’s an Alabama native, he and his wife have set up their foundation here, they’re moving into their new house in Auburn, raising kids, etc.
And beyond all that, Hudson said, he really believes the Braves can and will win.
Here’s what he said when I talked to him in the last week of the season about possibly returning next year and about being part of a talented team the Braves seem like they’re going to have back.
“It definitely excites me,” he said. “Obviously where this team has come in the past few months, the changes that have been made and how this team played in the second half — I think everybody’s excited about what kind of club we’re going to have going into spring training next year. Obviously that makes me want to come back even more.
“If I didn’t think we were going to have a chance to win next year, it wouldn’t be so appealing for me to come back. But I see where we’re heading, and the chances of being really good around here – I’m excited about it. It makes me want to be a part of it.
Then I said to him, so it’s not just about being comfortable here, having the family here, the new house, being in your mid-30s, etc.?
“No,” he replied. “I’m at the point of my career now that I’m not going to play just to play, just to be at home. I want to win, and obviously the convenience of being here in Atlanta has been great for the last five years since I’ve been here. But you play the game to win.
“You want to win a championship. That’s something that I haven’t accomplished in my career, and I think we have just as good a chance as anybody to win here. Especially with how I’ve seen this team transform into an exciting, high-energy, good baseball team. It’s something that I want to be a part of. If I thought we were going to be a .500 club next year and struggle at times, not have good team chemistry and not go out there and feel like we can beat anybody in the game, I’m not so convinced that I’d want to be a part of it.
“But I think we’re going to be really good, and I think we’re going to be a team that other clubs aren’t going to be excited to see us come to town.”
Then Hudson starting yelling at me in front of the rest of the clubhouse. (Ha — got you, didn’t I? Just checking to see if you’re still reading.)
Finally, in that same interview in the last week of the season, I asked him if that meant he liked the direction the team has taken, with young players like Brian McCann taking on leadership, and Hanson and Jurrjens tilting a youthful pitching staff.
“Absolutely,” Hudson said. “You have great young pitching – I mean not just good young pitching; great young pitching. And you’re going to win a lot of ballgames just with that. But aside from that, our position players, I think, from position to position, are really good and have been able to come in and fill their roles, know their roles, and know what it takes to go out and execute and do their job and set the table for guys like Chipper and B-Mac and those guys.
“Obviously we weren’t a perfect ballclub, by any means. But I think the changes that were made throughout the year improved us drastically. And I think with a tweak here and there this offseason, I think the sky’s the limit for us.”
OK, you think that about covers it for now on the Huddy situation? I hope so, because I think I developed carpal tunnel syndrome while typing all that.
♣ Coffee good: And we mean strong coffee. We – and by we I mean me – are starting our second pot now, having finished the morning pot of Joe about an hour ago, those last two cups requiring the microwave to reheat, so caught up in working, booking flights, paying bills, etc., that I was in some sort of zone for two hours in which I forgot to drink the cup of coffee in front of me or to notice that the sun was setting, etc.
Anyway, need this second pot because we’ve got a long night of TV watching ahead of us, beginning with the Phillies-Dodgers, followed by DVR viewing of The Office, the season premiere of 30 Rock, Community (is this the best new comedy since It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia?), the aforementioned It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and FlashForward . (Yes, I got caught up in it, now I’m hooked. Damn.)
The new Avett Brothers CD is playing, and it’s terrific, yet mellow enough to work to, or at least write a blog to (I can’t write much of anything with harder stuff playing). The new Built To Spill CD, on the other hand, is terrific but wasn’t helping my work production. The Big Star box set is sublime, but a mixed bag for work purposes (and thus not one I needed to keep playing while trying to finish an ALCS preview before an afternoon deadline, then trying to get this blog out several hours after I promised you I’d have it out).
♣ The Roy Clark situation: Did you like my transitioin from music to Roy Clark? Thank you.
I’ll be honest and tell you I don’t know a whole lot about the new scouting director, Tony DeMacio, other than he’s a veteran scout who’s highly regarded and obviously knows the ins and outs of the business.
So I wouldn’t expect any difficult sort of transition in the Braves scouting department from Clark, who stepped down to take a large-title job with the Nationals (vice prez of player personnel and asst GM in charge of charge of everything that president Stan Kasten and GM Mike Rizzo aren’t in charge of) to DeMacio.
And unless Clark takes a bunch of the Braves’ scouts with him to the Nationals (and I don’t think that’ll happen), it’s probably not a job switch that we’re going to notice much. Probably.
Having said all that, I’ve talked to a few people in baseball who see this as a real loss for the Braves. Clark is highly regarded, a veteran who’d been in his position for 11 years and who has headed up a decade of drafts for the Braves that’s produced more top talent than most other teams have drafted in that same span, unless they were awful teams drafting near the top of the first round year after year, and even some of them haven’t had the talent yield the Braves had since Clark became scouting director in 1999.
The first player he selected as scouting director? A lanky pitcher named Adam Wainwright, in the first round of the 2000 June draft. Clark took Adam LaRoche in the 29th round that same year.
He got Kyle Davies in the fourth round in 2001, and in 2002 he drafted Brian McCann, Jeff Francoeur, Charlie Morton and Dan Meyer within the first three rounds.
The Texas Rangers today are thankful for Clark’s work in 2003, when the Braves selected Jarrad Saltalamacchia in the first round and Matt Harrison in the third (Jo-Jo Reyes was a second-rounder that year …. hey, he’s still young?)
In 2004, Clark and the Braves selected Tyler Flowers in the 27th round. And 2005 yielded Joey Devine (first round), Yunel Escobar (second), Jordan Schafer (third) and Tommy Hanson (22nd).
They got big-power prospect Cody Johnson (first) and Kris Medlen (10th) in 2006, and a couple of hitting prospects in 2007 whom you may have heard of – Jason Heyward (first round) and Freddie Freeman (second).
Craig Kimbrel, a third-rounder in 2008, shot through the organization in 2009 and is regarded as a possible future closer, and another National League GM said Mike Minor, the Vanderbilt lefty the Braves selected with the seventh overall pick in this past draft, might be as close to being major-league ready as any pitcher (I haven’t seen him, so I’ll reserve judgement at least until I go out to Arizona in a couple of weeks and hopefully see him pitch).
All in all, the Braves have had a good run under Clark, himself once an All-ACC infielder at North Carolina and a friendly guy with a great sense of humor. We’re gonna miss him.
♣ Regarding A-Rod: He’s never been a favorite of mine, but it’s probably time to put to rest the thing about Alex Rodriguez not being capable of coming through in postseason or other big games.
I was doing my ALCS preview for the paper and I started looking at his postseason numbers.
Now, granted, he was awful for a while in the postseason. And I mean awful. He went 4-for-47 (.085) with one double, no RBI, 10 walks and 15 strikeouts in 14 postseason games from Oct. 18, 2005, to Oct. 5, 2007.
But since then, he’s 9-for-20 with three homers and seven RBI in five games, including four wins. He homered in each of the last two games of the sweep against Minnesota last week.
But the fact is, for his career Rodriguez now has a solid .291 average and .890 OPS (.381/.519) in 42 postseason games, with nine doubles, nine homers and 23 RBIs.
You want to know who the real postseason flameout of this ALCS has been in terms of postseason career numbers? Vlad Guerrero, who has a .259 average and .663 OPS in 23 postseason games, with one double, one homer and nine RBI.
Not only that, but the homer came in his third postseason game. In 20 games going back to Oct. 4, 2005, Vlad has a .273 average and .369 OBP, but just one extra-base hit (double), three RBI and a .288 slugging percentage in 73 at-bats.
To bring it closer to home, Rodriguez’s career postseason totals (.291/.381/.519, 9 HRs, 23 RBI, 42 games) compare favorably with a couple of Joneses — Chipper (.288/.411/.459, 13 HRs, 47 RBI, 92 games) and Andruw (.273/.365/.433, 10 HRs, 33 RBI, 75 games).
♣ OK, onward and upward. The floor is open. And we’ll get into any rumors and such as soon as we start to hear any that sound like they have substance. Of course, you’re free to engage in all the speculation you want until them. In fact, we encourage it. It’s good stuff.
And it was almost cool enough today in Atlanta to light the hot stove. So what the hell.
Oh, and talk about curiously long posts…. I’m too tired to look this one over for errors. Besides, thegame just started.
This is a Cat Stevens tune, but I really love the cover version by Johnny Cash with Fiona Apple off of Cash’s spectacular Unearthed box.
“FATHER & SON” by Cat Stevens
It’s not time to make a change,
Just relax, take it easy.
You’re still young, that’s your fault,
There’s so much you have to know.
Find a girl, settle down,
If you want you can marry.
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy.
I was once like you are now, and I know that it’s not easy,
To be calm when you’ve found something going on.
But take your time, think a lot,
Why, think of everything you’ve got.
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.
How can I try to explain, when I do he turns away again.
It’s always been the same, same old story.
From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen.
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.
It’s not time to make a change,
Just sit down, take it slowly.
You’re still young, that’s your fault,
There’s so much you have to go through.
Find a girl, settle down,
if you want you can marry.
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy.
All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside,
It’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it.
If they were right, I’d agree, but it’s them you know not me.
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.