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On Not Promoting Alex Presley, And What To Think When Something Doesn't Make Sense

BRADENTON FL - FEBRUARY 20:  Outfielder Alex Presley #44 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photo during photo day at Pirate City on February 20 2011 in Bradenton Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
BRADENTON FL - FEBRUARY 20: Outfielder Alex Presley #44 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photo during photo day at Pirate City on February 20 2011 in Bradenton Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
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Seeing the Moneyball trailer on the same day as we got the news about Alex Presley not being called up for interleague play has me thinking about a bunch of loosely connected ideas. 

First: Allow me to emphasize that the decision about whether or not to promote Presley for the next two weeks is not a matter of grand importance.

That said, I don't get it at all. Even if you think Xavier Paul and Lyle Overbay should play ahead of Presley (which I don't really agree with, but which I think is at least a reasonable position), I don't understand not calling Presley up. Pedro Ciriaco serves no purpose on the roster, and the Bucs seem to have no interest in him. With Paul, Garrett Jones and Overbay all presumably in the lineup against righties, and with one of Brandon Wood or Josh Harrison at third, you've got the following bench:

Dusty Brown



Matt Diaz

There's really no one there who can hit major-league, right-handed pitching except perhaps Harrison, who will probably be in the lineup a lot of the time. Meanwhile, Presley and Ciriaco are both on the 40-man roster and have options, so switching one out for the other for a few days or a couple weeks doesn't cost anything and won't produce any roster problems. By removing a completely superfluous player, the Pirates give themselves more flexibility to pinch-hit. It's true that you don't need as much flexibility on your bench when playing in an AL park, but what if you want to sub Diaz for Jones in the sixth inning because a lefty reliever is on the hill, and then Diaz has to face a good righty reliever later?

Is this a big deal? No. Personally, I'd rather see Presley play every day instead of Paul anyway, but I admit that the difference between them would likely be small over only a couple weeks' worth of games. And if Presley's going to be a bench player, he matters even less. But if you had the chance to add some offensive firepower to either a lineup or a bench that desperately needs it, and all you had to do to get that offensive firepower was to demote a player who served no obvious puprose, why wouldn't you do it?

Anyway, the Moneyball trailer got me to thinking about how different blogging is than when I started, back in 2004. Baseball bloggers were a lot more polemical then. Part of that was probably that bloggers simply didn't have large audiences, and therefore felt less responsibility than they do now. Now a lot of them have rather large audiences and are taken at least somewhat seriously.

But part of it was that there legitimately were a lot of teams that were run pretty badly. Chuck Lamar was running the Devil Rays. Allard Baird was in charge of the Royals. Bill Bavasi was with the Mariners. Omar Minaya. Dave Littlefield, of course. Plus a bunch of guys who are maybe more debatable but that, I would argue, don't really hold a candle to most GMs today, like Ed Wade (who is still a GM today, and is kind of proving my point), Joe Garagiola Jr., Brian Sabean (still a GM and has rehabilitated his reputation to a great degree), and J.P. Ricciardi (who ironically entered the Blue Jays job as one of the new-school guys).

Looking around baseball now, who are the suckers? There are a few teams that aren't run very well, like the Astros and Dodgers, but these are, increasingly, few and far between.

If this were 2004, and Dave Littlefield had done what Neal Huntington* is now doing to Alex Presley, I really would have let Littlefield have it. Typically, when Littlefield did something that didn't appear to make sense, there was no reasoning behind it, or the reasoning was terrible, or maybe it happened because his goals for the franchise were so different from those of most fans that the move was hard for us to understand.

With Huntington, I have to guess there was some reason behind this Presley decision. I just don't know what it is. Maybe they feel like Presley has developmental checkpoints to pass before he comes up again, or something. Going back to Moneyball, it kind of reminds me of when Beane traded Jeremy Giambi for John Mabry in a trade, at the time, that made no sense at all. I recently just skimmed the Baseball Think Factory thread about that trade (summarized here - it's an interesting little time capsule), and there was some criticism in there about the attitude that, when Beane did something that didn't look right, there had to be some angle we couldn't see, whereas when other GMs did strange things, they were simply idiots.

There's no doubt that a certain segment of baseball fans at that time were too sycophantic about Beane, and, uh, Michael Lewis, who wrote Moneyball, was certainly one of them. But at the same time, hadn't Beane earned a certain amount of benefit of the doubt that a lot of other GMs hadn't? (As it turned out, Beane was upset that Giambi had been caught in a strip club, after getting in trouble for marijuana possession months before.)

This isn't to say that Huntington should be immune from criticism. Sycophancy is boring, and it doesn't do anyone any good. If Huntington does something I don't agree with, I'm going to say so, particularly when it comes to players with long track records, and players I watch every day. But it's healthy to occasionally remind ourselves that Huntington isn't an idiot, and we don't have all the information he does. Based on all the information available to me, keeping Presley in the minors makes no sense. But it's possible that Huntington has access to relevant information that we don't have.

*At least a couple of articles about the decision have focused on Clint Hurdle's role in making it, to the point that it almost sounds like it was Hurdle's decision. Huntington, though, has (or should have?) the authority to overrule Hurdle in these kinds of decisions, so I will assume here that keeping Presley in the minors was ultimately Huntington's decision. Hurdle says that one reason for not making the move is that he doesn't want to play with only one backup infielder during the games played with NL rules. Which, of course, doesn't make a whole lot of sense, since he's effectively been doing that for weeks, what with Harrison being out for several days and Ciriaco almost never playing. Also, the DH forces Hurdle to play with one fewer guy on the bench regardless, so he's choosing to go with just one bench outfielder, which one would think presents problems of its own, particularly considering how one-dimensional Diaz is.

Maybe Huntington's ultimate reason for not getting in Hurdle's way here is keeping Hurdle happy, particularly when it involves a decision that should only have a small impact overall. Don't sweat the small stuff. I think I read that in an airport bookstore somewhere.