- Well, that was fast. The Giants, a team that was in dire need of a corner infielder, traded promising right-hander Jeremy Accardo for Shea Hillenbrand and Vinnie Chulk. By the way, note the remarkably corny headline -- "Giants Say Shea" -- espn uses on its MLB page to describe the trade. It's as though they're channeling Joel Siegel.
In Accardo the Blue Jays received a player who will be under the team's control for at least the next five years and whose raw talent makes him an immediate upgrade over most of the team's current bullpen. He's endured a rough stretch during the past month or so, but his track record suggests he's capable of being a successful, overpowering reliever.
According to The Sporting News, he has above average stuff but he must learn to harness it in order to succeed at the major league level:
"RHP Jeremy Accardo has been sharp with his mid-90s fastball and split-finger pitch, but in tight situations he relies strictly on his fastball and focuses on location. Accardo is a fast worker, and the Giants like his aggressive style and quick motion."
"RHP Jeremy Accardo struggled leading up to the All-Star break. He has a good fastball, but his split-finger is temperamental and his slider is a work in progress."
It's probable that Accardo will immediately enter the late-innings picture with the Blue Jays. He was the Giants' closer temporarily, so he's already accustomed to that role. He has great peripherals and should be a mainstay in the bullpen for years. Ricciardi made out very well in this deal.
Gregg Zaun, as it turns out, is the "self-described team leader" who accused Hillenbrand of being a cancer in the clubhouse. Zaun could've remained hidden behind a veil of anonymity, but he evidently chose not to. I have no problem with him doing so, but was this really necessary? I mean, to my knowledge, Hillenbrand never actually singled out Zaun explicitly. It'd be best to simply let this story fade away and once again turn our attention to on-field matters.
Zaun's not the only one making headlines. Richard Griffin, in an article entitled "Is Jays manager next to go?", speculates about John Gibbons' vocational future. Moreover, he minimizes Hillenbrand's actions and impugns management's decision to cut him. From the article:
What should be of concern to the Jays and their fans is that even though the manager was the aggressor in what could have resulted in a clubhouse brawl, the GM does not think there was anything wrong with it.
Sure, there was history to the blowup, but what ever happened to freedom of expression?
The way Jays' management sounds so indignant over the chalkboard incident -- basically 12 sarcastic words from a disgruntled player not meant for public consumption -- one would think that he maimed someone, cheated on his wife, dealt drugs to school kids or had been caught with a shipment of human growth hormone.
"This is a sinking ship" -- hell, the Star writes that almost every week and we still are allowed in the clubhouse.
I hate to say it, but he raises an interesting point: If Hillenbrand's malfeasance warranted his release, why didn't management criticize Gibbons' actions. After all, he openly challenged Hillenbrand to a fight in front of the entire team. Not only is that extremely unprofessional, but it's just plain weird. The public backlash from players and fans has mostly been directed at Hillenbrand, so Gibbons will likely survive this fracas (one that only turned out to be figurative, sadly) unscathed.
From most accounts, Gibbons is well-liked within the organization and he's done an adequate job as manager during his tenure with the club. Despite what J.P. said publicly, I'm not convinced that he would have dealt with the situation in such a quick, drastic manner had the player in question been someone more integral to the team's success. Had Hillenbrand's role been reversed with Vernon Wells', for example, I find it very hard to believe that he'd be released.
On a loosely-related note, I'm not entirely sure how much of an impact a manager ultimately has on the success of a team. It's blatantly evident that some managers are good at what they do (Bobby Cox, for example) while others are undeniably horrible (Charlie Manuel, for instance). However, the extent to which they help or harm a team is difficult to measure.
- As hugo recently pointed out, the Nationals released Matt LeCroy. He's struggled mightily this season, both offensively and defensively, but he's been very productive against lefties in the past. With the departure of Hillenbrand, the Blue Jays are in need of a DH against lefties, and LeCroy is capable of filling the void.
It's important to note that LeCroy is awful on the basepaths. In the Bill James Handbook 2006, James remarks:
Last year, LeCroy was on first base when a single was hit 14 times. He was 0-for-14 on making it to third. He was on second when a single was hit 3 times, and was 0-for-3 at scoring on those, and he was on first base when a double was hit six times, and was 0-for-6 on those. Altogether, he was 0-for-23 on opportunities to take an extra base on a teammate's hit.
Add in the fact that he has zero career stolen bases, one career triple, and only slightly more career doubles than career home runs (he's much too slow to consistently hit doubles). And it's rather meaningful, as James points out:
Are these differences meaningful? Certainly. Let's suppose that a regular player has 40 chances a year to advance on a teammate's hit, and that the range of performance is from 15% to 70%. That's a difference of 22 bases between the players. If you figure that a run is four bases, that's five runs. That's a very meaningful difference.