Billy Beane is your unhinged friend, or Stanley Kubrick. The problem with weird Oakland trades, at this point, is that their GM has become an auteur. I can't critique a trade like this—Matt Holliday for Huston Street, Greg Smith, and Carlos Gonzalez, if you haven't heard—without thinking, in the back of my mind, that he must have an angle I can't even begin to consider. I don't want to pull the trigger on the critique equivalent of Mark Mulder, I mean.
Trying to put that out of my head, this is certainly a better trade for the A's than the Ludwick+ deal would have been for the Cardinals. Ludwick is considerably more valuable than Street, even if both players prove that 2008 was something of a fluke, and although Carlos Gonzalez has more upside than Schumaker and Greg Smith a better resumé than Mitchell Boggs I don't think either player's enough of a sure thing to offset the difference in value between the centerpieces.
Fun sportswriter test for 2009: Matt Holliday is about to move from one of the best hitter's parks in baseball to one of the worst. A shockingly bad sportswriter might put his (presumably) depressed 2009 numbers down to simple bad play. An average sportswriter will probably mention that he's come down from what Baseball Prospectus used to call Planet Coors, and a downturn is to be expected. A good sportswriter will notice that to play in Oakland, lately, is to play in baseball circa 1992, but with less form-fitting uniforms. (Seriously, Frank Thomas hit .263/.364/.387 for an OPS+ of 106. On the Rockies, meanwhile, Ian Stewart hit .259/.349/.455, which was good for an OPS+ of 103. Matt Holliday's agent has spent the better part of a day breathing into a paper bag.)
Juan Encarnacion non-update: the forgotten man files for free agency in what is presumably a formality for a guy who, per Goold, cannot yet drive a car, let alone hit a baseball.
I was a staunch Juancar backer because he was fun to watch, I think, more than anything else. A guy who read Science of Hitting front to back and put up a .278/.317/.443 line might not have gotten any backup from me, but Juan's swing defied every rule of hitting ever shouted out of a Little League dugout, seemingly intentionally. His eyes flew off the ball. His back leg collapsed like a broken picture frame during his follow-through. His swing path was to be chosen at random just before each pitch. He spun himself around no matter what he was trying to do with the ball. In the Hot Stove season I am all about getting the team as good and as perfect as it can get, but when they are actually playing the games and I'm watching them I'll take something like Juan Encarnacion's swing, to break up the monotony.
So the defense—which I still insist was excellent, betrayed by his loping strides, some truly awful miscues, and his inexpressively bored face—buoying his value up around that of an average, more conventional corner outfielder was really a secondary part of my Juan Encarnacion fandom. It was a matter of enjoying watching the guy, and knowing that a lot of people didn't for reasons that I felt were unwarranted. (That's how I picked Ray Lankford as my all-time favorite, when I was younger. I was never an underdog guy so much as an undervalued-dog guy.)
I'm amazed at how under the radar this all was and remains. I've never seen the clip—I missed the game, for some reason, and wasn't about to watch it after I heard about its severity—and it seems like ESPN or the Best Damned Gruesome Career-Ending Injuries Countdown Period aren't going to make me channel surf away from it any time soon. Some combination of his marginal status as a baseball player and his aloofness as a baseball figure—not living in the States, not speaking to teammates and certainly not the press, not making a scene off the field—has served to make him and the extraordinarily rare nature of the end of his career invisible. It's not that I'm confused at the fact that people ten years from now probably won't remember this happening—it's that I probably won't remember it happening.
Jose is interviewing for the Seattle job. This is really weird, for me. It seems like ever since Jose Oquendo became the third base coach his eventual rise to Cardinals manager has been one of the most established bits of common knowledge among in-the-know Cardinals fans. All I can say is that if you believe in the idea of the Secret Weapon as a sort of Dave Duncan for infield defense you have to hope that he gets a chance to work with Brett Wallace before he gets a top job somewhere else.