If you don’t have an ESPN Insider account, well … it’s not really worth the money, I don’t think. But if you do, or if you have ever been tempted to sign up for that 30-day free trial, then you can read in their entirety two new columns by Jerry Crasnick and Rob Neyer about the M’s.
My honest opinion? There’s not much new or interesting about either of these pieces, but each has one element I wanted to highlight.
From Crasnick, there’s the part where he paints an somewhat different picture of the Adrian Beltre negotiations than Bill Plaschke did a few days ago.
Beltre surprised a lot of people by leaving Los Angeles, where he signed out of the Dominican Republic in 1994 at age 15. But he says the Dodgers made him a five-year offer for money that “wasn’t close” to the Seattle deal, and dallied enough to make him wonder how sincere they were about re-signing him.
“Seattle handled the negotiations better,” Beltre said. “There was a lot of communication, and I never got that from L.A. It was a tough situation because I was born in that organization. It’s a great city and a great ballpark. I met my wife there, and we had lived there for a while. But I think this was the best decision I ever made.”
There are elements of commonality between the Crasnick account and the Plaschke account. In each, Beltre says that he was disappointed in the Dodgers’ lack of communication skills. But there are two important differences.
First, Plaschke implied that the Dodgers’ offer would have been enough to woo Beltre back if only Paul DePodesta had done a bit more gladhanding with or directed more phone-coddling toward Beltre. This piece says that ain’t so, and that the M’s offer flat blew away L.A.’s bid. Our very own inestimable Dave Cameron backs this version, and I buy it.
Second, Plaschke implied that Beltre as filled with regret and tearful. He might be, and I don’t doubt that it was a tough decision for him to leave his first organization. But including the “signing with the M’s was the best decision I ever made” quote would have undermined Plaschke’s prescripted narrative, that Dodgers management are bloodless, buffoonish spreadsheet-huggers without the human touch.
These are minor distinctions that are of little importance to Mariner fans now — hey, we got our stud third baseman, who cares whether that happened because Bill Bavasi opened the checkbook, because Paul DePodesta messed up, or because of a combination of factors? And who really knows, if you aren’t Adrian Beltre or in the front office of either organization?
Crasnick’s account tends to flesh out the picture we get of what happened, though, which is why I’m citing it.
As for Neyer, his column is an update and reconsideration of another Insider story he did in late December that I critiqued at Mariner Musings. Using a pretty rough calculation, Neyer estimated that the Mariners would win games numbering in the mid-70s. I thought this missed a lot, and predicted an 82-win year myself.
Apparently, Rob was in a room full of fans recently where he crept his estimate northward, forecasting a 78-win season. Afterward, though, he used a new tool called the Team Efficiency Summary from the new Bill James Handbook to conclude that (as you might already suspect) the Mariners were beset with loads of bad luck last year.
Without getting into too much detail, I’ll tell you that Rob reconsidered his prognostication again:
That roomful of baseball fans, where I predicted 78 wins for Seattle? That wasn’t a terrible guess, but with the help of Bill James, I’m happy to revise it upward: In ’05 the Mariners will win 82, give or take a few — unless they’re as lucky this season as they were unlucky last.
Let’s hope Rob publishes another column about expected Mariner wins and losses before the season starts. Seems like the team is climbing in the standings each time he does.