I'm no scout. Chances are, you aren't either. I've probably watched 180 Matt Cain starts over his career, and that's a conservative estimate. But if he started dropping his elbow or shortening his leg drive, and gave up hit after hit after hit, I wouldn't know the difference. I'd just yell at the TV and ask it to fix the things that are wrong in my life, which I do for just about every problem.
I certainly wouldn't be able to figure out what was going wrong with Cain, just as I have no idea what makes him so good. If you ever read something of mine that hints that I know what I'm talking about when it comes to scouting, reach through your screen and slap me.
Then I see a video like this …
… and now I'm a scout. Or at least I can pretend I am. Here's a snippet from the scouting report that I wrote based on that YouTube video:
* Oh man oh boy oh man, did you see that first pitch?
* What was that, a slider?
* Could've been a changeup, I suppose
* It was all, "Mmrrrrroooom," and then it dove like all "brwwwwwwoowwww"
* And the hitter was all, "Oh, no way"
* Then he threw a 144 kilometer-per-hour fastball. Not sure about this metric system fad, but I'm pretty sure that translates to a 142-mile-per-hour fastball!!!!!
* I didn't watch the rest of the video because I started writing this report.
Yu Darvish has cartoonish numbers in the NPB -- the last time he had an ERA above 2.00, Brandon Webb won the National League Cy Young. Darvish is also just 25, the same age as pitchers you still think of as young unknowns, like Phil Hughes, Aaron Crow, and Homer Bailey. Twenty-five-year-old pitchers like this don't show up in free agency too often.
Wait, wait, put your wallet down. I can't sell you a Yu Darvish. I didn't mean to get you all worked up. I do not have the authority to sell you or your team a Yu Darvish. But he's out there, on the quasi-open market, just waiting for a team to throw money at him. Now that C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle are gone, all of your ace-type needs will be handed by the Edwin Jackson Express if you're not interested in Darvish. And if you can't get Jackson, you'll surely be interested in Hiroki Kuroda and the trick back of Roy Oswalt. And after that …
Dunno, Aaron Cook? Paul Maholm? Jason Marquis? You can see how there might be a sense of urgency for a team that thinks they have to make a big upgrade to their rotation, not just a patch job. Kuroda is underrated, and Jackson might have some untapped potential, but Darvish allows you to dream ace-like dreams. More importantly, it allows you to sell ace-like dreams to your fans, who buy tickets and hats and jackets and nachos and luxury suites.
But because of the silly posting system, a team can't just marlin a bag of money on a table and walk away with a signed contract. They first have to win a blind bid against all of the other interested teams.
MLB: And the winner of the Darvish posting is …
Seven different teams: Yes? Yes?
MLB: Team X! Whose bid of $58,000,000 just beat out six other teams who offered $57,999,999!
Six different teams: Man, if we had known that, we would have offered more. We really want to pay this guy a lot of money.
Darvish's agent: Awesome!
Team X: Not so fast. Now we have exclusive negotiating rights. Our offer is this: $15/hr., plus benefits. Oh, and you have to give 10% of every paycheck back until that $58,000,000 is paid off.
Darvish's agent: Less awesome!
It's a weird system that seems only to benefit the Japanese teams that post their players for a sweet, sweet payday. It sure hoses the player.
The usual suspects will be in on Darvish. The Yankees are somewhat interested, as are the Red Sox, though both are a little wary because of previous NPB boondoggles (Kei Igawa for the Yankees, Daisuke Matuszaka for the Sox). The Mariners have some sound business reasons for signing Darvish, and the Marlins haven't signed a free agent this week.
The Rangers could use a C.J. Wilson replacement, and you can never tell what's in the paper bag that Ruben Amaro, Jr. is breathing into, though it's usually concentrated ace powder, and that can make a man do horrible, beautiful things. Everybody wants Yu! So who will get him?
Prediction: Nationals, posting fee of $41 million, and a contract of five years, $75 million. It'd be a substantial expense for a pitcher who hasn't proven a thing in Major League Baseball, but the Nats were rebuffed by both Buehrle and Wilson, and they're looking for someone to pair at the top of a rotation with Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann. They're also crazy enough to offer a $100 trillion posting fee because they're sick of rejection.