Pujols Took The Money. Good For Him.

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For Ed Randall’s Talking Baseball – 12/9/11

Albert Pujols made the right move.

Go ahead, romanticize about a lifetime-reign for Prince Albert in St. Louis – it’s a nice fantasy.   In reality, Pujols did what anyone else in his enviable position of power would consider doing: he took care of himself.

Yes, some athletes care deeply about their legacy within an organization.  They feel allegiance to a supportive fan base, are comfortable within the community, and choose to accept less money to stay.  That is their prerogative.  It is certainly a noble approach to free agency.

Cardinals Fan (Jon Givens) Has Fun With His Pujols Jersey via Twitter.

However, it’s difficult to begrudge any athlete from raking in as much loot as humanly possible when the opportunity presents itself.  Athletes have a very limited window to earn their money – when it opens up, why not grab as much cash as possible before it slams shut on their money-hungry fingertips?

This was most likely the final contract Pujols will ever sign in his baseball career and there was no reason to leave anything on the table.

He is one of the top hitting talents the game of baseball has ever seen and should be paid accordingly.  The Cardinals reportedly offered him around $200M for 9 years and Pujols accepted a 10-year deal in excess of $250M with the Angels.  Had he taken the Cardinals deal, Pujols wouldn’t exactly have been crying poverty, but he decided to agree to the bigger deal, and maximize his earnings.

He has every right to do so.

Many are questioning Pujols’ loyalty to St. Louis and pure passion for the game.  Let’s be honest, players play the game to get paid.  How many players on your favorite team are playing for free?  Better yet, when is the last time you told your boss that you’d like to take a pay cut because you are enjoying your job so much and feel guilty being paid so well?

There are obvious perks to playing baseball for a living, but in the end, it’s still a job.  A glamorous job, but a job.  Players work extremely hard, train year-round, are under constant scrutiny, and are expected to perform on a national, and at times global, stage.

Regardless of the job responsibilities and pressure to succeed, a $250M payday can be perceived as gluttonous.  But consider this: These larger-than-life figures are the face of their respective franchises and are responsible for much of the team’s overall revenue.  All of that money has to go somewhere.  It’s either lining the owner’s pockets or the player’s – why not go to the ones actually putting fans in the seats?

So Pujols will take his 445 HR, .328 average, and 3 MVP’s right under the famous St. Louis Arch and through the “Gateway to the West,” all the way to Anaheim.  Did he tarnish his legacy in St. Louis?  Perhaps, but Pujols did what was best for him and decided to go where the most money was.

Cardinals fans: Be mad.  Don’t hate.

Albert Pujols made the right move.

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MVP Voters Get it Right This Year, Despite Past Mistakes

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For Ed Randall’s Talking Baseball – 11/22/11

It can be argued that Justin Verlander deserved to win the 2011 American League MVP Award.  Technically, that argument begins – and ends – with the fact that he did, indeed win the award.  He’s the first starting pitcher to do so since Roger Clemens in 1986.

Verlander was sensational this past season.  His historic campaign included a 24-5 record, a 2.40 ERA, a 0.920 WHIP, a no-hitter, and a Cy Young Award.  Without Verlander, the Detroit Tigers don’t win the Central Division and are not a playoff contender.  He was an invaluable cog in the 2011 Tigers wheel.

3 MVP Candidates, Only 1 Winner

No debate.

Did Verlander deserve to win the MVP Award?  Yes.

Should he have actually won the MVP Award?  Disputable.

Many will contend that a pitcher shouldn’t qualify for the award.  Position players can’t win a Cy Young Award, why should a pitcher be allowed to win an MVP?  After all, starting pitchers directly impact only about 35 games a season.  This discussion has some validity to it, but one might also reason that a pitcher responsible for a quarter of their team’s entire win total is more valuable than an everyday position player who steps to the plate 600 times.

Historically, the word “valuable” can be difficult to define – especially by MVP voters.

Once upon a time, Yankees pitcher Ron Guidry and Red Sox starter Pedro Martinez put together two of the most dominant pitching seasons of all-time.  Their efforts were comparable, if not better, than what Verlander accomplished this past year.  While both won the American League Cy Young Awards in their respective seasons, neither one walked away with the MVP award – both finished second in the voting.

Check this out: in 1978, Guidry went 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA and a 0.946 WHIP.   He struck out 18 Angels on June 17, and was the winning pitcher during the famous one-game playoff at Fenway Park, propelling the Yankees towards an American League Pennant and an eventual World Series Title.  Guidry lost the MVP race to Red Sox Outfielder, Jim Rice.

Equally as dominant, Pedro Martinez manhandled the American League in 1999, going 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA and a 0.923 WHIP.  Martinez started that season’s All-Star Game, struck out 5 of the 6 batters he faced, and won game MVP honors. Martinez lost to Rangers Catcher, Ivan Rodriguez in the league MVP voting that season.

Verlander was no more valuable to his Tigers in 2011 than Guidry was to the Yankees in 1978 or Martinez to the Red Sox in 1999.  But, perhaps in 2011, voters have a better grasp on the meaning of the word “valuable.”

It might also have been circumstantial.

Verlander benefitted from a flawed group of position player candidates, including Jacoby Ellsbury (Red Sox), Curtis Granderson (Yankees), Jose Batista (Blue Jays) and Tigers teammate Miguel Cabrera.  None were clear-cut winners, and each received first place votes, potentially paving the way for Verlander to sneak out on top.

Pitchers have been snubbed by MVP voters for years, yet Verlander shouldn’t have to pay the price for past mistakes.  Perhaps this year’s voting is a sign of progress or forward thinking.  Maybe it was just circumstantial.

Regardless, voters finally got it right in 2011, despite getting it wrong with guys like Guidry and Martinez in the past.

No debate.

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Talking Baseball’s Rare, Lost Interviews Found! Released on DVD!

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For Ed Randall’s Talking Baseball – 9/30/11

“Ed knows more about the game of baseball and its history than anyone I know,” says Bernie Williams, the legendary New York Yankees Centerfielder.  “His interviews through the years are entertaining and you always walk away learning something you didn’t know before.”

Baseball is a game drenched in history.  Like a sponge, Ed Randall routinely soaks up every last drop of nostalgia.

Ed Randall Releases Lost Interview Archives in 13 Disc Set.

The WFAN radio host and New York Yankees My9 postgame reporter has spent his entire career within baseball’s inner circles, putting together a resume longer than an Albert Pujols blast.  His diverse Rolodex keeps him connected to the biggest stars in the sport.  Ask anyone in baseball who knows him, and they will gush over their relationship with Ed.

From the late 1980s through the early 2000s, Randall had the unique opportunity to sit down with some of the game’s most legendary names while hosting Talking Baseball with Ed Randall, a weekly half-hour television show that aired on FOX Sports Net.  Presiding over more than 500 shows during its run, Randall got up close and personal with his subjects, delving into the controversial and personal matters other reporters wouldn’t dare touch.

His interview subjects always respected him, and felt comfortable opening up to someone so highly regarded by other players around the league.  Because of this universal feeling of admiration and ease, on Talking Baseball with Ed Randall, nothing was off limits.

For the better part of a decade, these rare television gems were in hiding, never seen after their original airdates.  After being locked away in baseball’s vault for years, Randall has decided to grant access to his treasured archives, releasing some of his most memorable interviews with some of the game’s biggest legends.

Available in team sets, notable shows include sit downs with Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Harmon Killebrew, Tom Seaver, Mike Schmidt and Yogi Berra.  Other feature interviews include Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson, Phil Rizzuto, Greg Maddux, Ernie Banks and Sparky Anderson, among many others.

These intimate conversations are captivating and endearing.  Randall successfully navigates through some of baseball’s most historic times with some of the game’s most legendary personalities.

According to Randall, the Talking Baseball collection is a must-have for everyone.

“Whether you’re a casual fan, or a real baseball historian, you’re going to learn something,” says Randall.  “I think a lot of viewers might be surprised at just how open and honest the players were with me.  You really see their personalities come out.”

Talking Baseball Volume One contains thirteen team DVDs, available as a set, or individually at www.TalkingBaseball.net.  Randall plans to release more of his lost interview archives in the future.

“I’ve dedicated my entire life, and career, to the game of baseball,” says Randall.  “This Talking Baseball DVD collection truly represents my body of work, and my passion for the game.”

To order any of the Talking Baseball with Ed Randall DVD Collection, visit http://www.TalkingBaseball.net.  Enter special code: TBBCODEJK at checkout to save 33%

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Here’s The Catch: Posada Should Receive #602 From Mo

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For Ed Randall’s Talking Baseball – 9/13/11

Mariano Rivera is about to catch Trevor Hoffman. When he does, Jorge Posada is the right man to catch Rivera.

The immortal Rivera is just one save shy of 600, two away from joining Hoffman atop the all-time career saves list with 601, and three away from passing him with 602.  After that, there will no doubt be more saves added to Rivera’s first-ballot Hall of Fame resume – the ageless closer currently has a 2.09 ERA, and at age 41, looks as good as he ever has.

Posada Should Hand Ball To Rivera for #602/Getty Images

Perhaps prospects like Jesus Montero or Austin Romine will backstop Rivera’s final career save, sometime in 2012 or beyond.  That’s for another day.  When Rivera collects his 602nd career save, probably sometime in the next week or so, it should be Posada receiving the record-breaking, and no doubt devastating, cutter.

There is no one more fitting to do the honors.

For 13 seasons, from 1998-2010, Posada was a mainstay behind the plate for the Yankees.  Although the switch-hitting catcher was always revered more for his abilities at the plate, rather than behind it, he certainly held his own defensively over the years.  With the acquisition of Russell Martin, and up-and-comers Montero and Romine on the way, Posada was relegated to DH in 2011, getting the occasional start at first base.

He was also embarrassed twice, on national TV.  First he was dropped to 9th in the line up on May 14th, and then he lost his DH job on August 7th – both prior to games with the Red Sox.

Iroinically, when injuries claimed Martin and back up Francisco Cervelli, Posada was thrown behind the plate for the first time all season on September 10th.   However, the Yankees were so disenchanted with the 40-year-old catching, they called up the 22-year-old Romine the next day to take over.

Posada has lost a step, and this will most likely be his final season in pinstripes, but he deserves the opportunity to be a part of history with his battery mate, Rivera.

On July 9th, Posada was the first one to congratulate his long-time teammate Derek Jeter at home plate following his 3,000th career hit.  For 13 seasons, Posada was the first to toast his closer, dropping the ball in his mitt, save after legendary save.  He’s certainly capable of catching one more inning – the ninth of course – during the record-breaking affair.

It’s the right thing to do for a franchise obsessed with history and magical storylines.  There’s no question, the moment will belong to Rivera, but Posada should get to play a small part in the festivities.

“Enter Sandman” will fill the air as Rivera makes his iconic trot to the hill, in hot pursuit of history.  The flashbulbs will be popping that night.  It’s only fair that Posada’s glove is popping too.

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Two Wrongs Make it Right

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For Ed Randall’s Talking Baseball – 8/11/11

They may be baseball’s unwritten rules, but over the last week, there’s been an awful lot written about them.  These sometimes-controversial guidelines may not be in the actual Major League Baseball rulebook, but it can be argued they are just as important to the balance within the game.

Weaver stares down Guillen after his HR/Getty Images

Baseball has always been a sport rich in history and tradition, a game of etiquette and respect.  The moral fabric of the sport is implicitly understood around the league and players police themselves accordingly.  When inflated egos compel a player to derail and veer off on a dangerous track, it’s the unwritten rules, and the repercussions for breaking them, that keep them in check.

Such was the case on July 31st in Detroit, when the train of respectful player conduct crashed into an overpass and went up in flames.

A beautiful matchup turned ugly when American League Cy Young candidates squared off – Jered Weaver of the Angels took the hill against Detroit’s Justin Verlander.  The Tigers won the game 3-2 and Verlander came within 4 outs of throwing his second no-hitter of the season – but that wasn’t the story.  The only “no-no” that day belonged to Carlos Guillen of the Tigers, the first to cast his stone.

Though Weaver felt Magglio Ordonez taunted him earlier in the game, the first real domino fell in the seventh inning.  That’s when Guillen taunted Weaver as his solo home run sailed into the seats, staring down the pitcher as he sidestepped up the line towards first base.  Weaver didn’t appreciate the gratuitous celebration and subsequently threw a ball over Alex Avila’s head, in retaliation, on the next pitch.  He was immediately tossed from the game.

Then, in the 8th inning, Erik Aybar attempted to break up Verlander’s no-hitter with a bunt – nails on a chalkboard around baseball circles.  The move forced Verlander to commit a throwing error to first, and the frazzled pitcher lost the no-hit bid one batter later.  Verlander later referred to the bunt as “Bush League.”  Many contend that Aybar put the bunt down as a way to stick up for Weaver.

This system of underlying checks and balances is vital to the game.  No one enjoys getting walked all over.  Prideful players must have the opportunity to defend themselves, and their teammates.  If left unpunished, players will act however they see fit – regardless of whom they offend.

Weaver drew a line in the sand when he threw at Avila.  He wanted to make a point and stand up for himself (he probably could have aimed for a different part of his body though).  Then, out of respect for his own pitcher, Aybar likely decided to disrespect the opponent’s with a bunt during his no-hit bid.

An eye for an eye.

If a player deliberately breaks a rule and tries to hurt or humiliate another player, retaliation should be expected – as was the case in Detroit.  It’s the umpire’s responsibility to let these things play out among the players without putting anyone’s wellbeing in jeopardy, of course.

Some may argue that there is no place in the game for such childish antics.  Nonsense.  Remember, these grown men are playing a child’s game – to a certain extent, playground rules are in effect.

Sometimes, two wrongs do make a right.

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4,000 Career Hits Within Reach for Jeter

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For Ed Randall’s Talking Baseball – 7/9/11

One thousand hits to go.

Derek Jeter will get to 4,000 hits. Guaranteed.  No joke.

Sure, his much celebrated 3,000thhit, a home run off David Price of the Tampa Rays, was only written into the record books earlier today, but there’s no need to let the ink dry before looking ahead.  There are still plenty of base-knocks left in his clutch bat – at least one thousand more to be exact.

4,000 Hits Within Reach for Jeter

That’s how the Captain of the New York Yankees has always operated – good or bad, the past is the past and he will reflect back when his career is over.

Mr. 3,000 now.  DJ4K then.

There will be skeptics.  Many will claim he is slowing down, his skills are diminishing, and that the end is near.  Go ask Yogi, he’ll tell you when it’s over.  Despite what critics say, Jeter will continue to push forward.  That’s all he knows how to do.

He’ll celebrate number 3,000, as he should.  It’s a remarkable achievement – one that only 27 other men in the history of the game can share with him.  He is also the first Yankee to ever reach the milestone.  But Derek Jeter has made a career out of achieving greatness without losing focus.  This will be no different.

When it happens, Jeter will join the only other two players in baseball history to reach the 4,000 hit mark: Pete Rose (4,256) and Ty Cobb (4,189).  It’s easier to compare Jeter with Rose than it is with Cobb.  Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all-time, Cobb had a 3-year head start on both Jeter and Rose, breaking into the big leagues at age 18.  As a result, he collected his 3,000th hit as a youthful 34 year-old in 1921.

By contrast, both Jeter and Rose broke in as 22 year-old rookies (at age 21, Jeter did play 15 games in 1995, but didn’t qualify as a rookie until 1996).  Also, both players reached career hit number 3,000 at age 37 – Rose got his on May 5, 1978.  Rose went on to play another 8 years, but it only took him 6 more seasons to eclipse 4,000, turning the trick on April 13, 1984 – one day before his 43rd birthday.

Currently, Jeter has 74 hits in 2011, giving him an even 3,000 for his career.  If he collects another 100 hits over the next few months, he will finish the season at 174, and 3,100 for his career – very doable for a player who has averaged 194 hits per year over the last 15 seasons.  Under those very realistic pretenses, Jeter would only have to average 150 hits per year, over the next 6 years, to reach 4,000 by the age of 43 – just like Rose did.

Still don’t think Jeter can do it?  Consider this: he has never failed to reach 150 hits in a single season.  The closest he came was in 2003, a year he lost significant time to a shoulder injury.  He only played 119 games that season, and still had 156 hits.  True, those productive campaigns all came from a much younger Jeter, and he is bound to take a step back as he continues to age, but it won’t be significant enough to prevent one of the most consistent players of all-time from reaching Club 4K.

As Jeter battles both opposing pitchers, and Father Time, en route to 4,000 hits, there are four concessions he must make:

He has to change positions.  Making the move to the outfield, and spending more time as the designated hitter, will make Jeter a more flexible piece within the Yankees plans.  He could even see time in a third base/DH platoon with Alex Rodriguez.  Sure, as a shortstop, he won his fifth Gold Glove Award in 2010 at the age of 36, and continues to prove doubters and statistical analysis wrong, but he won’t be able to keep that up as he gets into his forties.

He must take a pay cut.  Prior to the 2011 season, the Yankees gave Jeter a new contract that takes him through his 40th birthday – the final year is an option year.  The financial terms of the deal were very aggressive for a player of his skill level and age.  However, he got paid, in large part, for his intangibles and his legacy with the franchise.  When this current deal expires, he will need a new three-year deal to reach 4,000 hits.  Jeter will not be able to command the same dollars then.  While money is never an issue for the Yankees, they will have little interest in giving a 40-43 year-old Jeter the same $15-$17M annually that they gave him at age 37.  If Jeter wants to preserve his legacy and collect his monumental 4,000th hit in pinstripes, he has to take less money.

He has to stay healthy and smart.  Jeter, the definition of consistency, has only missed significant time twice in his career – the aforementioned shoulder injury in 2003, and this latest DL stint for a bum calf.  Throughout his career, he has made a habit of playing through injury and shrugging off any suggestion that he might need to take a rest.  For him to successfully make it through the next six seasons, he will need to avoid any major injuries and be smart about which minor ones he decides to play through.  His body will heal slower as a forty-year-old.  He must understand this and not push the envelope and risk further damage and missed time.

He needs to chase a personal goal for once.  Forget Charlie Sheen, Derek Jeter is all about #winning. The unselfish Jeter has never been about personal statistics.  Instead, he focuses all of his efforts towards the team’s mission statement: World Series championships.  That has to change, slightly, during his quest for 4,000 hits.  No doubt, the opportunity to add additional rings to his collection will motivate Jeter to continue playing, but his statistical contribution to the common cause will start to diminish.  He must accept this, check his pride at the door, and be willing to play a few seasons below the “Jeter standard of excellence” in order to compile the necessary hits he needs.

If he can do the four things mentioned, and make 4,000 hits a priority, there is no doubt he will achieve it.  After all, when has Derek Jeter not succeeded at something he set his mind to?

One thousand hits to go.  No joke.

Mr. 3,000 now.  DJ4K then.

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