added 11/10/2008 by Scott Barzilla
Sometimes I feel like Eboneezer Scrooge. Fans on the message board throw out a trade idea and I trash it. They suggest signing a player and I say it isn't possible. It must seem like I'm not a fan at all, but just a guy that likes to rain on people's parades. I don't really mean to be that kind of guy and anyone that knows me knows I am a huge fan. By the end of Christmas, my vintage jersey collection will double. I own more hats than my wife owns shoes. If you knew my spending habits you would run to your broker and convince him or her to switch you into Ebbets Field Flannels or the Cooperstown Ballcap company.
No rumor or suggestion online could compare to the ones I hear on XM 175. One Cardinals fan actually thought the Cardinals should sign Mark Teixiera and move Albert Pujols to second base. I almost drove into a ditch I was laughing so hard. To be sure, millions of fans out there watched their teams go in the tank in August, so they have four months of frustration they want to get out with a big early signing or headline breaking trade. So far, the Athletics and Rockies have grabbed the early headlines. Fans in other cities are wondering when their team will do the same.
A lot of GMs subscribe to the quicksand theory. If you are standing still you are sinking. Most hard-core fans take that logic and move it to its logical extreme. They think if you don't make a deal now you are going to finish in the cellar. If your ownership doesn't approve a huge expenditure or if the general manager doesn't pull the trigger on that wacky eight player, three team trade then he doesn't care as much as you do about winning. I must admit that kind of thinking is really tempting.
It becomes more tempting when the teams around yours start making moves. In the span of a week, it appeared as if the Cardinals would get Matt Holliday and the Cubs would get Jake Peavy. Fortunately, Holliday will ply his trade against American League pitchers, but Peavy is still out there. If the Cubs get Peavy (and sign Bobby Abreu as they are rumored to be interested) I'm not sure what could be done to take the division crown away from them. They haven't even reported to Spring Training yet have they? It must be nice to be the defending champs of the Central.
This is where you have to be especially careful. It is awfully tempting to go out and throw a bunch of money at a pitcher. People looked at the Astros and immediately pronounced them a number two starter away from contention. They were 14th in the big leagues in runs allowed and 21st in runs scored. Are they really a number two starter away from contention. It would seem they are more likely a big bat away from contention. Still, no one asked me did they?
No off-season was more pathetic in this regard than the 2001 off-season. Everyone remembers the stupid money thrown at Alex Rodriguez, Mike Hampton, and Manny Ramirez, but few people remember the Chan Ho Park contract. Before this past season, Ho Park could best be found in a minor league town near you. Hampton spent more time in a hospital bed than on the mound. Even though Arod and ManRam have produced admirably over the years, even they could not finish out their contract with their original club. Despite these lessons, it didn't stop the Giants, Mets, Astros, and Yankees from signing players to contracts worth 100 or more million. They will have to get in line for C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixiera.
The Winter Meetings (and the time surrounding it) is a lot like a frat party. You go, you binge drink and then you open your checkbook. You hope by the end of the day that you haven't done anything stupid. You can bet that the Giants still haven't gotten over the Barry Zito hangover. I don't want my team left holding the potential bag in a contract with Ben Sheets or Andy Pettitte.