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What might have been

Yankees -- and Dodgers-- could have had Guerrero

Posted: Wednesday August 29, 2007 12:41PM; Updated: Wednesday August 29, 2007 12:41PM
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Vladimir Guerrero
Vladimir Guerrero in pinstripes? The Yankees chose to pursue Gary Sheffield instead.
Kirby Lee/WireImage.com

With the Yankees' recent bump in the road on their trip through Anaheim, and the Angels' continued success against them, it reminded me of something I've been puzzled about since the 2003 offseason: Why did the Yankees pursue Gary Sheffield instead of Vladimir Guerrero when they were both free agents?

Guerrero is younger, a better hitter, better defender, and faster than Sheffield. Plus, he would not have come with all of the attitude and hoopla that Sheffield generates. In the end, they signed Sheffield for nearly as much money per season (three years, $39 million) than Guerrero signed for (five years, $70 million).
-- Jeff Neiger, Chicago

Good observation. In fact, there was a split among Yankees people on which guy to pursue. A lot of the baseball people wanted Guerrero, largely because he was younger. George Steinbrenner, though, preferred Sheffield. Remember, too, some people in baseball were concerned about Vlad's back at the time. The team you also should call out for not signing Vlad was the Dodgers, who let him slip through their hands to the Angels.

I get the feeling that the stats geeks would prefer not to play the games at all, just crank it through the computer, prove their point that Team A is best, and crown them champs, and then let the blogosphere and Internet argue it out, maybe use it for 10 or 12 more Top 10 lists. Maybe if y'all would put down the Bill James and actually watch a bleeping game you'd have a bleeping clue ... [The Diamondbacks and Mariners] play together, play smart, never give up an out, have exceptional closers, and win most of the games that they have a chance to win. It ain't rocket science; it's as old as when the only stats were wins, losses, batting average and ERA.
-- Jon DeMent, St. Cloud, Minn.

Here's the way I look at it: It's not an either/or proposition. Stats can enhance your understanding and passion for the game; and your understanding and passion of the game should keep the stats in their proper context. What I find really interesting is when stats challenge some time-honored baseball "traditions" or conventions. But I still think one of the best things about baseball is -- despite the wealth of information we have about past performance -- its unpredictability. No matter how much we know about baseball, that will always be true.

Is there something wrong with me or am I the only person who thinks it is crazy to pay a pitcher $10-$15 million to play two-thirds of a game once a week? The more they are protected the shorter their careers. Insane.
-- Darrell Fetzer, Greenville, S.C.

Believe me, you are not alone. It doesn't seem to make sense that despite advances in training and nutrition that we ask pitchers to work less and pay them more for it. But there are so few people in the world who can do that job well (or close to it) that there is a premium for such a service. And as for the salary, it's a reflection of how much we have come to value baseball, and sports in general, as an important part of our lives as an entertainment option. I am amazed how much the sport has grown in 25 years.

Seattle has a killer schedule to end the year. What do they need to do to stay in front? Can they do it without beating the Angels?
-- Scott Menzies, Seattle

Yes, Seattle has only two off days in the last 45, with one off-day in the 37-day stretch they're in now. The upcoming Cleveland-Toronto-New York-Detroit trip may decide their fate. I don't think the Mariners are catching the Angels, but they should hang in the wild-card race through the last week of the season. They could grab the wild card, but only if their starting pitching picks it up. Maybe Jeff Weaver has turned a corner in his season, though he struggled in the M's loss to the Angels on Tuesday. We'll see.

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