Watching the Angels outhit the Yankees, Twins and Giants last season, and watching what magnificent offensive teams like the Braves, Cardinals, Red Sox and Yankees do to opposing pitchers, has raised another criticism -- that pitching is simply dreadful. Two American League general managers think that's not the case. "I actually think there's a lot of really good young pitching coming along today in both leagues, a new cycle," Oakland's Billy Beane said. "The problem is that hitters have improved so much the pitching numbers don't show it."
"I would agree that there's not enough pitching," Kansas City's Allard Baird said, "but there isn't enough good pitching to contain all the improvements in offense throughout the game. Twenty years ago, the theory on hitting was to be aggressive, swing the bat and that it couldn't be taught. That's completely changed.
"Hitting is being taught today, better than ever before," Baird said. "Watch the approaches many hitters take today. They're taught to go deep in the count, to get the pitch they can handle, and more and more hitters have learned to not be afraid to hit with two out. The game is so much more aware of on-base percentage than years ago, it isn't funny. Look how well so many hitters can take the ball out over the plate and put it in play hard. Hitters now have video, they are schooled in pitch recognition and visual training, they are bigger and stronger and able to manipulate the bat better than ever. The bats are better, lighter, better-balanced, specifically made for individual hitters."
3. Steven Goldman is back with another installment of The Pinstriped Bible. Goldman's column is a must for Yankee fans:
Call me a party-pooper, but it seems obvious that no matter what the outcome to this season the real excitement is going to take place this winter. This kind of thinking doesn't enter into the all-bottom-line-all-the-time Yankees organization groupthink, but 2003 already qualifies as a success. Any team that has to do without Derek Jeter, Nick Johnson, and Bernie Williams (or the local equivalents thereof) and still has a strong shot at 100 wins and a playoff spot has had a tremendous year. With three .400 on-base percentages out of the lineup, well, the Titanic was more likely to keep floating.
There should be a lesson in here for offense-builders who still aren't buying into what is now the Yankees/A's/Blue Jays/Red Sox philosophy of working the pitcher for walks and high pitch counts: Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams, even though they are way off their usual games, are still on-base machines. The same was true of Robin Ventura while he was here. Even when they aren't stinging the ball, these players still take pitches, pushing the starting pitcher towards an early exit even if they do not reach base.
...The Yankees will make the playoffs, and once that happens there is every chance that they can win another championship. It seems though, that the real suspense will come over the winter. This promises to be the most unsettled cold and flu season in recent Yankees history.
4. I enjoyed Ken Rosenthal's take on the Manny Ramirez controversy (remember that?):
"Cowboy up" is the team's new motto, and if Ramirez won't fulfill that pledge, the Red Sox have enough tough-minded grunts who will. Heck, even manager Grady Little strapped on his boots last week, benching Ramirez for one game after the ailing slugger failed to show for a doctor's appointment one day and refused to pinch hit the next.
Little's unspoken message -- Manny will play when I say he's ready to play -- was a turning point both for the franchise and the manager's own credibility. Ramirez's unprofessional conduct united the Red Sox as never before. If the Sox reach the postseason, his infamous sore throat should be considered the MVP -- Most Valuable Pharyngitis.
5. Speaking of the Sox, Aaron Gleeman provides a link to the now infamous Kevin Millar/Bruce Springsteen video tribute. Worth a look for a cheap laugh.
6. Jon Weisman writes a good recap of last night's impressive Dodger victory over The Big Unit and the D-Backs.
7. And Ed Cossette has another terrific, literary-minded post today over at Bambino's Curse.
8. The Baseball Crank offers a cool piece on the 1928 clash between the Philly A's and the Bronx Bombers.
9. Jay Jaffe, who is always on point, comes through as usual, with his report on Monday's game at the Stadium.
10. And finally, Irina Paley, a native of Washington Heights, has a new Yankee-based blog. Best of luck Irina. Welcome to the club.