Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Ruthless People
2008-07-10 10:33
by Alex Belth


Allen Barra pens the Voice cover story this week on New York's two new baseball Stadiums.   

2008-07-10 11:05:27
1.   Shaun P
Interesting premise overall, though I think Mr. Barra is way off when it comes to his take on the Yanks' future as opposed to the Mets:

"If the Yankees' farm system is flourishing, as the front office insists, why didn't the team make the deal with Cleveland? The obvious answer is that they could have, but the Brewers were willing to shell out the salary and the Yankees were not."

Hmm . . . maybe because the farm system only has 2 hitters of value right now, and neither of them is going to hit like LaPorta will in the big leagues as fast as LaPorta? Oh, and because CC just costs $$$$ in 3 months?

'Meanwhile, as the Yankees practice fiscal responsibility, the Boston Red Sox have won two World Series, in large part by signing Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, Josh Beckett, and Daisuke Matsuzaka."

This is just horrible. The Sox TRADED for Schilling, Pedro, and Beckett while all still had time on their contracts; then re-signed them. Mr. Barra ought to know better. And of course, only 1 of those guys played on both Serious winning teams.


2008-07-10 11:15:03
2.   williamnyy23
Surprisingly, I thought this piece was incredibly flawed (and that's being very kind). For example:

1) You can not link the replacement of Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium. There is no parallel. While I know many Yankee fans who are nostalgic for the "old place", I can't name one Met fan who isn't ecstatic about leaving Shea, which is really a dump. Even if there was an audible outcry, using the flawed logic "But many fans have essentially grown up in Shea, and they choose to embrace the flaws", isn't exactly compelling.
2) I am not sure of the context that Alex gave to his quotes, but I wonder if Mr. Barra has been in the upper deck much? I am a season ticket holder in Section 5 and I don't sense a feeling of community centered around regular Joes. Besides, the tickets aren't exactly cheap right now: the Tier Boxes range from $45 to $70, while the Tier Reserve seats go from $22 to $30. If anything, a much too large percentage of the upper deck denizens are loudmouth suburbanites who think going to a game is their change to get ridiculously drunk and misbehave in the big, bad Bronx.
3) The notion that the new stadiums will be as remote to the fans as being California is an absurd exaggeration. With over 4 million tickets available at YS, there will be plenty of chances for the mythical average Joe to attend a game.
4) The notion that attendance at YS being lower this year as a sign that fans are rejecting the new stadium is absurd, but not more ridiculous than the idea that NY fans withheld ASG votes because they are rebelling against new stadiums. Both arguments are beyond silly.
5) Has anyone every questioned whether Randy Levine was making baseball decisions? Barra seems to think that's a lively debate in this town. I've never heard it.
6) Barra suggests this is one of the worst baseball summers in recent memory? Seriously? Did he want anyone to lend credibility to this piece? Also, after complaining about how much money the Yankees make/spend, he then turns around and criticizes the team for having the temerity to spend $9 million less this season.
7) The moral outrage over the Yankees deciding to go with Hughes and IPK over Santana is also ridiculous, especially when juxtaposed against previous paragraphs criticizing the team for growing old and stale.

What started as a baseless rant against the new stadiums (there are reasonable arguments against them, but Barra makes none), morphs into a baseless argument about how the Mets fired Randolph and the Yankees spend too much money, but then didn't spend enough to get keep getting older players, which the article also criticizes for not giving the city its worst baseball summer in recent memory.

This article was so bad, if I was the Voice editor, I would have ripped it up and found another author to write it.

2008-07-10 11:18:55
3.   williamnyy23
1 I meant to include that example as well. This piece reads as a hastily written article penned after the Voice editor called up Barra and asked for a contrarian piece (which is a speciality of that paper) railing against the Mets and Yankees.
2008-07-10 11:21:11
4.   Schteeve
so many empty words.
2008-07-10 11:24:42
5.   Schteeve
and really, with all the histrionics about the new Yankee Stadium, you'd think Steinbrenner was building a "Spent Uranium Rod / Chliean Sea Bass Farm" in the middle of the Bronx.
2008-07-10 11:29:12
6.   Shaun P
3 Oh, and of course, part of the reason Boston didn't re-sign Pedro, and Damon, and Millar, and Foulke, and Mueller, and instead went with their own home-grown guys - Ellsbury, and Pedroia, and Youkilis, and Lester, and Papelbon, and Buccholz, and Masterson - was fiscal responsibility!

But the Yanks should have traded their home grown guys to get Santana, or Sabathia, or both.

Has someone sent this to FJM yet? I expect better from Allen Barra.

2008-07-10 11:41:23
7.   Cliff Corcoran
Yeah, ouch. This is rough going from Allen. He buries the Yankees for not finding pitching aces in-house, but Joba Chamberlain isn't even mentioned. He buries the Mets for "only" acquiring the best pitcher in baseball and throwing a ton of money at him. He buries the Yankees for not making any off-season moves, ignoring the megadeal they signed free agent Alex Rodriguez to as well as the cash they threw at Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettitte. And he mocks the prospect status of the players Cleveland got for CC Sabathia when Matt LaPorta could very well hit the scene like Ryan Braun next year.

I have fewer problems with his takes on the stadiums, and largely agree with him there. Also, I do think there's a gem buried in there in this paragraph:

"Thirty-some years ago, when free agency was new and superstars signed long-term contracts, old-fart New York columnists like Dick Young complained that players, having received their big money, would slack off and underperform. There's no evidence that that ever happened, but the flip side—that team managements, once they got their long-term cable and stadium deals, would pocket the profits at the expense of quality of play—has never really been examined. As Marvin Miller, the first head of the players' union, used to say: "Watch out when you hear baseball executives say 'fiscal responsibility.' It's code for 'profit before winning.'"

Still, the roster and transaction analysis is brutal.

I'm supposed to have a late lunch with Allen and Steve Goldman later today. I'll see what Allen has to say for himself on this stuff.

2008-07-10 11:44:15
8.   Travis08
2 4)

Yankee Stadium attendance is actually UP this year, compared to last year's first 49 games.

2007: 2,544,422 (51,927 average)
2008: 2,573,031 (52,511)

Early-season attendance is always lower than summer and pennant-race attendance; the weather's better and the kids are out of school.

Bud Selig used a similar false argument to claim that interleague play greatly boosted attendance.

I've never been a Barra fan. He always seems contrarian for the sake of being contrarian, which makes him a perfect fit for the Village Voice and Slate.

2008-07-10 11:45:32
9.   Schteeve
Isn't there some evidence that players do better in their "contract years" than in the years preceding and following? I believe Baseball Between the Numbers found something like that.
2008-07-10 11:52:20
10.   williamnyy23
8 Exactly, I am sure when Barra wrote the article, attendance might bave been slightly down, but that was likely due to the Yankees home schedule being concentrated toward the later half of the season thanks to the Pope's visit earlier in the year.
2008-07-10 11:53:42
11.   williamnyy23
9 If there is such evidence, doesn't that prove the existence of clutch? After all, what is more clutch than playing for your next contract. As fans, we may think bases loaded with two outs in the ninth means everything is on the line, but I have a feeling players view playing for their next contract as being a real close and late situation.
2008-07-10 11:59:13
12.   horace-clarke-era
A different interview ... indulge me if someone mentioned this already! Tyler Kepner:

covers Bonds, Sabathia, Melky and Matsui, Jeter, Hughes, Teixeira...

reads a bit weirdly when he cites Melky with plate discipline (but I recall someone here suggesting he DID come up that way, and lost it in the gravitational pull of First Pitch Cano.)

2008-07-10 11:59:47
13.   Travis08
10 I think Barra was comparing last season's 81-game average of 52,739 to this year's 49-game average of 52,511.

11 It probably means that contract-year players train harder / enjoy fewer off-field pursuits.

2008-07-10 12:04:37
14.   williamnyy23
12 Melky was very patient in his rookie season, which contrasted with his reputation in the minors. In his first season, Mleky walked 56 times in 524 PAs, for a .BA-.OBP differntial of .80. For his career, that differential is still .64. Quite frankly, I don't think plate discipline is a problem for Melky on the's just that when he doesn't have it, his ABs are putrid.

My bigger concern with Melky has been his failure to develop any consistent power.

2008-07-10 12:08:08
15.   Shaun P
9 11 Yep, BBTN did find a small bump in a player's free agent year. I don't remember the particulars though, and my copy is at home, so I can't look it up.

And william, if you define clutch as, "Playing better when your next contract depends on it", then perhaps the contract bump is evidence of "clutch". But I've never seen or heard anyone define clutch in that way until you did. Its an interesting idea.

7 Looking forward to your report, Cliff - and hope you have a nice lunch!

2008-07-10 12:13:59
16.   horace-clarke-era
14 Dunno william, that's an odd rap on him when he just matched last year's hr totals, no? If we accept the OF arm ratings I linked yesterday (and we don't have to, as I think the stats here are hard to measure), Melky has a seriously good arm (eyeballing it tells us that anyhow) and his range looks excellent. Better routes SHOULD flow with time. In other words, he plays very good CF. If we have a good CF hitting .270/.340 with even 15-18 hrs and equivalent doubles ... man I'm a happy enough camper to have that at #8 or #9 in my order. He turns 24 next month william ... failure to develop power? You're a mean, VERY high-expectations dude of a ball fan ...everyonebailing/dumping on him is. Yes, he's in a slump (not last 10 games, mind you) and can look bad. So can Alex, Jorge, Godzilla. Gardner's a year older, btw.

Let me repeat that ... Melky has been a 23 year old while everyone is flailing away at his failure to launch.

2008-07-10 12:43:09
17.   cult of basebaal
lineup is in:
Jeter SS
Abreu RF
Rodriguez 3B
Posada 1B
Cano 2B
Cabrera CF
Molina C
Christian LF
2008-07-10 12:57:36
18.   Sliced Bread
What's your price for flight
In finding mister right
You'll be alright tonight

Sister Christian
Oh the time has come
And you know that you're the only one
To say O.K.
But you're motoring
You're motoring

2008-07-10 12:58:14
19.   Sliced Bread
Night Ranger, anyone?
2008-07-10 13:00:08
20.   cult of basebaal
16 that's because he's going in reverse. every year has been worse than the one that came before.

even worse, his performance against lefties has gone from mediocre to putrid, with an OPS+ around 60 for the last season and a half.

his defense is very good, but it's not elite and it's not enough to compensate for his bat. i think that if he does not put up a good (and most importantly) consistent 2nd half, the team is going to have to seriously consider acquiring another CF by whatever means it takes. at the very least, find someone who can take the at bats against lefties away.

2008-07-10 13:05:35
21.   Schteeve
19 Arguably the best scene in Boogie Nights.
2008-07-10 13:13:06
22.   Raf
17 That lineup can't be right; Jeter's batting leadoff :)

That is one fugly lineup, BTW

2008-07-10 13:17:53
23.   horace-clarke-era
20 I wouldn't quarrel at all with trading or looking elsewhere if his end-of-year average and obp are what they are now, CoB. I was responding to a knock on him for no power when to this point his hrs ARE up. (May even be his discipline is down as he's trying for pop?)

I was noting that mid-season on a very young player, people were ready to dump ... and Gardner offers ONLY the too-easy seduction of speed so far. I disagree with those who like that he goes up looking to walk. I think it is a recipe for Big League failure. It is the tactic of all those 'scrappy' Minnesota utility infielders, not a starting OF. I love 9 pitch walks (or hits), I could call them my favourite 'skill' tactic in the game, but I love them from a guy who CAN get it into the gap if the pitcher errs. I'm not down on gardner in any decisive way, too soon there too, but would be happiest as of now seeing him as 4th OF/pinch runner weapon. If Jorge really can't catch we are going to have roster problems, though, when Damon and (we hope) Matsui come back.

There is, by the way ZERO room for Bonds. If Jorge's best slot this year is DH, there's barely room for him and Giambi and Matsui. Actually, there isn't! Tough, tough decisions each game.

2008-07-10 13:19:00
24.   ChrisS
22 and it's missing a mustachioed DH.
2008-07-10 13:22:34
25.   ChrisS
24 Ah disregard, I forgot they're in Pittsburgh.


2008-07-10 13:55:20
26.   Bama Yankee
18 & 19 Nice.

Although, I'm afraid these lyrics might be a more accurate fit for our LF:

"Babe you know
You're growing up so fast
And Mama's worrying
That you won't last to say
Let's play"

But let's hope he keeps "Motorin" while he's here...

2008-07-10 13:56:04
27.   nick
Richie Sexton released; you all will laugh, but he's hitting well against lefties and on the road--I'd think about grabbing him--besides, if the Mariners released him, he must have something left.....
2008-07-10 14:12:12
28.   ChrisS
27 He'd be a nice addition to our collection of dh/1b types. They could all play one game a week.

If Posada was catching and Matsui was done for the season, I'd say do it. But there's really no room for him.

2008-07-10 14:27:49
29.   cult of basebaal
27 seriously, every time we start to bitch about the yankees this year, we should be reminded of this:

Bllomquist RF (71)
Lopez 2B (99)
Ibanez LF (113)
Beltre 3B (109)
Vidro DH (58)
Johjima C (55)
Cairo 1B (58)
Reed CF (91)
Betancourt SS (79)

that's the mariners' starting lineup today with 2008 OPS+ numbers added.

and it get's better too, sexson had an OPS+ of 90 for the team at 1st base, admittedly mediocre. but the mariners' big plan to replace his "production" there ... wait for it ... is to platoon vidro and cairo

that's right, they cut a bad ballplayer and managed the team worse.

just remember that the next time you feel like bitching ... you could have been a mariners' fan.

2008-07-10 14:41:45
30.   Shaun P
28 I continue to believe that Posada is fine, he could catch, but because the DH spot is open with Damon and Matsui on the shelf, and because its damn hot outside, and because the Sox and the Rays run a ton, and because Girardi wants to get Posada some rest that will help him avoid a September swoon - that is why he is DHing now. And Posada is sitting tonight because Molina is Moose's guy.

Besides, there's no guarantee Matsui, or Damon, or (shudder) Giambi don't get hurt. Room can be found easily.

If Ensberg was worth a flyer, and he was, Sexson definitely is.

2008-07-10 14:49:08
31.   Schteeve
Could we maybe not take a flier on any more guys who are going to play once every two weeks, and instead try to find a starting pitcher not named Sidney Rasner?
2008-07-10 14:56:49
32.   Biscuit Pants
0 Late to the argument, but I'll put my two cents in.

I couldn't read more than two pages of Barra's rant, but for what it's worth, I've never liked this Yankee Stadium, which is NOT the House That Ruth Built or Ruppert Built or White Construction Built. That ballpark was reduced to it's foundation and replaced with a facimile that was closer in kinship to the Vet in Philly than the original Staidum.

I went to what is likely my last game in the current YS last Saturday, sat with a bunch of drunken yahoos from Jersey and watched the Yankees win. Frankly, the win is all that matters.

Go Yanks!!!

2008-07-10 15:47:37
33.   Cliff Corcoran
15 Hard to direct the conversation with Allen, but I did call him on the LaPorta thing. I got little more than a shrug before the topic changed once again.

32 I agree with your points about the remodeled stadium to a certain degree, but, like Barra says about Shea, it's a dated concrete horseshoe, but it's our dated concrete horseshoe (and at least you can still see the setting sun glint off the courthouse in this one).

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