*Ryan McConnell has a big roundup of Mets and other news, including the Mets picking up the 2006 option on Steve Trachsel but not on Doug Minky and Braden Looper. Good riddance to the Blooper.
*Kevin Cott on why you see fewer African-American players these days:
Before the MLB Draft was instituted in 1965, teams relied on training academies to find and develop young talent. But with the draft, it was no longer economically efficient to spend money developing players that, upon turning 18, could then be drafted away by other teams. Teams eventually found a loophole to this by turning to Latin American countries, where the players weren’t subject to the same draft eligibility (unlike basketball, where the draft is international). That’s why there has been such an accelerated growth in Latin ballplayers – early scouting still pays off. The other result is that baseball development in the States is now dictated largely by socioeconomic conditions – it’s a more expensive and specialized sport. So you could argue that the onus is on baseball to establish more inner-city clinics and developmental programs, but that’s about it.
In other words, there’s two tracks: an expensive track for homegrown players, which favors white players from areas with the financial werewithal to have good Little Leagues and the like, and a cheap track for foreign players. The poor, inner-city or rural Americans who used to be baseball’s lifeblood are thus less common (they’re more apt to turn to basketball in the cities and football in the rural areas), and black players feel the impact of that disproportionately, especially when you take away the black players who go into baseball because their dads played in the big leagues.
*Matt Welch gives what for to Bill Plaschke, the LA Times columnist who spent the past two years trying to run Paul DePodesta out of town for the offense of being a smart young guy who questioned traditional ideas. Welch also links to some other good commentaries on DePodesta’s departure, including Jon Weisman. And Will Carroll draws larger lessons from the White Sox’ World Championship as a “Moneyball” backlash. Really, There’s only one solution that makes sense at this point. Three simple steps:
1. Give Plaschke the GM job.
2. Give DePodesta a daily column in the LAT.
3. Buy popcorn.
*Pinto has some thoughts on Derek Jeter’s Gold Glove, and also links to a fan ballot for Hall of Fame announcers, where you can – I swear I am not making this up – cast a ballot for Fran Healey.
*Tom G notes that Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito clings to a bizarre, irrational and superstitious faith: that’s right, he’s a Phillies fan.
*Leo Mazzone’s departure for the Orioles is certainly the biggest news to hit the NL East thus far in the offseason. Recall, of course, that while Mazzone deserves enormous credit for his accomplishments in Atlanta, Bobby Cox did have good pitching staffs in Toronto, too. Also, Mazzone has already proven he can’t do much for Bruce Chen.
*Mike’s Baseball Rants declares the 2005 World Series the closest sweep ever and compares Brandon Backe to other pitchers who rose to the occasion in postseason play.
*On a similar theme, Son of Brock Landers looks at Roger Clemens’ playoff rap sheet and why he has a bad reputation in the postseason. Actually, the answer is simple: Clemens’ reputation stems from his time with the Red Sox – he had just 1 win in 9 postseason starts with them, and a 3.88 ERA in the postseason compared to 3.06 in the regular season. By the time he started a postseason game in another uniform, he’d been in the league 16 years and cemented the reputation.
*Geoff Young is skeptical that Trevor Hoffman is worth the money he wants from the Padres.
*Jeff at USS Mariner links to a rundown of possible Japanese imports to Seattle or other major league teams.
*Meant to link to this before the Series: the parallel lives of Frank Thomas and Jeff Bagwell.
*Bill Simmons and Begging to Differ on the departure of Theo Epstein.