All three local dailies check in with a story about the M’s convening meetings, starting today, to plan their offseason. The difference in quality between those stories is astonishing.
Bob Finnigan launches the Times six-part season retrospective with a piece on the outfield. Because we’re trying to be nice to Finnigan, I’ll just point to the link and leave it at that. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all, right?
John Hickey pens a story for the P-I that points out the M’s glaring need for help in the rotation, and discusses the M’s preparation for next year with Mike Hargrove and Ron Hassey. He makes a few uncited assertions that raise eyebrows, mainly the possibility of a Morse/Dobbs platoon in left field, which would be something you’d expect of the Devil Rays or the Royals. But overall, it’s a solid piece.
Then Larry Larue kicks the crap out of both of them with a terrific piece at the News Tribune. He gets a great attributable quote from Pat Gillick–“Ã¢â‚¬Å“That first offseason was a mess for Bill,Ã¢â‚¬Â Gillick said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I saddled him with a lot.Ã¢â‚¬Â–and gets a straight answer, on the record, from Bavasi on every relevant question you could think of.
Can Bavasi see an infield of Sexson, Jose Lopez, Beltre and Betancourt returning next April intact?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Yes,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
Good news. That’s the best plan, I believe. And no mention of Willie Bloomquist to be seen.
What about an outfield of IbaÃƒÂ±ez, Reed and Ichiro Suzuki?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Yes, although IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not sure whether Raul will be the left fielder or the designated hitter,Ã¢â‚¬Â Bavasi said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“That might be a place to add more left-handed power, or we might use both Mike Morse and Chris Snelling out there. Left field gives us options.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He mentioned previously in the article that the #2 priority was adding “left-handed sock”. Basically, that sock is going to come from the LF position, whether it be through the new hitter playing left or DH’ing and pushing Ibanez back to left field. But I don’t think there’s any way they go to camp with a Morse/Snelling platoon as their starting left field plan.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll need to put a lot of money into the bullpen, which means our money can go into our rotation,Ã¢â‚¬Â Bavasi said.
More good news.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“How many of our starting pitchers will be back for sure?Ã¢â‚¬Â Bavasi asked, then laughed. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I know one, for sure. Probably two or three.Ã¢â‚¬Â
That’s Felix, Joel, and probably Moyer. In other words, the decision has been made on Gil Meche. The team knows they need two new starting pitchers, at least. Even more good news.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know that we have any players in the minor league system who are a year away now from helping us, but I said the same thing a year ago,Ã¢â‚¬Â Bavasi said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ (Infielder) Adam Jones is probably the closest, and he could be two years away.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Jones’ days as an infielder are probably over, but LaRue can be forgiven for not knowing that. It’s interesting to see that the M’s aren’t looking at Foppert, Cruceta, Nageotte, or Livingston as guys who could help next year. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of that group actually contributed to the ’06 roster, but I’m glad to see the M’s won’t build the roster counting on it.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“What can we expect (from Beltre) next season? I think if you take the three years prior to his MVP-level season and average them out, then find the midway point between those numbers and his numbers from 2004, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be close,Ã¢â‚¬Â Bavasi said.
Interestingly enough, that’s basically what every sabermetric analyst worth their salt said at the time of the signing. That’s the kind of comment you would expect to be published at Baseball Prospectus.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He did a great job. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re on the same page. We always will be,Ã¢â‚¬Â Bavasi said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s due a lot of credit for handling so many young players and being positive about it. His approach is very rare. Most managers want nothing to do with young guys because they see them as a serious delay in their chance to win. Mike doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t.Ã¢â‚¬Â
All the Fire Hargrove people can officially go nuts. Of course, all the Fire Hargrove folks are the same people who were screaming Fire Melvin, and that didn’t exactly lead us to the promised land. Maybe, eventually, people will realize that nearly all managers are basically non-factors, and getting so bent out of shape about Hargrove isn’t worth the time or the energy.
Truly terrific piece by LaRue, though, and a lot of good news contained in that article. The Bavasi Plan sounds an awful lot like the USSM plan. Now we’ll just have to see which players they decide to throw their money at.