Thursday, May 01, 2008

In Praise of La Velle Neal III

Given the amount of bad feeling swirling this week between Old School Print Journalists and us New Jack City bloggers (we went through a little of this ourselves, back in aught-7 when Mike DeCourcy got all bent out of shape with us) it is nice to highlight a print journalist who writes good copy, engages his commenters, and even adds content via a blog.

So, Kudos to La Valle Neal III of the Star Trib. His beat is the MLB and the Twins specifically. Consider this rather interesting article about the evolution of the what Neal calls the evolution of the Indian's Model, wherein teams have been locking up younger and younger players to longer and longer deals, hoping to avoid the Free Agency Bugaboo for as long as possible.

Here's a snip:

The whopper came just after Tampa Bay left the Metrodome a little more than a week ago. Third baseman Evan Longoria -- who made his major league debut on April 12 -- signed a six-year, $17.5 million deal. He had played in six major league games at the time.

No one is sure how Longoria will handle Carmona's sinker, Mark Buehrle's cutter or even Livan Hernandez's 59-mile-per-hour entertainment pitch...

The Twins looked at Longoria's deal and think it's a good move. I'm all for being proactive, but I keep thinking what if the Twins had went all-in like this after Scott Erickson's 20-8 season in 1991.

Neal also provides a great counter-example--that of the Philllies and Ryan Howard:

They tried to sign the 2006 National League MVP before the 2007 season, but failed. They gave him a raise to $900,000 -- tying Albert Pujols for the largest salary given to a player with less than two years of service time.

The sides failed to reach a deal this offseason and had to go to arbitration. That $900,000, meant to be a generous gesture, turned out to be a jumping off point as Howard won a $10 million salary for 2008. Now Philly has a bigger problem after this season, if Howard continues to produce.

As I mentioned, Neal also updates his blog, Twins Insider, more regularly than many sports journalists, and his posts don't feel like rough drafts for later reporting--they feel like blog posts should--off the cuff, timely, and occasionally off topic (La Velle follows Champions League Soccer! -- imagine a baseball writer calling the Champions League Final must-TV. Wonder what he thinks of Tom Powers?) We are hoping to actually get some sort of e-mail dialogue going with Neal about the big Champions League showdown.

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